There are very few feelings in the world as discouraging as side hustling and seeing hardly any growth over months or years. Even if you started side hustling just to supplement your full-time income, you’re probably hoping the side work will someday overtake your full-time income so you can ride off into the entrepreneurial sunset.
Here’s the hard truth: side hustles stay side hustles and don’t turn into legit businesses for reasons. Here are a few reasons why your side hustle isn’t growing:
Reason 1: You’re a master of none.
Side hustling and running a business are two different animals. The purpose of side hustling is to make as much as possible however you can. Maybe your main hustle is freelancing but you rideshare a few days during the week and tutor other days of the week as well. If you want your main business to be freelancing or consulting, you need to specialize in it. You need to become a go-to person who does a specific thing, and not a hustle generalist. Doing a bunch of different hustles means you spread yourself thin and cannot devote the time necessary to turn one of your hustles into a legitimate business.
How to move forward: Choose one of your side hustles to focus on. Give yourself a time frame where you will dedicate all of your energy to growing this one hustle. Focus can do wonders. Rosemarie Groner, founder of the Busy Budgeter blog, decided she wanted to give up running an home-based daycare business and focused solely on growing her blog for one year. The result was exponential growth. She started off making a few thousand dollars per month from her blog. Now she’s had months where her blog earned close to six-figures.
Reason 2: You’re grasping at straws.
It’s difficult to grow a business when you have no idea what need you fulfill in the marketplace. I’m of the belief that not everyone needs a full-fledged 100-page business plan to make their business work. However, you do need to establish what you do, why you do it, your business model, who your target market is, and what’s your unique edge. It’s also a good idea to picture where you see your business six months, one year, and five years from now. If you focus on the day to day activities, you’re not doing the forward thinking that’s necessary to grow your side hustle into a full-time business.
How to move forward: Put together an abbreviated business plan if you need one. Don’t fall into analysis paralysis thinking it needs to be perfect. You don’t have to feel trapped by your business plan. You can change directions as you’re operating. Another planning exercise you can do is think about how many people you want to serve and why. For example, “I want to write website copy for 50 mom-and-pop small businesses this year because I want to help them reach a wider audience.” This exercise gives you a direction and purpose other than money that will eventually lead to dollars.
Reason 3: You’re playing small.
You think you want success, but you’re subconsciously holding yourself back. Playing small leads to small growth. People play small in different ways. Maybe you haven’t yet set up business systems to take on more clients because you’re subconsciously scared of getting too busy. Perhaps there are clients you want to pitch but you’re scared of rejection so you procrastinate by doing useless tasks like tweaking your social media bios.
How to move forward: When you’re stuck, start asking yourself some of the hard questions. Why are you scared of taking on more work? Why are you scared to pitch new clients? Confront your fears so you can push forward and grow. If you’re scared of getting too busy, it may be time to raise your prices so you can do less work for more money. Fear of rejection is common when pitching. Practice your pitch and try to make cold leads warmer so you can feel confident.
Side hustles grow into full-time businesses because of strategy and the right mindset. Take some time to sit down and think through what area of business you want to specialize in, what your purpose is, and how to up your game. Nothing in business happens miraculously. Success happens through intentional steps and learning experiences. Stay focused on where you can offer the most value to customers and you should be able to successfully turn your side hustle income into a full-time income.