Get your side hustle off the ground: 4 approaches that work

Kirsty Devlin started her first business while she was at school in Bolton. Helped by her two little sisters, 13-year-old Devlin washed cars in the estates of Westhoughton. Soon she earned enough money to set up her second business, selling brightly coloured wristbands on eBay. Since then, she’s always had a side project on the go. She told me, “I’ll never stop creating side hustles as long as I’m alive.”

Devlin is part of the side hustle economy - a trend that’s on the rise, especially amongst 24-44 year olds who are looking for fulfilment outside the traditional 9-5 working pattern. According to Henley Business school, one in four people have a side hustle - defined as a secondary business or job that brings in, or has the potential to bring in, extra income.

 It’s how my entrepreneurial journey began. I started my business Prolifiko - productivity coaching for writers - on the side while working in publishing. It got me hooked on finding out why and how people decide to start something when they already have jobs and commitments on their time. When writing my book, How to Have a Happy Hustle, I discovered that while people have unique backgrounds and experiences, they apply similar approaches to make their ideas happen.

That’s great news, because all of us can learn and try them - we just need to know where to start.

For teenage Devlin, she asked herself: “What can I do with the limited resources I’ve got to make some money?”

She started small, without spending much time or money to get going. Starting small bypasses the fear centres of the brain - the bit that tells us to not bother trying - and it reduces the risk of failure and allows us to build the confidence that will motivate us to continue.

Here are some tried and tested approaches that really work.

1 Make time in your current schedule

Research finds it takes on average one day a week to build a side hustle, so it’s no wonder people say the biggest barrier is lack of time.

There are many ways to make time - you might build a daily habit, working at the same time each day, perhaps before or after work or during your lunch break.

Some people prefer being spontaneous and making the most of delayed trains or cancelled plans. Others schedule time, booking appointments across a week or a month.

The important thing is to treat your side hustle like any other commitment. Don’t feel bad when you really don’t have the time, but make the most of when you do. You’ll be surprised what you can achieve, even when you’re feeling tired and uninspired. 

2 Test and gather feedback

Don’t wait until you’ve honed your idea to perfection, instead get your products and services into the world to see what works by asking people for their feedback. For example, imagine you’re launching a cake baking business, don’t spend days baking full-size showstopper to test, but instead create small cupcakes that people can taste. Then you can quickly change flavours, colours, and icing until you land on a version that people love.

Experiment, learn what works, and by doing this in small steps you’ll improve your idea as it takes shape in the world.

Experiment, learn what works, and by doing this in small steps you’ll improve your idea as it takes shape in the world.

3 Connect with other people

Working in isolation is the worst thing you can do. Not only is it lonely, you’ll lack the support you need to keep going.

Find friends who can encourage you, early customers who can test and feedback, communities of fans who will spread the word, and networks of people on a similar journey - whether they’re business advisors or other people starting out. Relationships will help you and your side hustle thrive.

4 Enjoy what you are doing

I was surprised to find out that while making money is a factor, most people are motivated to make ideas happen because they’re looking for fulfilment and new experiences.

As you build and test your side hustle, notice what you enjoy doing, reflect on what works and what you’d like to do more of, seek out engagement, and be motivated by what excites, challenges and stimulates you. And when things go wrong, you’ll have the resilience to keep going. 

Reflect on what works and what you’d like to do more of, seek out engagement, and be motivated by what excites, challenges and stimulates you.

After spending time working in Berlin and Manchester, Devlin has returned to Bolton for her latest project, Recode - a social enterprise teaching coding skills to people on low incomes. By helping people access training that would otherwise cost thousands of pounds, Devlin is hoping to launch new careers in technology and give people the skills and confidence to get jobs and set up their own businesses.

She admits it’s hard work, but she loves seeing the impact it is having, “I’ll never stop creating,” because, says Devlin, “it feels like fun.”

Having a side hustle involves time and effort, all done alongside your current commitments. But if you start small, work on an idea that excites and motivates you, build it step by step, surrounded by people who support you, you’ll increase your chance of success and find fulfilment in the process.  

This article is based on an interview I did with Kirsty Devlin for The Lancashire Evening Post.

Image credits: Open by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash Clock by Malvestida Magazine and people by John Schnobrich all from Unsplash, and learn to code from Recode.