A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.
If it’s been your dream to be your own boss — and your Etsy shop, freelance design work or consulting or coaching business seems to be taking off — you might not be far from turning that side hustle into a full-time gig.
You’re not crazy for setting goals like this one — nor are you alone. A 2017 survey found that approximately half of all millennials have some type of side hustle, “in a bid to boost their cash or chase a long-held passions.” But how do you know when it’s actually feasible to ditch your day job and really dive into that gig that keeps you up at night and busy on the weekends?
Here are six signs that suggest you may really be able to turn your passion project into a paying, full-time ordeal — and finally quit your day job.
If there’s a clear demand for your product or services, you’ll, of course, have a better shot at making it work full time. For example, if you’re offering the same services in an over-saturated market as a million other providers, you might struggle to get your feet off the ground. But if you’re offering a service that’s high in demand due to current trends or a service that companies and individuals will always need (or didn’t yet know they needed), they’ll eventually start to seek you out.
Perhaps you’re a web designer and helping startups build their sites — as startup culture continues to grow, there’s a huge demand for tech-savvy workers. Perhaps you’re an interior designer and you’re focused on helping people present their Airbnb and other short-term rentals to prospective tenants; short-term vacation rentals are becoming an ever more popular choice of accommodations for travelers, and those renting spaces are turning to professionals to help them set their spaces apart from the growing online competition. Or perhaps you’re a tax consultant and, as tax laws change, you’re promising individuals and businesses alike consulting to navigate the new landscape.
Whatever the case, make sure that the service or product your selling is needed — if it is, you’ll have a better shot at making it.
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If you started with only a handful of clients who recommended you to friends and family and business partners and former colleagues and so on, and suddenly you’ve got a portfolio of clients, then things are looking good. Likewise, if you started with only a handful of customers (probably friends and family), but suddenly people with whom you have no relationship are finding your products and buying them, that’s promising.
If your client or customer base is growing and becoming more reliable with less outreach work on your end, it’s a tell-tale sign that you’re well on your way to stability. Once your client and customer base grow, though, you don’t want to just let your business go with the wind — you’ll have to start strategizing ways to retain old clients and customers, too. Just because you’re gaining new ones doesn’t mean that you’re holding onto the original ones, and a successfulbusiness will ensure the value of client and customer relationships.
The thing about passion projects is that they don’t always pay the bills. Even if you got funding to start your business, chances are that you’re not going to be bringing in the big bucks right away — let alone even breaking even at first. But once you start profiting, it’s a sign that you may be onto something. When you start earning revenue that you can actually put away, pay off those business loans with or reinvest into the business in some way, you’re doing well.
Speaking of earning revenue, once you start really making money and you can afford to hire and pay a team, that’s an even more positive sign that you may soon be able to turn your side hustle into a full-time job. After all, how can you manage a team when you’re at your day job? When you’ve got the workflow that requires more than a one-man show — and the income to pay for a team — you’re probably in a position to start diving into your side hustle full time. In fact, you’ll probably have to if you want to get to the next level.
Are people starting to recognize your brand, recommend your services or by your products with little to no outreach efforts? Do people know your business name, or have they heard of you before? Perhaps they’ve been following your social media pages or know someone who’s worked with you before. When people start to recognize your brand without you having to advertise yourself, that’s a good sign that your business is headed in the right direction. It’s speaking for itself and gaining attention, which could very well lead to growth, all on its own.
Have you been at your side hustle for so long that you’d consider yourself an expert at this point — and other people would, too? Do friends and family and people even outside of your immediate social network always ask you for advice or resources or help? Are you the go-to person for your niche, considered a thought leader on a topic or a guru in an industry?
If you are, you can probably start charging people for whatever it is that you’ve been doing for free all along. And if all of the aforementioned signs start coming to fruition, then you can likely turn your side hustle into a full-time job.