For Michelle Schroeder-Gardner it all began with a blog. When she started Making Sense of Cents in 2011, a chronicle of her journey paying off $38,000 in student loans, it was a fun way to make money on the side while maintaining her full-time job as a financial analyst. Fast forward two years and she’s left her day job to focus on the blog exclusively. Fast forward another five years and she’s earning more than $1 million annually from her site.
If you too are looking to turn your side hustle into a full-time job, experiences like Schroeder-Gardner’s prove that just about anything is possible. And you’re not alone. Nation1099, an online resource for freelancers, published a 2018 report to summarize data from various career studies and concluded that approximately 11 percent of the working adult population in the U.S. is working primarily as full-time independent contractors in the gig economy. Gig workers, also known as on-demand workers, function with a non-standard work arrangement and without a long-term employment contract.
Some, like Schroeder-Gardner, have ditched a traditional lifestyle and are working while on the go and whenever they’re most productive (she travels around the world in an RV and sailboat and writes when motivation strikes). Others are logging full-time hours at home or in a coworking office space.
Although figuring out how to turn your side hustle into your dream job requires hard work, with patience and persistence, you can succeed.
Learn from the experts themselves and consider these steps for turning your side hustle into a successful business:
The first step for turning your side hustle into a successful business is building the right skill set so you can stand out in your field. Research industry best practices and in-demand skills, speak to successful professionals and read about others who’ve made the leap from side hustle to full-time job.
When Jill DeConti, founder of the blog The Luxe Travelers, decided to leave her finance job to devote all of her time to her side hustle as a travel blogger, she knew that knowledge would be instrumental to her success.
“I began researching, reading books, soaking in knowledge,” DeConti says, adding that she also focused on learning marketing best practices and how to generate revenue from her blog.
Reading about the steps for turning your side hustle into a successful business proved useful to DeConti not just for the practical tips she gleaned, but for motivation as well.
“This made me realize that my dreams were actually possible,” she says, “and made me feel less alone in pursuing them.”
“Even though I was earning a good income from my side gig before I turned it into my full-time career, I was terrified to leave my day job.”
Take baby steps
Schroeder-Gardner says one of the most challenging parts of turning your side hustle into a full-time job is building a business framework and believing in it.
“Even though I was earning a good income from my side gig before I turned it into my full-time career,” she says, “I was terrified to leave my day job.”
Growing her gig on the side to make sure that it actually worked—and would generate income—helped her gain confidence while she still had the security of her day job’s salary. When she was ready to make her side hustle full time, she knew the framework for a blog that could make money from affiliate marketing was already in place.
“I knew it was time when I was earning enough from my blog to live off of,” Schroeder-Gardner says. “I was earning around $5,000 to $10,000 a month from my side hustle at that time.”
Build an emergency fund
If you’re thinking about how to turn your side hustle into your dream job, be prepared for business—and earnings—to not go exactly as planned.
“Build an emergency fund,” Schroeder-Gardner says. “This way, when you turn your side gig into your dream job, you’ll have money set aside in case you have a not-so-good month.”
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You could also dip into your emergency fund to help manage daily expenses and pay your bills while you turn your side hustle into a full-time job. It may also come in handy if you need to finance upfront business costs (new equipment or office supplies, anyone?).
Outside of work, an emergency fund can provide a cushion for other expenses that may not be baked into your budget (think a trip to the doctor’s office or a home repair that came out of nowhere).
As you work on creating an emergency fund as a step for turning your side hustle into a successful business, note that most experts agree that it should include at least six months to a year of expenses.
Invest extra time upfront
You may find that it takes a lot of time to turn your side hustle into a full-time job. There’s networking, promoting your business and accepting new opportunities to build your portfolio—and that’s likely on top of your already packed schedule.
If you’re wondering how to turn your side hustle into your dream job, you may need to carve out time after regular working hours. That was the case for DeConti, whose day job kept her occupied from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In order to get her name out there as she built her travel blog, she looked for freelance social media jobs and worked on her own blog “after work and late into the night and on weekends,” she says.
Putting in the time upfront really paid off. These days DeConti can make her own schedule and work remotely, which is key for someone who has made a career out of her passion for travel.
“I’ve been able to travel to Bali for an extended period of time, spend a month traveling around the Greek islands, swim in the cenotes in Mexico, chase waterfalls around Iceland, eat the best pizza I’ve ever had in Italy, take a camper van around beautiful New Zealand,” she says. “As long as I have my laptop with me, I’m good to go.”
Join the side hustlers who have gone full time
If you’re contemplating how to turn your side hustle into your dream job, take comfort in knowing that you’re in good company. Others are now living their dreams, and you can too with some careful planning and confidence.
So, what are you waiting for?