6 Steps to Turn Your Side Hustle into a Real Business

In today’s gig economy, we’re more than familiar with the side hustle and the dream of turning it into a living.

Success stories pop up constantly on our social feeds and in our consumer lives. Many claim to have a secret recipe for how to make the leap, but how do you actually turn that hustle into a real business and a source of income?

Maybe you’re selling cupcakes out of your kitchen, or coding the next big messaging app after-hours. Whatever your hustle, here are the steps to take it to the next level.

1. Take careful stock of your hustle
Before you start investing serious time, energy and money into your venture, you want to ask yourself if the model you’re currently operating will transition to a viable business. Running a succinct viability test is a great way to audit your business’ ability to transition into a full-scale operation.

To do this, you’ll want to survey your market and close competitors, as well as answer the question of whether customers will actually buy your product or service. Producing a limited offering of your product or service and taking it directly to your target market will help you calculate if there is interest and space in the landscape.

2. Build your support structures
Once you’ve proven your business is viable and are ready to take the plunge, ensure you have the support structures you need in place to make your new business a success. Building up the base of your hustle before you dive into it full-time is essential. Ideally, you’ll have a working budget, a client base and some financial cushion to fall back on while you’re making the transition. Beyond simple viability, make sure you’re already putting a succinct business model and structure into practice with your hustle before you commit to it full-time.


3. Find a mentor or business coach

When it comes to successfully building a business, nothing beats experience. Mentorship is essential for startups, whether you receive it from an investor or a close friend with business acumen. Having a mentor with experience in your industry who can answer your questions is worth its weight in gold.

If you don’t have anyone in your current network to fill that role, you can seek support through the relationships you create at meetups, conferences and networking events until one of those relationships grows into full-blown mentorship. It’s important to have someone you can rely on when you’re unsure of the next step.

4. Diversify your income
It can be risky to put all your eggs in one basket, as they say. Regardless of your particular type of venture, it’s a smart idea to diversify your income so you’re not relying solely on one product or service to keep yourself afloat. For example, if you’re a developer working on an app, perhaps you also provide backend development for other app startups. Think of multiple ways you can use your skills to build several revenue streams. That way, when one slows, you can fall back on the others.


5. Plan to scale

You don’t want to be caught by surprise when your business starts to take off and you need to expand. With your business mentor, come up with a plan to scale your offering for when you reach full capacity. Whether it’s hiring more employees, expanding your space or investing in an extra server, you’ll want to plan financially and operationally to grow, before growth becomes a necessity.

6. Get your financials in order

As a small, emerging business, starting capital has got to be a primary concern. If you’re looking to take out a loan to start your business, you’ll need to consider all your borrowing options before committing. Make sure that whatever type of loan you end up going with works with your business model and cash flow needs. Options like a home equity line of credit allow you to access credit against the equity of your home, keeping your interest rate low so you can put more of your profit margin back into your business. If you don’t own your home, a personal line of credit gives you a revolving credit source and the stability of a fixed portion, making it great for large investment purchases or smaller day-to-day expenses.

Taking your hustle from side gig to a full-scale business is a scary and exhilarating process, but these steps can be a roadmap to make that journey a little easier. No matter your passion project, it will take your all to turn it from hustle to success. Ensuring you have the resources and plans in place to make the transition before you set out on the journey will allow you to enjoy watching your project grow.