Any founder will tell you that starting a new business while working another job (or two for that matter) is lousy. Figuring out what that side hustle, or main hustle, will be to support launching this new endeavor is going to suck up two things in your life: your time and attention. But it’s important to manage both.
If you’re in the dream scenario where you have some kind of a side job that pays six-figures for eight to 10 hours of work a week, then you can probably skip this article. But if you’re like the majority of us and eking out a living at an hourly job, here are three tips for making the most of a side hustle:
Align your side hustle with where you want to be
For example, with launching an ice cream company, I wanted to make sure my side job that paid the bills and funded this excursion kept me working with the thing I was doing — food — in addition to connecting me with people I could learn and be inspired from and partner with in the future: chefs.
A handyman and carpenter through school, I leveraged that into helping at friends’ restaurants whenever something broke or they needed custom carpentry built. From there, I transitioned into steadier work as a server, which also opened up my mornings to work at the commercial kitchen where we were building our ice cream business.
These side jobs gave me the ability to network with those successful in the industry while paying the bills. I also enjoyed how working mornings in the kitchen and working service in the evenings broke up my work duties enough so that it never felt repetitive.
Choose a low-stress side job
If a job is going to suck up a lot of your time, and assume that it will, then you need to make sure you can preserve your attention. In other words, you need to find a side hustle that doesn’t stress you out at all.
For me, working service in a restaurant was not a stressful job. I found that I really liked most customers, and the attention I gave them also gave me energy. Interacting with guests, talking about food and working with talented chefs was a pleasure most days and only a slight grind on the worst.
Even better, I didn’t have to worry about whether my paycheck was going to bounce or how my rent was going to get paid. There are also added benefits to consider. For example, with restaurants, you usually get a meal with every shift you work. Before when I was doing custom carpentry, I was on a constant search for customers, which is stressful in itself, but you could occasionally be stiffed on the remainder of a job, leading to being out thousands of dollars.
Starting a business for most people is one of the most stressful things to ever happen in their life. Adding a taxing hustle to that will push most of us over the edge. Reliability of income and general lack of stress at one’s gig will make a big difference in the long run when building a company. For myself, just knowing that I could pay my bills and eat was good enough at the sacrifice of being able to have a ton of disposable income for a number of years.
Don’t be afraid to tap your network
Since all of your money and a lot of emotional energy will be wrapped up in your startup, make sure you have some good friends on hand. Needing those close to you to be able to do some of the emotional lifting and look out for you when things aren’t so great (which they inevitably won’t be sometimes) is invaluable. Swallow your pride, and ask for help when you need it. People, especially those who care about you, are happily willing to lend a hand.
At one point, I had a tough choice: move out of a shared condo I could no longer afford or face eviction. After debating spending the rest of the winter in my van, I was able to move into a pink converted shed in my friend’s suburban backyard that had once been a doll maker’s studio. For $200 a month, I had a roof over my head and felt like I was living quite large for the first time in a while.
Starting a business is emotionally draining, but maintaining relationships through the busy times allowed will allow you to have the support needed when things got tough financially or emotionally. Overall, being “Ed in the Shed” for the next year wasn’t too bad, except maybe when crossing the cold-winter backyard in a towel for showers. Hard times come and go and, eventually, you’ll be able to find a room in a proper house once again in an ideal location.