Thinking about starting your own business or taking on a second job? You’re in luck.
GOBankingRates asked today’s top finance experts and bloggers the following: What is the No. 1 thing you wish someone had told you before you started your side hustle and why?
Click through to get expert advice on side gigs that will help you keep your sanity while working two jobs.
Make a Daily To-Do List
When you’re juggling two jobs, be aware of what you actually need to get done each day.
“I’ve worked a full-time job while maintaining several freelance contracts on the side, and the critical advice I can give is to stay organized,” said Glenn Carter, author of the personal finance blog The Casual Capitalist.
Carter recommends taking 15 minutes at the beginning and end of each day to make a task list and organize it in order of importance. If you want to be successful, you have to spend your time wisely.
Begin Your Day With a Proactive Task
It can be easy to get sucked into checking email and social media first thing in the morning, but Nick Loper, founder of Side Hustle Nation, advises that it’s best to start your day by checking a concrete task off your to-do list.
“For me, the biggest productivity win in the last 12 months came from a simple micro-habit of forcing myself to do one proactive task before diving into email or social media,” he said. “It’s way too easy to start your day in reactive mode, and before you know it, hours have gone by and you haven’t touched any of your highest priority projects. Itemize out those high-priority tasks the night before, and make sure to accomplish at least one of them first thing.”
Make Sure You Know What Customers Want
It’s important to have a unique idea for a product or service if you are launching a side hustle, but make sure your idea is viable and is something consumers actually want before investing time and money into it.
“Ideas alone possess little value until you actually start building, creating, making and most importantly — selling your idea,” said Ryan Robinson, a content marketing consultant to the world’s top experts and growing startups.
“Most side hustlers I talk to wish they would’ve spent more time validating their idea by going out and talking to would-be customers, and asking them to pre-order the product or service they’re thinking of creating before investing tons of time and financial resources into things like a website, legal business entity, flyers and business cards. At the end of the day, if you don’t have paying customers, nothing else matters.”
It might seem impossible to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night when you are working more than one job, but it’s important to make sleep a priority — otherwise, your performance at both jobs could suffer.
“Other things in life may fall by the wayside when you are working two jobs in order to make ends meet, but sleep should not be sacrificed,” said Jeff Proctor, a finance expert at DollarSprout.com, who himself has worked two jobs at the same time. “Missing sleep can quickly compound into less focus and decreased productivity at work, which can actually lead to depression. Moral of the story: get your sleep.”
Have a Clear End Game
When you’ve got your nose to two grindstones, trying to earn additional cash and putting in extra time, it’s easy to lose sight of your overall goal. Bobbi Rebell, financial expert and author of “How to Be a Financial Grownup,” said that there’s a difference between having a career-boosting side hustle and working two jobs. The latter involves having a clear, strategic reason for working hard.
“For example, to earn money to pay down a debt. Or to save for a vacation. Or to acquire a new skill that can expand your professional options. Or to explore whether a business is financially viable. You have to be careful not to just work two jobs for the sake of it, because that can be exhausting,” she said.
Understand That There Are No Rules
Get a job, buy a house, start a family, save, retire — or don’t. Just because most of your friends follow a certain path in life doesn’t mean you have to walk in their footsteps.
Mohawk-donning financial blogger J. Money, who broke the rules by posting his net worth online, was able to leave his 9-to-5 job. In fact, in seven years he managed to save $400,000 through side gigs, blogging and financial smarts, mostly against the advice of others.
The BudgetsAreSexy.com blogger wants entrepreneurs to remember that there aren’t any rules in life, particularly when it comes to your career.
“I had no idea you could make a living as a blogger or freelancer or anything outside of a standard 9 to 5, really,” said Money. “Or that you can craft your own lifestyle, too, even if the rest of the world thinks you’re crazy! The ‘early retirement’ movement online is doing a great job helping get this message out, which I’m beyond thankful for.”
Scale Up Sooner
If you dream of turning your side hustle into a full-time gig, you will probably need to scale up sooner rather than later. However, expanding your business can be intimidating.
Millennial money expert Stefanie O’Connell says you should never be shy about believing in yourself. A professional speaker and author of “The Broke and Beautiful Life,” O’Connell has a passion for helping people achieve financial greatness. However, those with successful side gigs sometimes doubt that they can or should be able to earn more, she said.
“When you find out you can make money doing something on your own time and terms, it’s so exciting and you feel lucky. Often to the point that you stop being aggressive in your money asks,” she said. “Remember, you’re still a business, and you should always be seeking growth. Once you’ve validated your side hustle idea with a few paying clients, think about your next step — raising your rates, finding more prestigious clients, building a team, etc.”
Set Up a Corporation
David Bach, a best-selling author and respected financial expert, said the best thing someone told him before he started his business was to set up a corporation for his new business.
He said that, at first, he was unsure of the decision. He had an attorney, bookkeeper and tax accountant, but no income. His attorney told him the reason he needed to be setup was because “‘there will be business. And you want to be set up from day one like a real business,'” Bach recalled.
Stick to Your Schedule
When you’re working two jobs, distractions can mean the difference between success and financial failure. A money expert, blogger and financial consultant, John Rampton said that success relies on creating a schedule and sticking to it with laser focus.
“It seems like we never have enough hours in the day,” he said. “This is especially true when balancing a full-time gig with a side hustle. It’s doable, but you need to budget your time to the minute.”
Set Regular Hours
Yes, you need to work hard and stick to a schedule if you hope to succeed at your side hustle, especially if you’re picking up work as a stay-at-home parent. However, money expert Lauren Greutman said you should also create a schedule that allows for life outside work. If you don’t budget time for yourself, your side gig could overwhelm your life.
Greutman currently operates LaurenGreutman.com — a finance website that helps women live better lives for less. She said the one thing she wished someone would have told her when she launched her business was to set regular work hours.
“A side hustle is something that can easily get in the way of your life if you let it. I started my website in 2010 with two kids at home, and it quickly grew into a full-time job with irregular hours,” she said. “I wish the phrase, ‘Work Smarter, Not Harder,’ was one that I knew back then. Once I started treating my side hustle like a business, I was able to make more money and put stricter boundaries on my work time.”
Remember That Money Comes Later
Many people launch side jobs based on their passions. As a result, they often have to work for free for a period before the businesses become profitable. Paying your dues is a necessary step in achieving your career goals, said The Penny Hoarder founder and CEO Kyle Taylor.
“They don’t call it a hustle for nothing! I think I underestimated how little I would make in the beginning and how many hours I’d have to work for free before things would start to take off,” he said.
Taylor began blogging about money in 2010, when he was still in major debt from student loans. While building a following took time, the site now boasts more than 21 million readers a month. And Taylor strives to give back to the people who helped him succeed. His company provides readers with annual college scholarships and surprise giveaways — recently, 48 fans received nearly $30,000 in gifts.
Taylor advises aspiring entrepreneurs to follow his example and not give up on their dreams.
Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.
About the Author
Terence Loose is an award-winning freelance writer who writes about everything from travel and sport to fitness and finance. He is a Hawaii-based writer who has covered a broad range of topics during his 20-plus-year career, from finance and education to travel and celebrity. He is a former editor for both Movieline and COAST Magazines and his work has appeared in publications as diverse as COAST, Riviera and Movieline to the L.A. Times Magazine and Orange County Register.