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Side hustlers across the country are daydreaming about leaving their full-time jobs behind and striking out on their own.
A new study from SunTrust Banks revealed that 81% of Americans who currently have a side gig want to make it their sole focus, saying farewell to the 9 to 5.
But many of these same people can’t figure out how to make the transition and turn a side gig into a full-time source of income, because of concerns about money, lack of time or other obstacles. Here are six tips to help make the leap successfully.
Transitioning from your full-time job to your side gig is in many ways about timing, says Brian Ford, a SunTrust financial well-being executive.
“Determine when it’s best to take a side hustle full-time by weighing the trade-off of investing more time on your side gig versus your primary income source,” he says. “Be mindful of the opportunity cost of sacrificing the stability of your total compensation package for unpredictable earnings potential.”
How does one find the right time exactly? Once you’ve decided you’re ready to make your side gig your main career, sit down with a financial professional, adviser or mentor. Discuss your idea with someone who can help you thoughtfully plan how to make a new career a financial reality, including developing a budget, business plan and the legal foundations for your business, says Ford.
Before you make a big leap, make sure there’s a market for whatever it is you want to do or sell, says Kristin Marquet, who left a management consulting job a decade ago and established FemFounder.co and The Splendor Studio, a public relations, branding and web design consultancy.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had entrepreneurs say they want to launch this product or book and they have done no market research,” says Marquet. “Make sure there’s a market large enough for you to sell to consistently.”
Before you leave the day job behind, begin reaching out to people in your network who might be good clients.
“It’s also a good idea to begin cold pitching people,” says Maddy Osman, a search engine optimization content strategist who successfully took her side hustle full-time several years ago, founding The BlogSmith. “You want to begin finding clients before you leave, so when you leave you have work lined up.”
In the best-case scenario, you will have time to plan your exit. Use that time to begin putting money in the bank.
“Make sure you have enough money to cover a few months of expenses when you start your new gig,” says Osman. “Financial experts suggest six-plus months of emergency money at the ready. I don’t know if that’s reasonable. Maybe three months is best. That way, you’re not panicking and can focus on building your business.”
Read our guide to building your own benefits package as a freelancer.
Since you’re not exactly the first person to make this bold leap, it’s a good idea to connect with a mentor early in the process, someone who can provide feedback and guidance. In Osman’s case her mentor proved invaluable.
“My mentor was willing to talk with me whenever I had questions or concerns or wanted to tap into the brain of someone who had been doing this for longer or when I wanted to know how to get the word out about what I do,” says Osman.
The world is crowded with people selling their goods and services. If you want to break through the noise and be successful with your transition, find a way to be distinctive, says Marquet.
“Make sure whatever you are offering has a unique spin that kind of differentiates you,” she said. “Whether it’s your pricing model, or the way that you work. It comes down to positioning yourself and being different.”
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