How to turn your side hustle into your career Entrepreneurs who turned their side hustles into full-time jobs share their advice for how to increase your odds of success.

 While serving as vice president at a nonprofit, I spent over three years cultivating my side hustle as an executive coach and career strategist. Eventually, I decided to take the leap and make my side hustle my full-time focus. I’m delighted I made the change. However, turning your passion project into your career isn’t always easy. If you’re considering this transition, here are six essential tips:


Your primary focus should be ensuring that your business model generates sufficient income, or has the potential to do so, before leaving your day job. For instance, Matt Gjertsen built a leadership development business while working full-time at SpaceX. His success came down to “pure math.” “I was making more money in my side hustle than I was in my main job,” says Gjertsen. “The math was working out, and the business could sustain itself.” Not everyone is in a situation where the numbers speak for themselves. Sometimes, you may need to focus entirely on building the business to give it the time and space to become sustainable.


Next, accumulate enough savings to support yourself for about six months while your business grows. Anne Murphy, CEO of Empowered Fundraiser, which began as her side hustle while she was a fundraising leader in higher education, advises, “Getting paid takes longer than you think, so you need a buffer. Savings also allow you to be choosy about clients and not simply take any client that comes your way.” Ben Rasmussen, who spent over 12 years building Potomac Chocolate while working as a Linux systems administrator, recommends getting financially disciplined before going solo. “Get all your numbers in order and realize that it may be a year or two or more that it’s a little tight,” he says. “What are you willing to do without? Do you need Netflix, HBO, and Hulu?”


Once you have a solid business model and are financially prepared, the next step is to dedicate yourself to the day-to-day operations of being an entrepreneur. Turning a side hustle or hobby into a business requires more than just a passion for the work itself. Ensure you are equally enthusiastic about the business aspects such as marketing, finances, and operations. Test it thoroughly as a side hustle to confirm you enjoy and are committed to both the work and the business-building process. Matt Gjertsen references cautionary tales from the classic business book "The E Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It" by Michael Gerber. “You shouldn’t start a bakery because you love baking bread,” says Gjertsen. “Start it because you want to run a bakery.”


For many, quitting their day job to fully dedicate themselves to their passion project isn't feasible. Therefore, ensure there is demand for your offerings and identify your target audience while still employed. Murphy suggests arranging networking meetings to validate your product-market fit and having your offers and packages launched before leaving your full-time job. Additionally, establish foundational elements like contracts, invoicing, branding, mailing lists, and automation while still employed.


Once all these aspects are in place, plan a graceful exit from your current role. Prepare a well-thought-out transition plan for leaving your job because it’s thanks to this job that you were able to build your side hustle into a viable business. Your exit plan should include giving appropriate notice. For instance, I gave over six months’ notice. This helps ensure a smooth handover of responsibilities and allows you to maintain your professional relationships. A graceful exit will leave the door open for future opportunities and increase your chances of receiving a good reference.


Transitioning from a traditional job to running your own business can unlock creativity and potential. “Reducing my time commitment to my full-time job unlocked more energy and ideas, leading to new products and ventures,” says Rasmussen. After leaving his job to focus on Potomac Chocolate, he started a successful pop-up pizza shop, which may lead to an entirely new side hustle. Taking your side hustle full-time is a significant step. Know that careful planning and preparation can lead to unexpected opportunities, unlimited ideas, and rewarding successes.  

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