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10 Golden Rules for Starting a successful side hustle

24 March 2021
5 minute read

Man working from home

Want to start a side hustle to boost your income? Your side hustle profits can help your family afford a few extras now, and also grow generational wealth that your children can one day inherit.

There’s no one better to give you advice on how to start a side hustle than successful entrepreneur Nic Haralambous. His new book, How to start a side hustle, shares practical wisdom from 20 years of side hustle and startup experience. We asked Nic to give us his 10 golden rules – so you can take your first steps towards a successful side hustle of your own!

1. Prepare your life

“Starting a side hustle is like bringing a baby into your life,” Nic says. It won’t just fit in with your existing lifestyle. You will need to devote time and energy to it if you want to be successful. Look after your emotional and physical health so you have the energy you need, organise a working space and tell family and friends about your plans so they know you will be busy – and so they can support you!

2. Find the time

Not having enough time is a universal complaint. “This is not a time problem, it is a priority problem,” says Nic. If your side hustle and using it to grow your family’s wealth is important, you will prioritise it and find the time.

Nic suggests doing an hour audit for a week to see where your time goes. This involves writing down everything you do for every hour from Monday morning to Sunday evening. “I guarantee you will be spending too much time watching TV!” he says. You can easily forgo a few hours of entertainment and allocate them to your side hustle.

3. Don’t spend hours on an elaborate business plan

You don’t need it. “Business plans are for banks and for MBA students doing projects,” Nic says. For your side hustle you need to know:

  • What you are going to sell - service, skill or product,
  • To whom, and
  • Where can you find those customers

Surely pricing is important? Don’t obsess over pricing or overcomplicate it – rather obsess about your customers, is Nic’s advice. He suggests you look at what competitors charge, and charge 5% less. Just make sure you still make a profit. And follow Nic’s FPFP motto– friends and family pay full price – no discounts!

4. Find a simple idea

“I wish my ideas were unique, innovative, disruptive or ground-breaking,” says Nic. “The truth is, most of my ideas have been thought of before, and turned into businesses.” That’s a good thing - because instead of looking for the next big thing for your side hustle, you just have to find a way to do something better, faster or cheaper.

5. Pivot towards your skills

Looking for ideas? Look no further than your existing skills. There are plenty of things you are good at that you can turn into a side hustle and make a few extra Rands from. For example, if you speak several languages you can use this skill to offer translation services or teach on a Saturday morning. Learning a skill will take time, so rather start with something you are good at.

6. Be careful of turning your passion into a side hustle

“You do not want to turn your passion into a side hustle,” Nic says. “I guarantee you that you will end up broke or hating your passion.” His view is that our passions are things that really add value to our lives, that help us relax and make us whole, happy humans. If you love doing knitting, or woodwork, or playing the flute it might be best to just enjoy the activity, rather than trying to make money from it.

7. Save if you don’t have spare cash

Don’t take on debt to start your side hustle. “This will only cause more anxiety and stress,” Nic says. Especially in 2021 when budgets are tight. If you don’t have enough to start your side hustle now, save for a few months until you do.

8. Define success, define failure

Nic calls these success and failure triggers - specific times and amounts at which you re-evaluate your side hustle and decide to grow it or close it.

For example, you define success as your side hustle earning an extra R1 000 a month for school fees. When you reach this point (well done!) you need to decide if you continue with the same goal or set a different goal.

“When do I quit?” is one of the questions Nic is asked the most. To find the answer you need to define how much time and effort you are willing to invest and how long you will wait for profitability. If you decide you want to be profitable in three months and aren’t - quit.

9. Don’t let your side hustle become a side hassle

“Your side hustle must be additive and not subtractive,” Nic says. It must add value to your life and shouldn’t cause too much stress or take you away from the things you love doing.

“I want to live a well-rounded life,” says Nic - for him that means getting enough sleep, walking his dogs, exercising, spending time with his partner, and taking care of his physical and mental health needs. It doesn’t mean working 20 hours a day. If your side hustle saps your funds or energy or has a negative effect on you or your relationships, close it and move on to another idea.

10. Don’t worry about failing

“Living with a fear of failure is akin to living with a fear of breathing for me,” says Nic. Failure is acceptable. It will happen, and it won’t be a disaster. Nic himself has tried and abandoned side hustles that weren’t successful. He says it is wrong to believe we have only one good idea – we have many. If your first idea doesn’t work, move onto the next one.

Take the plunge!

Now you’ve got the golden rules you can start thinking of your side hustle idea and start planning and hustling and earning. Remember, even a few extra rands saved each month can help you grow your family’s wealth. As you celebrate your successes and move on from failures, have fun!

Want to find out more about starting a side hustle? Visit Nic’s website for more information, ideas and opportunities.

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