Is it time to quit your full-time job to focus on your side hustle?

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The leap of faith

Many South Africans have a side hustle these days, be it selling artisanal baked goods at a market, blogging in the evenings, driving for a ride-hailing service, or taking wedding photographs on the weekend.


Some do it because their regular job doesn’t quite pay the bills; others because they want to generate a bit of cash from a passion project. For many, the dream is to turn the side hustle into a full-time business, so that they can be their own boss.

But in a country with South Africa’s high unemployment statistics, the idea of ditching your full-time job to go at it alone can be frightening. How can you be sure that you have a good chance of success with your plans to make the side hustle full-time? What are the signs that you are truly ready to become your own boss and a run a successful business?

Let’s have a look at some of the ways you can tell if you should turn the side gig into a thriving full-time business:

  1. Look at the finances.
  2. Your side hustle has a strong brand.
  3. You don’t have enough time to do your full-time job and side hustle.
  4. Your side hustle could enable you to achieve your life dreams and career goals.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these pointers.

1.  Look at the finances

Economic reality should be the starting point for deciding to go full-time with a side hustle. If you quit your day job, will the income you generate from your side hustle be enough to cover your monthly bills? If not, think carefully about which costs you are willing to cut while you ramp up your side business.

Also look at how long it will take to grow the side hustle’s income to a point that they are comparable to your monthly salary. Of course, if you are earning more money from your side hustle than you are from your day job and have done so for a while, that’s a sign you’re ready to take the plunge.

Here are a few financial considerations to think about:

  • Do you have enough money in your savings account to tide you over for three to six months if sales are slow for a while or clients take a while to pay?
  • What level of growth have you experienced in your side hustle over the past year or two years? How sustainable is this growth?
  • Are you turning lots of business away because you don’t have time to cater it with your full-time job? How much money could that add to your side hustle’s revenues?
  • Do you have a clear view of the expenses of running your side hustle for example, raw materials, time, utility costs, petrol, and so on? Is the side hustle profitable taking costs into account?
  • What is the financial impact of losing company perks like medical aid or paid leave?
  • How much personal debt do you have? Can you pay at some of it off before setting out on your own?
  • Is your side hustle already a formal company? If not, should you register a company or operate as a freelancer/sole proprietor?
  • If you are a services professional, can you sign up retainers or contracts that will give you a bedrock of regular income?

Many side hustles will not become profitable without full-time focus. If that describes your side hustle, you need to decide whether you have the appetite for risk and the savings to make it work. Speak to an accountant or tax practitioner if you are unsure of the financial implications, it’s often worth paying for the advice.

Pro-tip: If you’re nervous about leaving your job, try to save your salary for three to six months and live solely off the side hustle income. If that works out for you, you’ll have the confidence to strike out on your own and some cash to fall back on.

2.  Your side hustle has a strong brand

If your side hustle is unrelated to your day time job, it may take a while to build a profile in the market and meet people in the biz. So, it’s good sign for your side hustle if your brand or business is starting to become well known its niche and if you have developed a reliable network of partners, suppliers and customers you regularly do business with.

This shows that you have done a good job of marketing yourself and that it’s time to promote your side hustle as a real company. Some metrics you can use to look at you’re the strength of your brand and offering include:

  • The amount of social media followers you have for your side hustle
  • Google searches for your side hustle
  • Incoming queries by phone and email
  • The list of names in your contact list that relate to your side hustle
  • Your confidence in your expertise and value to the market
  • Month on month sales growth

3.  You don’t have enough time to do your full-time job and side hustle

Even the most high-energy person may eventually become overwhelmed by the demands of doing a full-time job, then working on a side hustle in the evenings and over the weekends. If you find that you don’t have the time to do both your regular job and your side hustle properly, it might be time to make the difficult choice between them. Choosing the side hustle will let you focus on developing more and better services, winning new clients, and growing your own business.

If you are turning away a lot of side hustle work because the day job is getting in the way, look at how much money you would make if you took on all those client engagements. And also think about the extra work you could generate if you had more time to market the side hustle. It may be the case that going full-time with your side hustle is exactly what you need to do to build momentum and ensure sustainability.

4.  Your side hustle could enable you to achieve your life dreams and career goals

If you started a side hustle, you probably felt there was something missing in your day to day work, whether that was money, opportunity, intellectual stimulation, creative outlets or emotional connection.

Once you’ve run your side hustle for a while, you’ll know in your heart whether you’d like to do it full-time or whether the side hustle and job combined are giving you what you want in life.

Here are a few signs that you might be better off replacing your full-time job with your side hustle:

  • You feel like you’re trapped in a dead-end job with few prospects for learning, higher earning power or promotion, while you think the side business is going places.
  • You are worried about the sustainability of your day job in the present economic climate.
  • Your side hustle offers more joy and fulfilment than the regular job.
  • You’re a motivated self-starter who would prefer to be your own boss.
  • Your gut and accountant tell you that it can work.

Risk versus reward

Turning your side hustle into your full-time job is a risk and reward equation. Only you will be sure of which rewards you are aiming for and the risks you are willing to take to achieve them. But the tips above can help you understand your readiness to go it alone.

Also bear in mind that there are ways to mitigate your risks of leaving your job. For example, you could see if your boss is willing to let you work freelance or part-time. In fact, many side hustlers manage to turn their old bosses into their flagship clients.

Good luck and happy hustling!

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