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How to turn a side hustle into a full-time job

Looking to make extra cash right now? Experts share stories and advice on how to start a side hustle and turn it into a full-time job.
Collage of woman looking at computer screens with yarn, camera and pottery flying around her
Are you ready to quit your full-time job? Here's what you have to ask yourself first.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TMRW

Want to start your own business but aren’t ready to pull the plug on your full-time job yet? A side hustle could be the answer.

“I think the opposite of depression is not happiness but the feeling of purpose,” explained business and life coach Cathy Heller, author of “Don’t Keep Your Day Job.” “And I’ve met enough people to know that they would add five more days to the week if they were doing the things that light their soul on fire.”

The beauty of a side-hustle job is that it’s time spent working for yourself and creating something you’re passionate about. And, who knows, one day it could even turn into a lucrative full-time business.

How to determine the best side hustle for you

Tapping into your own interests and skills will help you determine the best side hustle for yourself.

“I don’t think it’s an accident that we have these things that we’re curious about or that we wish we had the time to do, whether that’s baking or doing more yoga or crafting something,” Heller, who also hosts the "Don't Keep Your Day Job" podcast told TMRW. “Not everybody is given the ability to sculpt. Not everybody is given the desire to write a song. If we like it, we were given that as possibly a divine assignment.”

Headshot of woman wearing pink shirt
According to Cathy Heller, who hosts the podcast "Don't Keep Your Day Job," the first thing you need to ask yourself is, “How can I solve a problem that others are willing to pay for?” Ographr inc. / Courtesy Cathy Heller

In 2011, Kristin Berry Mastoras was working in pharmaceutical advertising designing “boring brochures for prescription drugs” as she describes it, and needed an outlet for more creativity. To fulfill that need, she turned to her side hustle of illustrating wedding guest book alternatives and selling them on Etsy.

It was so successful, she ended up being able to quit her job four years later to focus entirely on her own company, Miss Design Berry. In 2016, she was making over $600,000 annually.

"There has to be more to the business than just making money, otherwise you won't ever stick with it," she said. "I started Miss Design Berry because I needed money, yes, but also as a creative outlet."

Just remember the difference between a hobby and business is the revenue, Heller explained. “If it’s a hobby, it doesn’t matter if anyone pays me.”

What are some good side-hustle jobs?

According to Heller, the first thing you need to ask yourself is, “How can I solve a problem that others are willing to pay for?” For Mastoras, that was creating unique wedding guest books. For someone else, it may be whipping up a delicious vegan custard others will want to eat. Or it could be creating decorative throw pillows with inspirational quotes that someone may want to buy for a gift.

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The difference between a hobby and business is the revenue.Sladic / Getty Images

Heller has seen another side trend hustle taking off: offering experiences, like memberships or online courses. “Because of social distance, we are in a time where we need to cultivate a community,” she said. For example, you could gather a group of women who love to DIY, charge a monthly flat rate and organize a weekly virtual meetup with experts teaching classes.

Coaching others can also be a great side hustle. Kendra Newton, a senior marketing director at a New York City book publisher found that people were always coming up to her asking for help promoting their brand or business so she started a side business doing just that. As a visibility expert, she coaches clients one-on-one and helps them succeed.

Newton also shares tips and advice on TikTok, which not only draws more reach for her, but has helped her find new clients. “I gained 10,000 followers in just 10 months after joining,” she said. “At the time, there weren't a ton of experts sharing advice on TikTok, but it's now become one of their most popular categories. I've connected with tons of people seeking coaching services, mentoring advice and brand partnership opportunities.”

How to make a side hustle a full-time job

If you want to turn your side hustle into something bigger, look at your current full-time gig as the investor of your dream job, said Heller. Otherwise, quitting your job can put too much pressure on the startup. Then figure out how much money you would need to make in your side business to be able to leave your job.

To make your side hustle successful, the first thing you want to keep in mind is that you won't have the perfect product or service immediately. “I can absolutely guarantee you that as you begin to sell something, you will continue to revise and improve upon your product, and it will evolve to meet the needs of not only those whom you are selling to, but what you, as the maker, wants out of your business,” Mastoras said.

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Kristin Berry Mastoras poses in her weekend home in Hampton Bays, which she was able to buy thanks to the success of her side hustle turned full-time business. Courtesy Cait McCarthy Photography

Talk to clients, ask them what they want and evolve based on that.

Heller also suggested creating a story around your product or service. “Sales equals intimacy,” she said. “People buy from people they know and like and trust.” That means toggling back and forth on social media between sharing things about yourself and sharing things about your process (like how or why you make these candles, for example).

“The No. 1 regret of the dying is that, ‘I didn’t live life on my terms,’” Heller said. “The stakes are really high, and this idea that it’s not possible for you to get paid to be you is a lie. Not everyone will be famous, but everyone can be significant.”