The side hustle we began while furloughed is now a business bringing in $50,000 a month: Here's our best advice

"Remember to stay open to new opportunities."

Laura Haleydt and Ginny Fears are the founders of Elle Synergy.
Courtesy Laura Haleydt and Ginny Fears

Like so many people, we, Ginny Fears and Laura Haleydt, who both worked in marketing, were furloughed from our jobs in the early days of the pandemic. Offices and events shut down, and we each decided to launch our own coaching businesses as a side hustle. 

We had never met before, but we already had some common ground. 

We first connected on Instagram in April of 2020, when Laura sent Ginny a direct message on Instagram after seeing some of Ginny's TikTok videos about marketing, our shared field. We quickly found a kindred spirit in one another and began talking about the ups and downs of growing our side hustles

In August, we started discussing doing a project together. By October of 2020, we decided to join forces and merge our businesses under a new name: Elle Synergy. The company is dedicated to helping people grow their online businesses.

Our instincts paid off. With our combined efforts, we have made over $400,000 in sales from our first online course alone, which we launched in January 2021. Our business currently brings in an average of $50,000 a month, and we are continuing to grow.

Here are the most valuable lessons we've learned.

Reach out to the people who inspire you

Do not underestimate the power of cold emailing or messaging when you are looking to engage with like-minded professionals, potential clients, or even potential business partners. It was one direct message that led us to our valuable partnership.

Our chats were a bright spot during a tough period, and we soon found that not only did we share a lot of the same interests, but we were hitting a lot of the same side hustle milestones at the same time. In May of 2020, we both got our first paying clients. In July of 2020, we both hit $5,000 a month in revenue. We officially quit the 9-to-5 jobs we were furloughed from on the same day, July 27, which is also Laura's birthday. 

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By the time the summer rolled around, we realized that with the goals we wanted to achieve, we would be more effective working together than apart. We decided to take the plunge, despite having never physically been in the same room. 

We spent the early part of the fall putting everything in place for our official launch. In October, ahead of the release of our first product, we met in person for the first time. We knew we had made the right call. 

Our best advice is that if someone inspires you, or their work resonates with you, don't be afraid to reach out. You never know what opportunities could come from it. 

Focus on building community first 

Part of the reason we were able to hit the ground running with Elle Synergy was because we had spent several months building a strong community through our personal brands. 

We built a content strategy that focused on the goals and problems of our ideal clients: service-based entrepreneurs, like coaches, who were looking to build or scale their businesses online, especially with Instagram.

We did this by consistently providing free content that had value to those ideal prospective clients, covering everything from how to make high impact Instagram stories to how to earn your first 10,000 followers. This allowed us to build a loyal and consistent fan base, which in turn allowed us to turn followers into paying clients. 

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We hit over 20,000 followers for Elle Synergy in just a few months, and over 50,000 for our individual accounts over the course of our first year in business. 

Over time, we also found that our free content was helping our followers get results. It has been so gratifying to get messages from people who tell us that our content inspired them to start their own businesses.

Don't be afraid to go back to the drawing board 

Our first offering was called the Elle Synergy Circle. It was a membership program for women entrepreneurs looking for guidance and support to scale their business. The Circle brought in about $13,000 in sales during its first month.  

We decided to launch a membership program at first, because we personally knew how important having a support system is when you are starting a new venture. But with the success of the IG Business Academy (IBA), which has brought in over $400,000 in sales, it became clear to us courses were a better fit for our business model. 

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The online course format helped us provide the in-depth and step-by-step strategies that our clients were interested in. And once we found that the IBA community was also networking and helping one another outside of class, we realized that IBA was turning into a more robust support system than the Circle.

On top of that, the membership program wasn't quite becoming the passive income source we had hoped. It still required a lot of work every single month and the return on investment was lower. We decided to end the membership program in March of 2021, and it was a valuable lesson to remember to stay open to new opportunities.

Meet your customers where they are 

We've learned that even seemingly simple social media features can make a big impact, like Instagram carousels. We like them because they let you convey your message in a more visual, blog post kind of manner, going slide by slide, rather than just trying to fit everything in the caption of your Instagram post. 

One of our more recent ones was about how to plan a month's worth of content for your online business in two hours. Another perk of carousels is that they tend to hold people on your post longer, which in turn makes Instagram's algorithm know that your content is getting people to stick around longer. 

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We've learned that short videos like Instagram Reels connect very well with our customers. We like using them because they boost your visibility on the platform. Potential customers can discover you in a number of different ways: on the dedicated Reels feed, through hashtags, through the Explore page, or through someone sharing your videos. 

Before Reels, we gained on average 20 to 50 new followers per day, which was encouraging growth. With Reels, we can gain up to 1,000 new followers per day when one goes viral.

Find ways to generate passive income

We're big advocates of using your existing skill set to develop products and services that can generate passive income early on in your business.

We came out with three offerings for our first three months in business: the Elle Synergy Circle membership program, a mini-course on Instagram Reels, and the IG Business Academy. Then in February, we launched a mini-course about making effective Canva templates, and most recently, a course on how to earn passive income, based on our experience with the IG Business Academy.

All of our online courses have been passive income streams for us. But one of the biggest lessons we learned is that there is no one right way to earn passive income. Your format and approach should be determined by the size and engagement of your audience, and the kind of business model you have.

Most importantly, you do not need a huge audience to start making passive income.

One of the biggest lessons we learned is that there is no one right way to earn passive income.

We often advise our clients to launch a high-value online course based on their expertise that can be sold at a premium ticket, so you don't need to sell hundreds to make money. We personally decided to price our offerings at different tiers, and we set those prices based on research about our ideal clients and our competitors in the space. 

Our best advice to figure out how much to charge for your side hustle or business is to do thorough market research, price what you're comfortable with, and increase the pricing as you gain more experience.

Ultimately, the most important thing we've learned over the last year is that human connection, and finding people who really understand you, is the strongest foundation for both friendship and business.  

Ginny Fears, a French transplant in the U.K., has a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in marketing. She worked in marketing as a product marketing manager and digital marketing manager for the past 10 years. Laura Haleydt is a Belgian marketer with an MBA and over five years of corporate experience. She began her career in the Paris start-up scene and later worked as the brand and trade marketing manager for global brands such as Carlsberg and Somersby. Ginny and Laura are the co-founders of Elle Synergy, which helps skilled entrepreneurs to build and scale their business with the power of Instagram. 

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