Monday through Friday, I work as a physician. But for nearly a decade, I have dedicated my nights, weekends, and summers to my side hustle, and it has paid off.
In 2010, I started an SAT and ACT preparation company called Prep Expert. As I have grown my business, we've been able to help more than 50,000 students improve their test scores and generate over $20 million in revenue. I even pitched Prep Expert on "Shark Tank" in 2016 and closed a $250,000 deal with Mark Cuban.
I have been able to run my company all while attending college, medical school, business school, and completing a dermatology residency. I'm often asked how I've been able to spend all that time working on my side hustle. Did I not go to class? Did I not sleep? Did I not have a social life? I promise, I did. I've developed strategies over the years that have helped me make the most of my time, and make Prep Expert as strong as it can be.
If you are looking to turn your business idea into a reality right now, here are some of the biggest lessons I have learned about how to start a seven-figure side hustle.
If you want to diversify your income and start a side hustle but aren't exactly sure where to start, do some personal inventory. Ask yourself, what is the thing that I would happily spend hours on end exploring and investing my time and energy in? It doesn't have to be something you find easy. The best ideas come from solving problems that matter to you.
In high school, I spent hundreds of hours studying on my own for the SAT, developing study tools that worked for me, which resulted in improving my own SAT score from average to perfect. Thanks to that experience, I realized that I could help other people do the same. And I constantly challenged myself to do bigger and more comprehensive projects with the skills I had acquired — writing an SAT prep book in college, creating a curriculum in medical school, and then building and scaling my business throughout business school and my residency.
I'm a big believer in putting in your 10,000 hours to become an expert in your field. Your expertise can create a solid foundation for your business, and later even generate another stream of income from consulting on other projects and companies in your space.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
I currently work in a clinic Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I work on Prep Expert for two to four hours on weeknights, and anywhere from five to 20 hours on weekends. This may seem like a lot, but I've learned how to maximize my time and schedule.
For example, the summer before I started med school, I created the pilot SAT course for Prep Expert and trained our instructors. But I dedicated the following summer to building an online video SAT prep course so that we could offer an on-demand version of me teaching our 100 SAT strategies, since I knew I wouldn't have the time to teach courses in person anymore. It was supposed to be a time saver for me, but the video course ended up being another effective way that we could reach our students.
During business school, instead of spending the summer interning for someone else's company, I spent it getting ready to pitch mine on "Shark Tank." That next semester, I decided to take my courses online so I would have the time to get our SAT prep books up to date, and prepare the company and our website to hit the ground running after our "Shark Tank" episode aired.
Video by David Fang
Just because you have maximized your time doesn't always mean that you will use it wisely. I've implemented some methods over the years that I believe have helped me be twice as efficient.
There is no way I could have built a successful side hustle without an amazing team. My full-time employees are really the superstars who run the day-to-day operations of Prep Expert — everything from sales, customer service, operations, website development, digital marketing, as well as our incredible Prep Expert instructors.
I've found that the most important thing to keep in mind when you hire new employees, is to seek out people who are talented and reliable self-starters. People who can not only execute your vision, but contribute in a meaningful way with ideas you might not have ever considered.
When you lead by example, and clearly communicate your mission and your values, you will find people whose work ethic matches yours. That is the last piece of the puzzle to expand your side hustle beyond just yourself.
Shaan Patel MD, MBA, is the CEO and founder of Prep Expert SAT & ACT Preparation, winner of a "Shark Tank" deal with billionaire Mark Cuban, and a bestselling author.
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The headline has been changed to reflect that Prep Expert has generated $20 million in total revenue.