Side-hustle consultant: 4 tips can help you grow your business

Courtesy David Fang

Leah Gervais was choosing between law schools when she confronted an uncomfortable truth about herself: She didn't want to be a lawyer.

"I was really unhappy, and I didn't want to admit that to myself during the time because I was raised to be grateful for what I had," she says. "I came from a place of a lot of privilege and I never wanted to be insensitive to the fact that a lot of people would be happy in that situation."

Instead of going to law school, she packed a bag and traveled to Southeast Asia, picking up freelance writing jobs to earn a few hundred dollars a month. Upon returning to New York, she began working full time at a nonprofit and started pursuing a side hustle as well. The gig? Helping others launch and grow their own side hustle.

It quickly became a full-time job. Now, Gervais' company Urban 20 Something offers e-courses on how to sustain and scale your business, along with one-on-one consulting. And Gervais has gone from making $1,000 per month from her side hustle to bringing in six figures per year.

Here are four of her best tips for growing your side hustle into a full-time business:

1. Calculate how much you need to earn

When she was juggling full-time work at a nonprofit and building her side hustle, Gervais says, her focus was on ensuring that she could replace that regular paycheck with her side hustle income when she decided to leave. Once she was able to bring in enough money from her side hustle, she knew she'd be able to make that her full-time job.

To get an accurate sense of your "magic number," experts suggest you look at how much you'll need to earn to cover your regular expenses, to replace workplace benefits, and to cover start-up and other hidden costs.

2. Treat your side hustle like a job

"If you are only doing your side hustle when you occasionally have the time, then you are only going to occasionally make money," she says.

Set a specific number of hours each day or week that you must spend on your side hustle, and treat that period of time the way you would treat a mandatory meeting at work. This dedication is more likely to net financial success.

How to turn your side hustle into a successful business

Video by David Fang

3. Figure out how to scale your business

One of Urban 20 Something's core offerings is an e-course. Gervais says she decided to go that route because she didn't want to sell a service that she would have to provide, in-person, over and over again. She wanted to make one product that could be sold and used even while she wasn't actively doing anything — and suggests would-be entrepreneurs do the same.

Making the e-course "was hugely time-consuming," she says. But it was worth it: "I was really seduced by how passive it could be and how scalable it could be."

4. Carve out time for mood-boosting activities

Gervais says her positive mindset and confidence helped her handle the ups and downs of owning her own business.

"Spend more time with yourself," she says. "I exercise and meditate. Whatever your version of reflection is, when you're connected with yourself, it's a lot harder to shake you."

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