How to Turn a Creative Side-Hustle into a Business

Creative Side-Hustle Business
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Congratulations on starting a successful creative side-hustle! If it’s making a steady income then you might be considering scaling it up or turning it into a full-time business. Read on to discover how to get started…

Disclaimer: We are not lawyers or financial professionals and nothing in this post constitutes legal or financial advice. Always ensure you consult a lawyer and / or accounting professional before taking any action.

If you’ve landed on this post and are yet to start your side-hustle, head over to my posts How to Choose a Creative Side Hustle: Step-by-Step Guide and 35+ Ways To Make Money as a Digital Creative.

In today’s economic climate there can be many reasons for wanting or needing to turn your creative side-hustle into a proper business.

You may want to generate more income to help offset the increasing cost of living, enable you to build up savings quicker or simply have some extra spending power each month.

Alternatively, you may be looking to turn a successful creative side-hustle into your full-time business and quit your day job. You could design the lifestyle you’ve been looking for by being your own boss.

Let’s go through the main things to consider when turning a creative side-hustle into a proper business:

Analyze What Already Works

The first thing you need to do is analyze your existing side-hustle for your top sources of income. Simply put, identify what works and do more of it to enable it to scale. We’ll talk about how to do that later.

…identify what already works and do more of it to scale… Don’t get distracted!

Once your side-hustle is working, it can be tempting to start branching out too early into other income streams in an attempt to grow. It can be easy to forget about what succeeded in the first place. Don’t get distracted!

Remember, you may find that this second income stream doesn’t succeed! If this happens and you’ve neglected what generated your initial success then, you’re left with a weaker business than before.

Most successful businesses have found something that works and just do more of it to expand. It’s not until much later that they diversify. As we’ll talk about later on, it’s still a good idea to identify future opportunities but make sure you cement your core income stream first.

Example:

A good example would be if you have identified a print-on-demand niche such as t-shirts with a particular theme that is selling really well. Double-down on more of these designs before you consider branching out into other niches.

Analyze What Doesn’t Work

Focusing your time and resource on the things that will give the best returns is critical. When you analyze what doesn’t work consider that it could be for one of two main reasons:

  • There is no market (or it’s too small) for your product / service
  • The execution was poor

Group the topics you identify into these two categories. Stop doing the things for which there is no market immediately! These are a drain on your resource and a waste of time.

Topics that you have identified that were poorly executed can potentially be improved upon later and turned into a successful income stream. An example could be that the quality of your artwork was not on-par with competitors but the market demand is there.

Put these topics on hold for now as they will need further investigation and improvements before you should be diverting resource away from known winners!

Scale What’s Working

Having identified what’s already working for you, it’s now time to think about how to scale that up and do more of it.

Allocate More Time

The simplest way is to throw more time into creating the products or services that are your current top sellers. If you create more then you will likely sell more, providing that the size of the market is there of course.

If possible, analyze the size of the demand for your product to make sure it’s worth scaling. It’s often not possible to do this however, so to avoid taking on too much risk, scale gradually. This way, you can see if your sales increase with the amount of product you are creating.

Don’t throw a chunk of time or money into something, only to find that the market isn’t there for more than you’ve already been selling.

At some point, the limiting factor on scaling your side-hustle into a business is going to be how much time you have. If you’ve tested the water already you may have decided to quit your day-job and turn this into your full-time income. If that’s the case then you will already be able to invest substantially more time than before.

However, if you’re not in a position to do this then you’re going to need other ways to scale your product offerings. Even if this is now your full-time job you will reach this point again later down the road as well. Let’s take a look at those now…

Increase Your Efficiency

Look for efficiency savings to maximize the amount of time you have available to create products / content. This should be your primary goal that will move your business forward.

Avoid spending time on tasks that do not ‘move the needle’. For example, most social media is a waste of time until you have grown significantly and maxed out all other areas of generating income and interest. Your time would be much better spent in creating new designs or items to sell.

If you have a website that you’re using for e-commerce or promotion then don’t spend hours and hours on small tweaks to the design – this is a waste of time until your brand is much bigger.

Figure out how to batch-process certain tasks. That can either be by saving up a lot of similar tasks to do at the same time or by using software tools. For example, Adobe Bridge can batch edit many photographs at the same time without the need to open each one. See my post What is Adobe Bridge and What Is It Used for? for more details on that.

Outsource

Once you’ve implemented as many efficiencies as possible, you’re going to hit the ‘time ceiling‘ again which, will prevent further scaling of your business. At this point the only option is to outsource some of the work.

Start by outsourcing lower skilled tasks first. This will not only be cheaper but it gives you more time to create (what got you to this point in the first place).

Consider hiring a Virtual Assistant to take care of admin tasks for you. A Virtual Assistant can be based anywhere in the world and each will have their own specialisms. This could be answering emails, posting to social media, book keeping, etc.

Popular places to hire virtual assistants are:

To grow your side-hustle into a full-time business you may also need to hire more creative resource as well. Upwork and Fiverr are still solid places to do this although you may be able to advertise on specialist forums or Facebook groups as well to avoid needing to pay the additional fees.

The key to hiring creative resource is training them to do what you need and the way you need it done. It can be helpful to create video training or documents that you can simply send over to a new hire. The time invested in creating these will be saved many times over.

You may also find that the people you hire could actually be better at the task than you are so you might learn a few things along the way.

Identify Growth Opportunities

Whilst it’s certainly a good idea to identify wider opportunities, don’t get distracted from what you know already works, otherwise you run the risk of not scaling at all and actually losing income.

You may already have a few topics that you identified as not working currently but could, with improvements. Some of these could be turned from unsuccessful to successful with minimal work so make sure to investigate these before starting others from scratch.

When looking at fresh growth opportunities, consider what your customers currently know you for. Would those same customers want to also buy the product or service that you are considering launching? By considering growth opportunities that are related to your current products you will maximize your sales and avoid your brand becoming confusing in your customer’s eyes.

An important thing to also consider is to not bite off more than you can chew. Don’t lose focus on your core business by getting too distracted on new ventures. It is a good idea to consider rolling out new income streams gradually to allow testing of the market before diving too far in.

Planning these out on a roadmap or business plan can be helpful to structure the future of your business.

Create a Business Plan

If you’re serious about your business then you really need to create a business plan. This will outline the purpose of your business, your future goals for expansion and the key milestones for how to get there.

If you ever need to get a loan for investment then a business plan will be essential. Not only that, but it helps structure your plans and provide some needed focus and pace for you to achieve your goals.

There are a few formats that you can use to create a business plan and they don’t always need to be lengthy documents, especially if you are an entrepreneur not seeking external investment.

For more guidance on business plans take a look at the following resources:

Formalize Your Business

While you’re likely already registered as a Sole Proprietorship (U.S. and Canada) or Sole Trader (U.K.), registering as a Limited Liability Company (U.S.) or Limited Company (U.K.) may be necessary once your income increases, depending on where you operate.

It also provides benefits that can protect you and your personal assets in the event that the Company encounters financial or legal issues. This business entity does not exist in Canada however.

For further information see the following links:

There are also other legal entities such as Partnerships and Corporations available to you so make sure you contact a lawyer and your local government for guidance before registration.

When you register your business you may also want to consider registering any trademarks to protect the name of your business, products and any associated logos, etc. This can be a complex topic so allow yourself enough time to research this thoroughly.

With regards to finances, make sure that you are operating a dedicated business bank account and have a reliable accountant. Moving from a side-hustle to a formal business is complicated and requires professional advice to ensure you are keeping to your legal obligations.

Marketing – Grow Your Audience

We’ve covered how to expand your creative offerings to increase revenue but to squeeze out every available return from your creations you need to ensure that your potential customers can find them easily.

To get serious with digital marketing you really need to have a dedicated website. This is your presence on the internet and a place that you control. If you only have an account on an online marketplace such as Etsy, Amazon or Creative Market then you risk losing everything if they decide to shut you down one day.

A website is a place where you can display your work and potentially be somewhere where you can sell your products directly as well.

Learn how to start a website to support your creative business in my post How to Make a Website for a Creative Side Hustle.

Once you have a website, drive traffic to it from existing social media channels, online marketplaces or wherever you are already selling your creations. You can also capture traffic from Google searches by generating useful blog content around your niche that is published on your website. You can then direct these readers to your e-commerce store or marketplace page to drive additional sales.

If your website starts to receive significant traffic then the ultimate goal would be to start an email list. This will allow you to contact your customers in the future and generate future sales. This is something not possible when selling on someone else’s marketplace.

With regards to social media, my advice is to not bother with it until you have grown your business in size and have a fully functioning website and email list. The amount of time required to maintain social media accounts are significant for little gain and social media platforms only exist to keep their users on there and not direct them to your website.

If you found this useful then head over to my posts How to Choose a Creative Side Hustle: Step-by-Step Guide or 35+ Ways To Make Money as a Digital Creative.

Featured image: goodluz / stock.adobe.com

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