Arabella Peterson and Lilith Hardie Lupica of The Foreword know a thing or two about launching a side hustle, both balancing their respective careers with running the weekly newsletter. Here, they offer some advice for getting your own project off the ground while still working your nine-to-five.
Have a clear vision.
Not every hobby needs to become profitable. Be honest with yourself about how you envision scaling your venture. Maybe you're happy having a creative outlet on the side while working your day-job, or perhaps you're hoping this will become full-time in a few years. Things naturally evolve, but if you're as realistic as possible about what you want to get out of a project from the get-go, it will be easier to manage in the long-run. A roadmap will also inform how much time and energy you dedicate to a project; avoid burnout at all costs.
Do the boring stuff first.
It's easy to get swept away by the "fun" parts of starting a project. The colour palette, logo, typeface and Instagram are all crucial, but they're only one element of a brand. Think about your value proposition, mission, goals, budget and strategy first, and the rest will follow. Your creative outputs will likely flow smoothly and be more faithful to your vision if you have a distinct idea of exactly who you are.
Nail the basics.
Get out your fave AOL Notebook or Lined Mini Notepad; a brand sprint is a great way to lay down the groundwork. With your co-founder, team or friends with valuable skill sets, set a timer for three hours (remember to provide the coffee and snacks) and get started. In the first hour, plot out a 20-year roadmap to get you thinking long-term. Then, answer the most critical questions: what, how and why does your brand exist? In the second hour, outline your company's top three values and top three audience segments. In the final hour, define your personality by pinpointing where your brand is positioned in relation to competitors. Outline a range of attributes and figure out which space you occupy. Are you elite or approachable? Playful or serious? Conventional or rebellious? Having outside input is super helpful here. Finally, do a competitor analysis and outline which other brands are aligned and which are not.
There will be ideas, projects, content or products you're excited about, but not all of them will be a success. Working around a nine-to-five will mean you don't have time or energy to waste on something that isn't serving you or your side hustle. Be flexible and open to change. Make adjustments where necessary, listen to feedback and what your analytics are telling you. If it's not a hit, that's ok. Don't expend energy on something because you can't say goodbye.
Set realistic goals.
Working around a job, social life and family will mean you're pulled in a million different directions. To ensure you're driving your project forward but not burning out, set realistic goals to achieve daily, weekly or monthly - (the AOL diaries have a great goal planning section or you can download our Goal Planner HERE). These goals will form part of your roadmap and allow you to carve out time while working around your other priorities. Goals can be as simple as working on your Instagram presence and determining a percentage of growth within a specific time frame. You may set yourself a goal to reach 500 followers in three months; on a granular, daily level this may look like setting aside 30 minutes three nights a week to reply to DMs, organise your posting schedule and interact with your community. Just ensure these goals are realistic, there's time for them, and if you don't hit them, you don't berate yourself. If you find yourself zoning out to Netflix for an hour each night, multitask during this time or use your commute in the morning to tick off a goal and once the commute is over, stop and set that job aside.
Ask for help.
When starting your project, you'll want to oversee and fulfil every job that needs doing, but the reality is you just can't. Assess what tasks you want to do or are interested in learning and then what you might be able to outsource. If you're working with a small budget, ask friends to lend their know-how or put the word out for recommendations. Often, people will be very keen to share their knowledge, challenges or insights with you for a small fee, especially if you can return the favour by lending them a hand. There's no shame in asking for help!