How This 20-Something Went From Side Hustler To Full-Time Entrepreneur
Leah Gervais didn’t plan on having her side hustle become her full-time career. In fact, she started it on the day she declined all of her acceptance letters to law school.
“I was going through a quarter-life trap,” Gervais told Swirled. “I felt, and I think a lot of millennial women feel, that you get to a point where you feel like you do everything ‘right.’ You feel like you have so much that you should be grateful for, but you’re just not satisfied. It was between just being happy with what I had or listening to the voice in my gut that was telling me to do something different.”
So she took a leap and started a blog. At first, Urban 20 Something was just that — an outlet for her to document her journey as she figured out what she wanted to do next at just 23 years old. But 2.5 years later, it’s turned into something much bigger. In fact, it even pays better than she had ever expected.
At the end of September 2018, Gervais gave her notice at her full-time, non-profit job to pursue life as an entrepreneur. If this sounds like the dream career path for you and your side hustle, then keep reading. Here’s how she did it, and you can, too.
Start before you’re ready.
Gervais started Urban 20 Something with little direction in mind, but now it’s paying her bills. If she had waited until she had everything squared away, she might still be months from making the leap from side hustler to entrepreneur.
“I often hear people come to me with every excuse in the book of why they haven’t started,” Gervais said. “They don’t have time, or money or they have too many ideas. It’s not that they’re not valid — I went through most of these myself. But the truth is that you won’t find clarity through thinking, reading or even discussing. You’ll find clarity through doing.”
If you’ve got an idea, start a website and get it going.
“Waiting for the perfect idea is a lost cause,” she said. “Your perfect idea will change anyway.”
Be intentional with what you accomplish every day.
Balancing a full-time job and a side hustle is never easy. But if you’re aiming to take your side hustle full throttle, you need to be productive. The way Gervais was able to do it was by being intentional with what she wanted to accomplish every day.
“Instead of planning what I was going to work on each day, I planned what I was going to get done each day,” she said. “I wouldn’t go to sleep unless it was done, and I got in the habit of waking up to work at 4:30 a.m. I made sure that everything on my to-do list contributed to my bigger mission and said no to busy work.”
Do whatever it takes to stay focused.
Sometimes, you’re going to have to make sacrifices. In order to stay focused and devote as much time to building Urban 20 Something as she could, Gervais gave up reading the news every morning, would turn her phone on airplane mode when she needed to write and even missed out on seeing her friends for months at a time.
“I did whatever — literally whatever — it took to be completely focused on the task at hand,” she said. “It has to reign, otherwise you’ll lose time and it’ll slip between your fingers.”
Understand that you can’t do it all. Stay focused on your end goal and you’ll make progress faster than you think. Your social life may suffer, but your business will grow.
Build an asset that you can automate.
Working a full-time job and running a side hustle can get overwhelming. There’s just so much to do in such a small amount of time. Gervais said the best way to grow your side hustle and profit from it is through digital products.
“Bartending and walking dogs are great, and it will get you money quickly, but it’ll end up costing you more because there’s a limit on how much time you can spend doing those things in exchange for how much you get paid,” she said. “Digital products are so great for young professionals because you can make them once and never look at them again. I’ve really focused on automating as much as possible with my website, emails and social media, and now I teach others how to do what I’ve done.”
This is how Gervais started profiting from her side hustle Urban 20 Something. She offers three digital e-courses, plus coaching services, and has been able to pull in about $5,000 per month on average from both. By automating the digital e-courses, Gervais has been able to create a passive stream of income for herself, which allowed her to continue working full-time up until October 2018. Since Urban 20 Something has been profitable, Gervais decided to leave her full-time job and focus on the business, knowing that she is making enough money to support herself.
Grow your side hustle with the right strategy.
Those digital products wouldn’t have been as successful if Gervais didn’t find the right strategy to grow her audience. Instead of aiming to grow her following on social media, Gervais focused on growing her email subscriber list.
“I started doing that from day one right away and I think it’s been a huge component of my success,” she said. “The email list is mine. Social media algorithms change all the time — you’re relying on an external company to basically manage your audience and I don’t have that. You’ll have so much more high touch with the people that you’re emailing and the people that are letting you email them and communicate with them.”
Find the right way to reach your audience and your side hustle will grow. Think creatively and consider strategies that you might have never considered before.
Learn from others.
If you’re looking to make the leap from employee to entrepreneur, take the time to learn from others. Gervais found that hiring coaches or finding mentors in the space helped her achieve this dream, which she never even really knew she had.
“I’ve done things a bit more stubbornly than I wish I had, but I noticed every time I’ve had a really big jump in income or I’ve reached a new level, it’s always been because I’ve had that little bit of help,” Gervais said. “Now it’s something that’s a part of my budget. I think it’s so important to learn from people.”
Invest in your brand.
The last way to grow your side hustle into something more is investing the money you make back into the brand. Gervais realized this after initially hoping to use the money she made to pay off her student loans.
“I was excited to pay them off, but then I realized I was gaining momentum and I was getting more money coming in,” she said. “I didn’t want to stop the momentum I had from growing, soinstead of paying them all off, I paid off one and, at the time, refinanced the other to an interest rate of about 3 percent. This allowed me to grow my business quickly without spending much on my student loans. If you want a high-quality business and you want high profits, you need to invest in high-quality business development.”
If or when you start making money from your side hustle, think about what you want to use the income for. It’s ultimately your decision and the money could be used to pay down debt, grow your savings, invest in yourself or more. However, if you want to make the switch to running your side hustle full-time, it might be best to invest in your growing business while you can, before you quit your job.
Create the life you want.
At the end of the day, turning your side hustle into a full-time job takes time and a lot of hard work. Gervais was able to achieve this in just 2.5 years, and with the right strategies, you can, too. Regardless, it’s important to remember that your side hustle could lead to a whole new lifestyle, and if that’s what you want, you have to go for it.
“This is the opportunity to fill in the blanks of what you want out of life, but maybe aren’t getting from your 9-to-5 job,” Gervais said. “You have the opportunity to bring it to life. We have access to the whole work with the internet and side hustling is so popular right now. People are really good at it, and there are so many people to learn from. I think what’s so amazing about it is you have the opportunity to really create the life you want.”