Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Cory Huff.
When I took my first full-time job, I got fired in less than 3 months.
I was still finishing my last semester of college. I had to go to class on Friday mornings, so I was missing that time at work. I had told my employer that this would be happening, and they agreed that it would be fine. I put in my 40 hours. I did a good job. I had a good track record of bringing leads to our sales team.
But something was a bit off.
I noticed that the rest of the office staff worked a lot more than 40 hours per week.
They were answering emails at home, late at night. They were staying late to make a few more phone calls. They were traveling all of the time to far-away locations, sacrificing time and relationships for the job.
Truth be told, I just wasn’t so into my job that I thought any of this was necessary.
Apparently, doing a good job wasn’t enough, though, because my boss fired me. I wasn’t a good fit for the company culture.
I was so scared, and so angry, and so frustrated. I was doing a good job. They TOLD me I was doing a good job.
But they fired me anyway.
It happened again.
I went to work for a company. They promoted me. They gave me extra responsibilities. I was having lots of one-on-one time with leadership.
Then they fired me.
I went to work for a tech startup. Things started out well, but after just a short time, I was feeling like I was going to get fired again. I didn’t agree with the way my boss wanted the job done, and I thought I could do better by not listening to him.
By now, you might be getting the idea that I’m opinionated and stubborn.
You’d be correct.
How I Built My Own Insurance Policy
By the time I was at my third job, I had been working on a side hustle. I was building my own life raft, so to speak, because all of the companies I’d worked for kept setting me out to sea by myself.
While at my second job, I started TheAbundantArtist.com, which eventually turned into not just what I left the corporate world for, but my platform. At TAA, I get to help artists who are Creative Giants come to terms with their own Giant-ness. Our unofficial tagline is “The Starving Artist is a Myth.”
Transitioning from Side Hustle to Full-Time
People sometimes ask me how I managed to build a business on the side while working for someone else.
While I was doing that side hustle, I was so buried in it that I didn’t really have time to think. Now that I’ve been out on my own full-time for more than a year, I thought I’d share some of the things that I did to stay focused and productive during the 3 years that it took me to grow the business to the point where I could leave my day job.
Editor’s Note: It took Cory 3 years of really hard work to leave his day job and work on his passion full-time. There is nothing wrong with starting a company on the side, and there is also nothing wrong with taking the time you need to get it where it needs to be. It might be 6 months and it might be 3 years. That’s part of the entrepreneurial journey.
1. Make dedicated time.
I talked to my wife about it and we agreed that setting aside that dedicated time was the best way to ensure that our life raft would get built into a reliable vessel. I treated it like a second job, with scheduled hours and productivity expectations.
Every morning for an hour before my job, I wrote blog posts. Every Tuesday night and Saturday morning, I worked on delivering products and promoting my business. This time added up to about 15-20 hours each week spent on my business. I missed outings with friends, and a few television shows, but it was worth it.
2. Have a clear vision even if it turns out to be not so clear down the road.
I thought I had this when I started, but it took about a year of running the business on the side before it came into focus. Initially I was just interviewing creative people from all over for blog content. As questions from my readers came in, I wrote blog posts addressing those questions.
At my readers’ request, I started doing some group coaching on Internet marketing for artists. After talking to dozens of artists in that first year, the vision of TAA became much sharper and I was able to articulate my goal of turning 1,000 artists into full-time art entrepreneurs.
3. Take action before you’re ready.
Nothing will prepare you for being an entrepreneur. A mark of entrepreneurs who succeed is that they leap. They gather as much info as they can in a limited time frame, and then they take action. I found out I needed an email list. I asked someone a bunch of questions; then I went and signed up for MailChimp. I found out that successful blogs need a product to sell, so I made one. It was terrible at first, but it made money and I got feedback from my customers on how to improve it. Four years on, we have successfully iterated that initial course to the point that when I do an update, a very high percentage of my customers re-opt-in.
4. Keep your relationships intact.
I think personal relationships get the short shrift in entrepreneurial and creative endeavors. It’s easy to take your significant other for granted. They love you and support you, so they push you into whatever you’re doing.
It’s easy to forget that your loved ones give you time and support to go create your thing. (Click to tweet – thanks!)
From the beginning of our marriage, we have had weekly Family Councils. Every Sunday afternoon we sit down with our calendars and share what we’re working on in the upcoming week. We arrange weekly date nights, handle party invitations, decide who’s going to go shopping, and schedule other activities. Then we discuss any business – pending financial decisions, charitable contributions, and so on. After that we have a spiritual thought, and we finish with Compliment Time. We have to give each other at least three sincere compliments about something we noticed that week.
I’ve seen a lot of people get derailed over relationships going south. Don’t be the person who takes their love for granted.
Having a Side Hustle May Make You a Better Employee
Building my business on the side was great. It allowed me to build an insurance policy against getting fired. It allowed me to build the business slowly and discover a sustainable revenue path.
Another interesting fact: building that side business made me a better employee. I didn’t get fired from that last job. With the skills I had developed, I was able to create another position within the company and I flourished there. I left when I was ready, and on great terms. Knowing what I know about what’s important when running a company gave me insight into what I needed to do at my day job.
Cory Huff is an actor, director, storyteller, and founder of TheAbundantArtist.com. He and his wife live in Portland, Oregon, with their two perfect cats.