'Hustle isn't just working on the things you like, it means doing the things you don't enjoy so you can do the things you love'
I had so many responses when I told people I was leaving my corporate job to write children’s books. I’m sure people thought I was a bit crazy. No one really understood the nights spent packing orders, the hours spent researching influencers, marketing strategies and creating email and Facebook copy. Apart from the people closest to me, most people had no idea about the time I put into my ‘side hustle’ as I once called it. I was private about my success because I didn’t want to blur the two worlds. But SO MUCH goes into running a small business – successful or not. But how do you actually start a business? And what are the things you should focus on in the start-up phase? Well this is how I did it.
I started writing my first book The Enchanting ABC in November 2016. It’s now almost the middle of 2019. I didn’t write my first book and suddenly have enough money to call it quits in the corporate world. I didn’t get here off the back of one amazing book (as beautiful as my books are that just isn’t the case!!). The reason I can now work around my children, take them to their extracurricular activities and make decent home cooked meals rather than having the same re-heated packaged lasagne for tea three nights in a row is because I gave up all of those things to get them all back. I had to sacrifice SO much to get here. I am a huge advocate of hard work equalling success. Most people I know who run their own business would 100% agree. There is no easy way and I will never sugar coat what it took to get here.
I started the books as a hobby. Without a doubt. I never started this business thinking I would one day make enough money to leave my corporate job. It was a creative outlet and it was providing us with a little bit of extra money. However, I also didn’t start creating these books to lose money either. I went in knowing full well what my break-even point was and being confident that I could reach it. My first goal (and only one initially) was to break even. That was it. Once I had achieved that all the money was reinvested back into the second book. Then the third. Paying myself wasn’t an option at the beginning – and it shouldn’t be when you are starting out. Building up the business is key and this is the reason I stayed at my part time job for as long as I did.
I thought it might be easiest to list some tips I would give anyone hoping to make their side hustle their full time hustle. Or for those wanting to start a business full stop.
- Get comfortable with money. In particular YOUR money. Understand the basics of accounting, GST and import taxes if you are planning to import items from outside of Australia. I had an advantage having worked in the accounting and finance fields. I already had these basics but like anything you can learn them. The income threshold to register for GST in Australia is $75,000 for a financial year. This is income – not profit. Make sure you understand the difference. This is my number one point because if you don’t know money it will be much harder to be successful and be able to make it and manage it.
- Know your numbers. And this isn’t about the above. This is about your profit margin. If you plan to sell a range of products (or even just one) know how much money each item will make you. Spreadsheets are KEY. All you need to do is work out what you plan to sell the product for, how much it will cost you and don’t forget to account for tax and GST (if necessary) and payment fees (such as Pay Pal, After Pay etc). Also - postage. The majority of businesses pass the postage cost onto the customer but you need to know what the cost of postage is for your item/items to do this. I wouldn’t have started this business if my first spreadsheet had me in the red. You need to make sure your idea is financially viable.
- Know your time. Work out when you are most productive and use that time wisely. For me it was 5am in the morning before anyone else woke up. More often than not I got up at 5am and worked until 7am then went to work for the day and came home and packed orders. I won’t lie - it was a very challenging time but once I knew the extra work meant I could leave my part time job it wasn’t anywhere near as difficult.
- Invest in yourself. If you have the money I would suggest a business coaching program. There are many out there and I would be happy to recommend my favourites if you would like to email me. Most coaches have different and varying plans so they don’t all have to cost a fortune but having someone help you with the basics in terms of email marketing, FB campaigns, Instagram etc is invaluable in my experience.
- Don’t expect it be easy. It won’t be. Expect long days. Never ending nights. It will be almost impossible to switch off because if you switch off you might miss something. It feels almost impossible to juggle all of this but I can tell you once you only have your business to focus on it becomes totally possible. I have 2.5 set days a week without my kids and on those days I do my bulk of Instagram stories and getting content ready as well as packing orders and writing new material. The other 2.5 days I try and largely spend with my son but I still work on them as well. Why? Because I love it. Most of the time this simply doesn’t feel like work. I feel so very lucky that this is finally the case.
These are just some basic tips. My basic tips. It’s what worked for me and in hindsight there isn’t actually much I would do differently. But I truly believe that’s because I planned in advance and I knew my money and financial situation.
You really can have the life that you want if you have the idea, the passion and the financial understanding. They are my biggest tips. Know your numbers. Know your audience. And invest in yourself, financially if you can and certainly emotionally. Find something that gives you joy in those early and difficult days (for me it was running and going to wineries on weekends!) and know that nothing lasts forever. Unless you choose for it too. I am choosing to live in this bubble of writing, managing my business and spending time with my babes while they’re little and seeing the positives in life for as long as I can. Because honestly what is the point of all of this if your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow isn’t happiness.