Starting A Side Hustle, The Frustrations, Trials and Tribulations (Part 4)
I actually getting worse at writing this blog series. It’s been over 12 months since I wrote part 3 of the trials and tribulations of starting and working on a side hustle.
So, why has it taken me so long to write another post? Part 3 was published in December 2020, at the start of 2021, I made a decision to put the majority of my focus on one side hustle in particular. Which meant other projects, including this blog were put on the back burner.
I decided to focus the majority of my efforts on developing and promoting Elementary Analytics. 2021 got off to a flyer, with me landing my first paying customer for Elementary Analytics.
How did 2021 pan out and how has 2022 started?
Focusing On a Single Side Hustle
I have to say this was easier said than done. There is always something that distracts me.
At the start of 2021, I started working with a coach. Not sure if you felt the same, but all of a sudden everyone seemed to be some sort of coach.
Anyway, we worked together for a few months. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and it didn’t pan out as I would have liked. One of the positives that came from it though was that the coach identified that I needed to focus.
It’s something that I’ve known for a while now. That I need to pick a single side hustle and focus full time on it. Like I’ve just said. Easier said than done.
Another positive was to take myself more seriously and register a limited company. It’s something I thought about for a month or two and decided to take the plunge and do exactly that in March 2021.
Would this be the game-changer? Would this be the difference? Was I not taking things seriously enough by calling them side hustles? Would owning a business change my commitment levels?
In the last post of this series, I talked about how I’d paused working on Elementary Analytics because of a number of reasons. Then towards the end of the year, I switched it back on again.
I had done a lot of work on Elementary Analytics and gotten a lot of feedback that it may help people.
So, why did I choose to focus on Elementary Analytics as my main side hustle? The main thing for me was the price point. I had played with the price of Elementary Analytics, switching between £29 and £49 for the full version of the software.
Comparing that to Outflash which the highest price plan was £15. It made more sense for me to focus on Elementary Analytics as the rewards would be greater.
Also, I had a bit more clarity as to who my “target market” could be for Elementary Analytics. One of the issues I had with Outflash was that I was trying to promote it to project managers, recruiters, sales professionals, legal professionals, executive assistants, freelancers, estate agents. I wasn’t clear on who I could get it in front of.
My 3rd project, BAITCAMP was launched at the end of 2020. As I had no clear idea as to how to make money from this idea, so it made sense for me to put this at the bottom of the list.
Because of these three points, I decided to focus the majority of my efforts on Elementary Analytics.
Getting Myself and Elementary Analytics Out To The World
At the end of 2020, I decided to pick a handful of platforms to spend my time on to try and promote myself, and more importantly the side hustles.
Choosing to focus on Elementary Analytics a month later didn’t really change my plans, or how I was going to execute things. It just gave me more clarity as to what I would be doing.
I have to say, looking back, I’ve still found it difficult to post every. Whether that be on LinkedIn or Instagram. Or putting enough time aside to write blogs post. As this blog series proves.
However, I would say I was very consistent with publishing a new episode every week for Find Your Side Hustle. This did tail off towards the backend of 2021. As I’m writing this post, early January 2022, I’ve scheduled episode #71 to be released next week. Which has been an amazing thing to try.
So what else have I been trying?
I’d managed to demo Elementary Analytics to a few people, and one person, in particular, was keen to give Elementary Analytics a try.
We had a few catch-ups and she mentioned that I should join a number of networking clubs to get Elementary Analytics out there.
I’d also joined a mastermind group and a friend from the group also suggested I start networking, which would be great for me to do.
I decided to join a networking group called Cobra Club and strangely started getting invited to loads of other different networking events. It was great, meeting new people, building my network on LinkedIn. Jumping on Zoom calls to have a chat and show them Elementary Analytics. I’ve lost count of the number of introductions I’ve had from these events.
However, networking doesn’t come without its downside. It can be very time-consuming, if like me, you’re still working a 9–5 it can be hard to get to all the events you would like.
I also found that the calls and 1–2–1 that come from attending all these virtual networking events can have a negative impact. At one point, I didn’t do anything that I wanted to, in terms of product development or marketing tasks. I was too busy on a call, sending emails as follow-ups.
Reviewing The ROI
All told, I spent about 6 months of 2021 attending networking events in the hope to find customers for Elementary Analytics. How many did I get? One. All that effort for one customer. It didn’t feel it was worth it.
On the flip side, there has been a lot of positives. As I said, my network of contacts on LinkedIn has grown massively.
I’ve also managed to get a lot of feedback about Elementary Analytics too. A number of times I was asked to be a “guest speaker” at an event and showed the product to loads of people, a mini webinar if that makes sense.
The feedback I got varied. Some people loved it and could see how it would be beneficial, surprisingly not for them though. Quite a few people who were the target market I was looking to promote too weren’t as positive. But that’s a good thing, I got honest feedback about the product.
In September 2021, I read a book that I’d not read for a good few years, The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. This book is the one that started me on my side hustle journey years ago.
I won’t go into too much detail, but after reading that book it got me questioning whether attending all these networking events was the best use of my time.
All that effort for one customer, this ROI wasn’t sustainable. So in September 2021, I decided I would stop networking completely. It was the right decision.
Armed with all the feedback that I had got about the product, I decided that it would be a better use of my time, over the coming months to improve Elementary Analytics. As well as figuring out ways to market the software that gave me the best ROI.
Switching off Another Side Hustle, Yet Again
It happened again. I decided to turn off one of my side hustles. This time it felt different, the right thing to do.
The project I decided to switch off was Outflash, the Outlook add-in I had built.
Over the 12 months, I had had a bit of success with Outflash. I’d managed to write a load of blog posts that started ranking in Google. From these blog posts, people were finding out about the product and subscribing. Actually paying me money each month, without me doing any extra effort.
Sadly, the majority of people canceled a few months later for one reason or another. But it was a start, it was little signals that I may be on the right track. This didn’t help with my focus, it kept distracting me from Elementary Analytics.
Now and again I would focus some of my time and energy on Outflash, whether being a blog post, testing a sales funnel, or hiring someone to do some development work. This was keeping the add-in ticking over.
Signal That Its Working
In November 2021, I received an email about Outflash. Someone had subscribed to the £15 a month plan, and something wasn’t working quite right. I managed to pinpoint the issue, fix a bug, get it deployed and email them straight back. They were happy.
“Result,” I thought, hopefully, this customer will stay with us for a while. I checked if there were using the add-in to send emails, they were and a hell of a lot.
The following few days I ended up with another 7 or 8 customers subscribing to the same plan. “That’s strange”, I’ve not done anything differently. I checked my Stripe account and quite a few of the customers had their payment initially declined. Weird.
They also subscribed using oddly named email addresses. I checked and they all were valid. I decided to keep an eye on things just to be safe.
The Dreaded Email
I had been away for the weekend, while these subscribers were coming on board so I didn’t have too much chance to look into each and every one.
Then I got an email which made me decide I had to take action. I won’t go into detail, but Outflash integrated with SendGrid to send emails on a customer’s behalf. I’d gotten an email from SendGrid saying they had suspended my account.
That’s the last thing I needed.
They had given me a list of emails that were marked spam, in fact, it was scammers trying to get information from people.
I did a lot of digging and it looked like the first person who raised the bug in the first place was a scammer, and either they kept signing up, or they let their scammer friends know about my service. Which allowed them to use Outlook to send lots of emails to people.
Knee Jerk Reaction
I decided there and then to switch Outflash off. Yes, I could have done work to prevent this from happening again and keep Outflash going.
Looking at the figures, it was costing me well over £130 a month to run Outflash. Microsoft had recently changed the pricing and the cost had jumped up by £30 in a signal month. Even if these 7 or 8 scammers were legitimate customers, I would still be out of pocket.
It wasn’t worth it, I had made my mind up and decided I would spend the rest of the week shutting Outflash down.
I was disappointed, but this time it felt different. The last time I shut down a side hustle it felt like the end of the world. This time I didn’t feel like that, maybe it’s because I was working on Elementary Analytics and still had BAITCAMP on the back-burner.
Yes, you could say it was 18-months to 2 years worth of effort wasted. I didn’t look at it like that this time. Maybe all the work I had been doing in 2021 on my mindset was paying off.
Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining
I looked at switching Outflash off as a good thing. Having learned so much, here are some of the positives I could take away from the project.
- I validated the idea before building it.
- Learned about sales funnels
- Got my first paying customer using a funnel
- Got multiple paying customers from blog writing
- Started ranking on Google
- Ranked on the first page of Google for a number of terms, 3rd only to Microsoft’s offical documentation
- The marketing site was great and worked as I wanted.
- Learned loads of new tech.
I could go on.
The week spent switching everything off was a pain and not something that was quick and easy. It also got me thinking about all the content I had created. The blogs that were ranking on Google, what should I do?
Having spent a lot of time trying things out, seeing what posts would start climbing up the rankings I didn’t want to just give up on the content.
I had a brainwave
‘PHIL H Is Reborn’
My personal blog is the first website, “side hustle” that I ever started. I’ve never put enough effort into really getting it going.
“What if I take all the content that is ranking on Google for Outflash, and move it to my blog, as long as the content could be stand-alone and isn’t directly related to Outflash”.
So you know how I said about focusing for 2021, yep blown out the water yet again, and I was adding something else to my to-do list.
I’d played with the design of this blog a number of times, never being entirely happy with it. Migrating the content from Outflash gave me an excuse to sort this out.
Spending an afternoon moving the blogs posts and publishing them. I set about redesigning this site to something I’m was happy with. Deciding to go with something simple, clean, and easily maintainable, would suit both blog post and podcast episode listings.
It took me a few days but I was happy with the end result
Working out Outflash and building sales funnels to try and promote the add-in, had led me to create quite a lot of assets. Things like eBook and video guides, that I just had sat there, not doing anything with.
Another silver lining with shutting Outflash down and getting this site to a good place is that I could start selling these assets on my site.
It didn’t matter if it was related to Outlook or not, or if it could help you with your productivity. I now had a storefront that I could sell things from and not worry if it distracted from trying to get someone to subscribe to a software product.
Maybe I could create funnels around them and start clawing back the money I had lost from running Outflash for so long.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’d decided to register a business and try and take things more seriously. I’d also done a goal-setting exercise with a friend of mine, one of the goals was to bring in enough money each month to cover all business expenses.
After setting up the business, I’d moved all the subscriptions over to the business account, and any money that was coming in would go towards paying the expenses.
However, it was enough to cover everything. Outflash had been expensive to run, between all the subscriptions and the hosting costs for Elementary Analtyics, I was putting in at least £200, sometimes £300 a month into the business to cover everything.
It isn’t always cheap running multiple side hustles, or even a single side hustle. No wonder I didn’t have much money to outsource or spend on things like paid ads.
I Almost Missed It
Spending almost two weeks turning out Outflash and sorting my personal site out. I logged into my accounting software to work through the fallout from these scammers.
I’d the midst of all the craziness, there has been a new subscription that I’d missed. A large subscription at that. Someone has subscribed to Elementary Analytics, our top tier plan too, unbelievable.
I couldn’t believe it, amazing. In the space of a few days, I’d gone from having to put in money from my own pocket to cover the expenses every month, to actually turning a profit.
OK, so it’s only £40 a month profit, I can’t quit my job or anything, but it’s a start.
Lessions Learned From The last 12 Months
Like 2020, 2021 has been a massive learning curve for me. A lot of the things I mapped out in part 3 I’m still implementing, but I’ve grown a lot.
So what are the 3 biggest things I’ve learned this year for working on a side hustle?
1 — Trust your gut, people will give you great advice, but it’s up to you to choose to use it.
This goes back to the networking section. It’s great for certain people and businesses but is it for me? At this point in my journey, no.
Going back and re-reading The Four Hour Work Week made me re-visit what my vision of my businesses should look like and how I want things to work.
It may be a harder path to follow trying to get my project out to the world, but I want to do things a certain way.
By all means, try something, see what the ROI is, if it’s worth it great, if not your need to drop it, that’s something I should have done earlier.
2 — Goal setting is important, but setting the right goals is even more important
I’ve done many goal-setting exercises over the years. One big one that I’ve had for a while is to “start an online business that puts £100,000 into my pocket every year”. It feels like I’ve gotten nowhere near it. Until now.
This goal for me is my huge, not quite my “hall of fame” goal, but it’s part of it, it’s a stepping stone to getting into the “hall of fame”.
I was getting frustrated that it seems so far off. As part of the goal-setting workshop, I did with my friend we broke it down into more achievable goals for the short term.
A £ 100,000-year lifestyle business is £274 a day. I’ve upped that slightly and said I want to earn £300 a day from my business. This is still a hard goal to achieve. So I’ve put two stepping stones in.
#1 — Enough money coming into the business to cover all expenses (£250). Which I’m happy to say I’ve achieved. WAHOO.
#2 — Earning £100 a day from info products and software. This goal could be a game-changer. If I hit this goal it means I could quit my job.
Yes, it would mean taking a pay cut, and things could get difficult financially for a while. But it means I’m living the dream of working for myself, which is ultimately what I want.
It could mean I have the time and freedom to scale up to the financial target too.
3 — Mindset is everything
This is something I’ve learned over the 12 months, it’s still something I’m struggling with, but I’m getting better at it every day.
Getting a lifestyle business off the ground isn’t easy. It takes desire, belief, and commitment.
I’ve felt for a while now that I could be self-sabotaging, or that there is some fear or unknowns that are holding me back. Also, that you can’t do it, that you have limitations or there isn’t “enough to go round”.
What I’ve found, over the last 6 months especially, is that it is all bullshit. You are good enough, you can do it, and there is an abundance out there.
I’ve switched my beliefs around that I can do it, that it is easy, or at least ask, what would this look like if it was easy. That I’m figuring things out.
This mindset switch has really changed how I look at things. Switching Outflash off wasn’t bad, it opened up opportunities, more things available to me.
Conclusion — Starting A Side Hustle
There you have it. How the last 12, 13 months have been going for me, my side hustles, that fact I’m the owner of a business that is profitable.
Regardless of the level, it’s a start, a huge step in the right direction. I’m excited about the near future, yes there will be a lot of challenges ahead.
One thing I’m finding is as long as you’re trying, giving it a go, and learning in the process, so your better than you were yesterday. Then you’re on the right path. It takes time and everyone’s race is different.
I will leave you with something I’ve written on the whiteboard next to my desk which has helped me over the last 6 months.
“Be kind to yourself — Step back — Build a realistic & sustainable business and life”
Hope this helps.
Hope you found this post interesting. If you have any questions about anything please reach out to me.