How to turn your web design side hustle into a full-time business
So you’ve got a successful web design side hustle building websites. You’ve been moonlighting on the side of your normal nine-to-five job to pursue your passion and/or earn some extra income and things are going really well — so well that you’ve taken the family on a fabulous vacation, paid off debt, bought some new furniture, and maybe even purchased a new car.
This whole web design side hustle that began as a way to earn some extra cash is now feeling more like a real business.
You’ve got several web design clients, you’re booked solid for the next few months, referrals are coming in, and your income is growing. As you have gained more and more web design clients, your side hustle is beginning to take up more and more of your time. Juggling both your full-time job and your web design side hustle is becoming a challenge.
In fact, it often feels like your job is getting in the way of your side hustle; like it’s hurting your ability to grow and earn even more. As a result, you find yourself often daydreaming about quitting your job and escaping your boss, so you can turn your side hustle into a full-time web design business.
Related: How to use side jobs to become a freelance web professional
But making the move from employee to self-employment is scary and exciting at the same time, and when thinking about everything you need to do, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
In 2005, I left my full-time job as the sole in-house designer for a public relations agency to turn my freelancing into a full-fledged graphic design and web design business — Bourn Creative. In 2014, my husband left his full-time job for self-employment. We’ve been through the side-hustle to full-time business shift twice. Both times we took the leap with as much preparation as possible to make the transition as easy as possible.
Related: 12 lean startup ideas for your web design business
8 steps to turn your web design side hustle into a full-time business
As you consider quitting your job to turn your successful side hustle into a full-time web design business, review this list of to-dos that will help minimize the upheaval of life as you know it:
Build a network.
Establish marketing platforms.
Create systems and processes.
Secure recurring revenue.
Create cash reserves.
Find a mastermind.
Figure out the right time.
Let’s explore each of these steps more in-depth so you’ll know when to take the leap into full-time entrepreneurship.
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1. Build a network
No one can hire you, buy from you, learn from you, or refer business to you if they don’t know that you exist. With that in mind, you need as many people as possible to know, like and trust you. You also need your network to have clarity about who you serve, what you do, what results you help people achieve, and how you’re different so they can refer new business to you.
Investing in networking, means investing in your own network and brand awareness. When you’re finally ready to level up your web design side hustle and turn it into a full-time web design business, you’ll have a strong network of supporters in place — one you can tap for referrals.
Related: 5 surprisingly effective tips for how to promote your web design business
2. Establish marketing platforms
Take your side hustle seriously and establish your marketing platforms as early as possible:
Build your marketing platforms early. You’ll have a powerful digital presence and expansive brand reach that will support your new web design business when you’re finally ready to take your side hustle full-time.
Related: Brilliant web design marketing ideas
3. Create systems and processes
While you still have your traditional job paying your bills, set aside time to create systems and processes for everything you can in your web design business. This includes scheduling meetings and appointments to doing the work in and on your business to marketing and sales.
Systems and processes, especially those you can automate or eventually delegate to a virtual assistant, will reduce stress, improve productivity, and increase profitability.
There are many software options available to help streamline, simplify and automate parts of your business. You must have software for:
But be careful — don’t get too caught up in unnecessary expenses too early in your business. Remember, making money — enough to cover all of your bills and income — is just as much about controlling expenses as it is about making sales.
Related: 90 essential tools for WordPress designers and developers
4. Secure recurring revenue
With recurring revenue, you have reliable monthly income that you can depend on month after month. Recurring revenue provides a baseline of income.
Shoot for 50 percent of your side hustle income (and eventually your web design business income) being generated from recurring revenue.
To achieve this, consider:
- Offering ongoing website support and maintenance services.
- Providing search engine optimization services.
- Securing long-term retainer clients who buy blocks of hours each month.
- Providing content management services.
Related: How to sell a content creation service to earn recurring revenue
5. Create cash reserves
To make money, you need to spend money. This means that turning your web design side hustle into a full-time web design business will require cash. You’ll also need a cash cushion in the bank to cover any unexpected expenses and business slow downs.
Saving three to six months’ of living expenses will help ease the transition, reduce stress and worry, and make sure your family is taken care of.
Figure out exactly how much money you need to live and what your freelance hourly rate must be. Once you know this number, create a plan to save three to six months of complete living expenses for when you quit your job.
The easiest way to quickly save the amount you need is to begin living off only the income generated by your side hustle. You’re going to lose your full-time income when you quit your job anyway. This is a true test to see if your web design side hustle is ready to become a full-time web design business.
Related: 8 freelance financial mistakes that many new solopreneurs make
6. Cut expenses
If you’re at the point where your side hustle is so successful, you’re considering quitting your job to pursue your web design business full time, it means you’re enjoying both your full-time salary and your side hustle income. While the money is probably awesome, quitting your job means losing your full-time income and the benefits that come with it.
To help make the transition from side hustle to full-time business easier and reduce the amount of pressure you have to make sales, you need to trim expenses everywhere you can.
When my husband decided to quit his full-time job and join me in my business, he walked away from a cushy full-time income, incredible benefits for our whole family, and a pension. To prepare for the transition, we created a plan to reduce our living expenses and did things like:
- Getting rid of our landline and cable.
- Evaluating all software subscriptions and negotiated the monthly fees down or switched providers.
- Reducing our grocery and food budget to $400 per payday.
We ended up trimming our monthly budget by $2,000, which meant we needed to make $2,000 less each month. This alleviated quite a bit of stress and pressure during those first few months being completely self-employed. What’s great about this approach is that you can always add back expenses that were cut at a later date.
7. Find a mastermind
You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with most.
As you begin to plan your exit from corporate America and your nine-to-five job, you also need to surround yourself with like-minded people who are in the process of or have already made the transition from side hustler to full-time business owner.
A mastermind group is a group of like-minded people traveling similar paths that provide peer-to-peer mentoring and support. Each member benefits from the collective intelligence of the group and gains feedback, input, advice and fresh perspectives from group members to solve problems, address challenges, and achieve goals.
A mastermind group provides a judgement-free, safe haven for you to discuss your struggles, fears and hurdles, as well as your hopes, dreams and big goals.
If you can, find an existing mastermind group to join, or start your own by:
- Identifying others in your network with an entrepreneurial mindset — look for freelancers and business owners.
- Getting to know them personally — you need to like and trust your mastermind group.
- Learning more about their business, their income, their structure, their challenges, and their goals — group members should be evenly matched to ensure everyone benefits.
- Inviting the best fit freelancers and business owners you have built relationships with to join a mastermind group — start with a three-month trial period.
Related: Types of communities for support, guidance and growth
8. Figure out the right time
Don’t rush things! Don’t be the person who lands a few clients, gets really excited, quits their job with nothing more than hope and prayers, and then struggles to make ends meet. At the same time, it’s never going to be the perfect time to quit your job and pursue self-employment and entrepreneurship.
Waiting for the right time can mean never making the leap.
You need to take it slow, prove your repeatable success, and create a plan. To figure out the right time to take your side hustle full-time, set specific milestones that need to be met to make a successful transition possible.
Your milestones could include things like:
- Securing a certain number of web design clients.
- Reaching a specific amount of recurring revenue through website support.
- Booking an exact number of long-term retainer hours per month.
- Earning consistent income at a minimum of $X per month for X/months.
- Living successfully within a reduced budget for a specific number of months.
- Reaching a certain level of cash savings.
When all milestones are met, you’ll know it’s time to take the next step with your side hustle.
Related: Get ready to be your own boss: Top business tips for freelancers
Taking your web design side hustle full-time
If your side hustle is so successful that you’re reading this article and researching what you need to do to be able to quit your job and work for yourself full-time, congratulations! You should be proud of yourself. It takes a lot of perseverance, sacrifice, hard work and dedication to get to that point.
Your dream of turning your side hustle into a full-time web design business is totally doable.
You’re on the brink of an exciting new chapter in your life. While it can be scary at times, with the proper planning, you’ll be able to make the transition with minimal impact on your life. Just remember to take it one step at a time. Get used to living on a tighter budget. Reduce your expenses and create a financial cushion of three to six months worth of expenses. Also, set very clear milestones that, when reached, move you closer to saying “adios” to your nine-to-five and “hola” to business ownership.