Side Hustles, Solopreneurship and Starting Out

Written by Melissa Anzman lac_post

Long before I ended up quitting my corporate job, I had dreams of venturing out on my own. I looked everywhere for advice of how to make it happen.

When I was planning my (second) exit out of the corporate world to become a solopreneur, I had dreams of grandeur. Thoughts of what being an entrepreneur meant. What my daily life would consist of. All of the money that would be rolling in the door and the clients I’d be helping.

I sucked at balancing the side hustle thing. I’m an “all-in” or “all-out” kind of gal, so sticking it out to do my corporate job and my passion project at the same time, wasn’t ideal. I was ready to launch – and be a solopreneur.

After a lot of thought and debate, I settled on what my company would be and who I would be serving. Put my shingle out on the web, and sat back waiting for one narrow niche demographic to find me. My first mission statement was, "I work with working professionals age 25–45 who are looking to redefine their career path."

In my mind, being a solopreneur meant that I could only do one thing – I had to be known for one thing, or I would never earn a living or have paying clients. The people around me, the bloggers and online business owners I followed, the coaches and writers, and everyone in between… seemed to have just one business. One income stream. One “passion.” And as restrictive as that felt to me, I figured they knew much more that I did.

So I followed the formula to the best I could. Pick your niche, market, spread the word, make connections, guest post, and so on . . . only to land a handful of clients. Enough to keep me afloat, but not nearly enough to survive on.

Then August 2012 happened. I recently alluded to my fear of August because I didn’t earn a single penny that month. Yes, the entire month was a big fat zero. As Jenny would say, my Inner CFO was five minutes away from a nervous breakdown.

To be a successful entrepreneur meant that I had to be a career coach, or nothing.

Until I found out a little dirty secret in a fit of panic. Many of the solopreneur’s I knew and followed, actually did other things on the side. They worked as a freelancer for another company. They managed someone else’s website. They were  contractors/consultants at a similar company to the ones they were trying to launch.

It was astounding. Even in trying to escape the traditional career path norm, I was instituting another structured definition of what being your own boss meant. I know, apparently I am that structured of a person.

Then September rolled around and I had a plan. Thankfully I landed some new clients at the beginning of the month that lessened my panic, but I also realized that I needed to build my own type of business. My own way to define what being a solopreneur meant.

I started researching some alternative jobs that I could do that would provide a somewhat stable income, take up some of my extensive free time, and also help me learn more about my own business. I stumbled upon a job board that promoted flexible positions – part time, telecommuting, flexible hours, and so on.

Through that site, I found two options that fit the bill. Submitted my resume for both and got calls back immediately. Both were telecommuting positions with flexible part-time hours. I could decide how much I would work and it would be consistent with my location independent business. One of them was a perfect fit – and I eventually signed on to consult with them on an ongoing basis.

I was ashamed about it. I may have told two people, total. I thought I’d be found out as a fraud . . . or lying about owning my own business, or that I was cheating. It didn’t feel like I was making it on my own.

But the thing is, so many people view solopreneurship as exactly that – creating your own definition of a career path. I wasn’t as “successful” as a full-time career coach on day one, but I also was kind of bored. Once I shifted my own perspective about working for myself, I started being open to new opportunities that didn’t fit neatly inside of the “career coach” box. I started helping other coaches with their websites; other online entrepreneurs launch their products and services; and continued working my steady consulting gig.

I now have various different income sources that help me not only pay the bills, even though my career coaching business is now profitable and able to cover everything 100%!, but also helps me feed my various interests and fills my schedule.

Perhaps creating various side hustles when you are already a solopreneur is not the traditional path of entrepreneurship, but it’s all about how you define “being out on your own.” I would not have met some great people along my journey, had the opportunity to try out different business models, succeed and fail, and so on – had I simply labeled myself a career coach, and nothing more.

Success for me is about making it on your own terms. When in doubt, I refer back to an official definition of entrepreneur: 1. A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk. 2. An employer of productive labor; contractor. Not exactly the same definition we always think of first!

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below: Have you created your own definition of entrepreneurship? Have you continued your side hustle when you're already out on your own? 

melissa anzman

About Melissa

Melissa Anzman is the creator of Launch Your Job  where she equips ambitious leaders with practical ways to grow their career. She is the author of two books: How to Land a Job and Stop Hating Your Job. Follow her @MelissaAnzman.