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Build a Launchpad for Your Startup

You'll need a strong foundation for the future and sustainable growth of your side hustle.

Written by Elaine Pofeldt / July 29, 2022

Quick Bites

  • To have a sustainable side hustle, and even grow it into a full-time job, you need a solid foundation.
  • Your financial wellbeing is of utmost importance when it comes to being comfortable in managing your personal and professional lives.
  • A big chunk of money is welcome, but not necessary in getting your business off to a strong start.

When Marietta Gentles Crawford started her personal branding firm, MGC Ink, as a side hustle in 2011, she juggled running it with working full-time.

Doing so gave the budding entrepreneur runway to build the business and still pay the bills with her job as a technical writer.

As potential clients reached out to Gentles Crawford on LinkedIn, her side hustle took off, but she still wasn’t bringing in enough income from it to feel confident about leaving full-time employment. She kept at it and by 2018, when she was pregnant with her son and eager to free time to raise him, was bringing in enough revenue to make the leap.

“I wanted to be able to spend these earlier years with my son,” she says. “At that point I was working in a six-figure job. The funny part of that was I reached the point in my career I thought I would want—I had the desk, the title, the accolades—but I took that leap because I knew I wanted more. It was definitely a process."

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As Gentles Crawford found, taking the time to build your side hustle and create a strong financial foundation can help you get it off to a great start and eventually position you to take it full time. Solid financial ground can also avoid cash flow problems and running out of money, which are among the top reasons people close small businesses, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, a study on global entrepreneurship.

The conventional wisdom is that every entrepreneur should have six months of savings in the bank, along with six months of business overhead, before getting started. If you’re among the lucky few who can sock away that kind of money while keeping a roof over your head, the fridge stocked and the gas tank full, you’ll be on very solid footing.

The good news is that a big startup kitty isn’t mandatory. As long as you can find a way to keep the bills paid in your home and your business during the critical launch period, you should be able to get your business off to a strong start.

So how do you build the foundation you need? Here are some strategies to apply.

Figure out how much money you have to invest in your new business

Knowing where you stand financially can help you to plan for a smooth launch and growth period for your business. The simplest way is to create a Google or Excel spreadsheet sheet with your personal monthly household expenses (such as your mortgage or rent, groceries, car insurance, etc.) along the left-hand margin and the dates they are due along the top. Subtract the total of all of those bills from the money you earn to see how much money you have left over to spend on discretionary purchases and your side hustle.

Then figure out if the money you have available is sufficient to start and grow your business. SCORE has created a tool to estimate projected business expenses in a startup or new business.

If you need a little more money to get started, consider other sources of cash that will help you keep the business going until it starts bringing in enough revenue to be self-sufficient: income from your partner or spouse, savings, investment income or careful use of your credit cards to stretch your startup cash.

When Gentles Crawford started her business, she self-financed its growth with the money she took in from her projects, making sure she priced them realistically enough to cover what she was investing in overhead. “I make sure when I package my projects or services, I’m keeping everything in mind,” she says.

Look for ways to live leaner

It’s not easy to save money in an inflationary environment, with housing, food and gas prices through the roof. That said, if you’re fired up about a goal like starting a new business, you’ll be amazed at how many great ideas you can come up with for keeping your personal spending down, whether it’s by refinancing your mortgage to save money, joining a warehouse club or food co-op--or starting a garden--to keep your food costs down; car-pooling or biking more to reduce what you spend on gas; or buying your clothes in nearly new condition on a site like Poshmark or Mercari.

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Keep expenses down as much as you can in your business, too. That redecorated office in your spare bedroom can wait until you have cash rolling in. You’ll be surprised at how much money you can free by spending each dollar in a conscious way.

“I’m very mindful of keeping expenses low,” says Gentles Crawford. Although she does invest in tools like a customer relationship management software to manage her email communications with clients and a Zoom subscription, she has continued to run her business from home to save on rent, one of the biggest costs in many small businesses.

Pace yourself

Forget the “Go big or go home!” mindset. With a side hustle, slow and steady wins the race. When you’re juggling your new business with your day job, it’s important to pace yourself so you don’t burn out energetically or use up all of your cash too quickly. “I’m going to be who I am, not aim for perfection,” says Gentles Crawford.

Keep in mind that there is a lot of experimenting involved in starting a business. To build a strong foundation, you may have to redirect your energy and finances once you see what’s working.

Gentles Crawford experimented with marketing until she found that her posts on LinkedIn and on blogging platforms such as HuffPo and Thrive Global helped her the most in attracting the right clients, so she focused her efforts there. As a bonus, writing these posts didn’t cost her any money: As an experienced marketer, she could write them herself. Ultimately, making decisions like this brought her business sustainability.

Her advice to others who want to build a side-hustle that lasts?

“Don’t forget your ‘Why?’” advises Gentles Crawford. “When you’re on your path, understand it’s going to look different from other people’s journeys—and look different even from what you thought it was going to look like. And don’t be afraid to change and adjust.”

The efforts you make now to build a solid foundation will help you keep business going as long as you want to run it, no matter what the future brings.

About the Author

Elaine Pofeldt

Elaine Pofeldt

Elaine Pofeldt is a freelance business writer whose work has appeared in FORTUNE, Money, CNBC, Inc., Forbes, Crain’s New York Business, and many other business publications. She has contributed to the Economist Intelligence Unit. She is also a ghostwriter/collaborative editor.

Full bio

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