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Should You Start a Side Hustle or Dive into a Full-Time Business?

man working on business

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

To Start or Not to Start

Starting a business is scary. There are so many unknowns and uncertainties. But the skills you develop while building a business can be the best guard against any economic downturns. While maintaining a job may require less risk and sacrifice day to day, layoffs or termination can come without warning and leave you bewildered about replacing your income stream.

Maybe you’re in one of these several categories:

  • Recently laid off and deciding if you should start a business
  • Already have a side hustle that’s doing well and wondering if you should go full-time
  • You’re thinking about starting a business but don’t know if you should make it a part-time or full-time business

The answer to these questions is the same: it depends (wow, I sound like a consultant 🙂).

The Advantages of Having a Side-Hustle

Speaking with many of my friends and entrepreneurs here in Silicon Valley, throughout the country, and internationally, I get the feeling that everyone is thinking about or is actually involved in some side hustle from gift baskets to game streaming and everything in between.

According to a Harris Poll commissioned by Zapier, 40% of Americans had a side business in 2022, and 37% of those businesses made $5,000 or more annually..

There are several advantages to starting a side-hustle while employed or relying on some other main source of income:

  • The potential to supplement your income.
  • You can test new business ideas with almost zero risk.
  • There’s reduced uncertainty (and anxiety) while you have benefits and income from a job.
  • It seems like businesses are  more open to engaging with side-hustle vendors since the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • You no longer need a website or brick-and-mortar — many successful part-time businesses are hosted entirely on websites like Odesk, Fiverr, Etsy, UpWork and the ever-present eBay.
  • There are also many tax advantages to having a part-time business (such as taking your business expenses against your income, but seek the advice of a knowledgeable professional).

The Disadvantages of Having a Side-Hustle

Having a side business is not all rainbows and unicorns. Every pro has its con.

When deciding, carefully consider the downsides to running a business part-time, particularly if you already have a full-time job:

  • You’ll have less time for other activities.
  • The additional hours can erode work/life balance and personal relationships.
  • Conversely, the low investment of time relative to a full-time business can make traction difficult.
  • Some stress is likely, and burnout is possible.

Should You Jump into Your Business Full Time?

You may be itching to push past initial concerns and just jump in and grab the horse by the reins. The problem is knowing in advance if that horse is running off a cliff, or winning at the tail end of a race. A side hustle can help show you if your business idea will work.

Let’s say you’ve tested your idea and have found a market (see other posts on testing and vetting your business idea) or that the side hustle you’ve already started is doing great and you think it’s time to leave the day job. What would be the advantages of going full time??

The Advantages of Going Full-Time

Relative to a part-time hustle, going full-time offers a range of advantages:

  • With more time and energy invested, you’re more likely to experience faster growth.
  • You have full autonomy to decide when, where, and how you work.
  • You’re the main decision maker for all of your work life (or co-decision maker in a partnership agreement) — you call the shots!
  • Potential growth is limited only by you, your imagination, your hard work, and your desire.
  • You can fail faster (this is a good thing).

If you’re no longer handling your previous full-time job and side hustle, you should be able to find time for your friends, family, and self-care (it might take a while to find work-life balance, but it’s achievable).

The Disadvantages of Going Full Time

As with the side business, a full-time business isn’t as glamorous as a movie montage sequence. Before you sign the lease for office space and bite off more than you can chew, consider some of the potential disadvantages of going full time.

  • Yes, there’s a high potential for reward when you’re devoting more time to your business, but that comes with high risk — risking your personal savings, time, and credibility, if your venture doesn’t work out.
  • It can take time to reach the break-even point (the point where you stop siphoning from savings or investor capital).
  • With high uncertainty comes high stress and anxiety — not everyone has built up enough resilience to push through the hard times.
  • Failure happens (often and especially for the unprepared).

I’m not trying to scare you, just like I’m not trying to pump you up like a 2 a.m. business opportunity infomercial. If you want to reach for the sky, great. I just want you to be mindful of the trees, vines, and predators that might stop you in the uncharted lands of entrepreneurship.

Key Takeaways

The table below summarizes the main themes of this article.

Advantages Disadvantages
Side Hustle Very low risk

Keep salary and benefits of main job

Various platforms can facilitate a side hustle that you want to try out

Lower investment of time can inhibit traction

Side-hustle on top of another full time job may hinder work/life balance

Full-Time Full autonomy

Faster growth more likely

Higher risk of time, savings, and credibility

Needed break-even point may not be quick to come

Higher stress

In the end, only you can decide which option is right. No one has a crystal ball. But as long as you’re honest with yourself and you feel you can put in the work and make the sacrifices, why not give it all you’ve got? The number one regret of the dying is the things they DIDN’T do.

Feras Alhlou

Feras Alhlou

Feras has founded, grown, and sold businesses in Silicon Valley and abroad, scaling them from zero revenue to 7 and 8 figures. In 2019, he sold e-Nor, a digital marketing consulting company, to dentsu (a top-5 global media company). Feras has served as an advisor to 150+ other new startup businesses, and in his current venture, Start Up With Feras, he's on a mission to help entrepreneurs in the consulting and services space start and grow their businesses smarter and stronger.

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