Side Hustle or Business

Side Hustle or Business

This post is part of my ongoing series of exploring my next income-generating business venture. Go back and read the past two blog posts for some background and context.

Sometimes I wonder if I should be exploring the idea of a new business or if I should think of it as a side hustle. But first, let me explain the definition of these two options. Of course, these are not scientific definitions, just the way they are separated in my own mind:

Business – building a company that will provide the full income needed to sustain my lifestyle and all the expenses associated with living my life.

Side Hustle – building a project that provides additional income on top of (or alongside) the main income generating job or business that pays all the bills for living my life.

Right now I have a day job. It covers 100% of my living expenses and gives me enough play money to travel a bit, buy fun tech gadgets (a self-proclaimed weakness), keeps me supplied in leather notebooks (don’t ask, it’s a serious problem), and enough money to set aside for retirement. My current business – Tremble Creative Services – acts like a side hustle because the money comes alongside my day job income and gives me extra play money. That business could easily be built into a sustainable sole income if I put enough work and effort into it – the potential is there and sometimes the workload is so great that I feel overwhelmed.

In my mind, a side hustle is smaller and more “project-based.” It might bring in $1,000 to $5,000 per month but for a side hustle to be the sole income for me, I’d need more than one side hustle project. A side hustle is still a business (at least the IRS would say it is, anyway) and if you have a really successful side hustle or multiple successful side projects – those can be combined under an umbrella company and be sole supporting.

Am I talking in circles?

So to break it down. A side hustle is something I would do in addition to a day job or other business. It’s a way to make some side income while doing something different than the main income generating thing I’m doing.

But why all the attention to the difference here?

I’m mostly just thinking out loud here. I’ve been really focused on trying to come up with a new business direction now that I plan to back away from taking on new client service contracts. I’ve been trying to think about the next BIG thing that will help me quit the day job and move to the beach. But is that the right way to be thinking about this next venture? Or should I be thinking of it as a side hustle instead? I’ve settled on the notion that I need to think smaller because I’ve found that thinking big is making me feel overwhelmed and it’s paralyzing me from taking action. What action can I take that will help me earn an extra $1,000 per month? That’s my new question to ponder.

Over the past several weeks (or have we lapsed into months now?) I’ve settled on the notion that I need to think SMALLER. I’ve discovered that thinking big is making me feel overwhelmed and it’s paralyzing me from taking any action at all. So I’ve had to assess my original goal of building a big new business and taking on the responsibility of all that goes into building something from the ground up. Instead, I’m focused on small. Small action, done daily that will eventually lead to larger results. I’m focusing on building a new side hustle rather than building a new business.

OK then… I’ve said it out loud.

Well, maybe not verbally out loud, but publishing an article online for the whole internet to see, I guess that’s loud enough. My next new venture will be a side hustle project and my goal is to generate an additional $1,000 per month from this side project. I’m not setting a time limit on myself right now, but I’m determined to act with speed and have fun while I do it. Explore and be present, right? That’s the goal.  Let’s see where it takes me next.

When business ideas aren’t enough

When business ideas aren’t enough

This is a continuation of the last blog post – BUSINESS ON MY MIND – where I talk about how my current business fits into my life and how I want things to change.  Now I want to figure out what is next for me.  Documenting this thought process and the actions I take is a way for me to be more objective about my decisions and have a record what I do.

I am tired of my current business and want to try something new.
My first idea might not be my best idea.
Oh wait… there’s a self-discovery journey now?? When did that happen?

My First Idea

That title is a bit comical to me. This first thing I’m going to talk about is more than an idea. It’s a fully developed business model plan and the initial groundwork for the idea is already laid. I’ve already written two of the books on this “idea” plan and have taken steps to begin it. But let’s still call it an idea for now.

In a nutshell, this first idea has me taking a giant step away from being a graphic designer but still doing design work when a project comes to me that I really, really like. Instead of design, this business model would help me use my skill in building small businesses and teaching …. and help others do the same.  The general idea has five focus areas and streams of revenue:

  1. Writing books and workbooks for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs that help them develop or grow a business on the foundation of their strengths and passion so they can build a business they love. (Yes, this is the part where I’ve already written two of the workbooks on the list of ideas.)
  2. Developing online and in-person courses that are based on the workbooks I write.
  3. Coaching is something I already do in my current business as I help small businesses use brand management to grow successful businesses. In the new business model, I’d formalize that into actual coaching services.
  4. Consulting would involve brand reviews, one-time strategy or brainstorming sessions.
  5. Graphic design and brand management is something I’d offer on a very limited and highly vetted basis to clients who go through the above areas of the business.

So as you can see, this is a bit more than a mere idea. So what’s the deal? Why not just jump into that and plow a new path? It’s a good plan. It’s solid. It will definitely work. So why all the doubt?

So Much Doubt

About 3 or 4 weeks ago I put the brakes on this new plan. At the time I claimed it was because I needed to stop splitting my focus between this new business venture and my current business obligations. That’s is sorta true. I mean… it’s definitely true. It’s just not really what the core of that decision was about.

I didn’t know it at the time and have only just begun to realize that the decision to halt has deep roots in self-doubt.

I’m a very confident person. I am decisive. I am known for doing lots of research, looking at all the options, then picking a direction and moving forward. I make up my mind quickly and I take action.

Which means this whole self-doubt, false-start, indecision thing is foreign to me.

It’s Not All Self-Doubt Though

I trust my gut. It tells me stuff that I might not understand immediately. But if my gut says stop, I stop. If my gut says go, I go. I don’t trust blindly though. I need to know the why behind a directive… even if that directive is coming from my own gut.  I’m a rule-breaker and rebel by nature. I don’t like to be told what to do unless I first understand why I’m being told to do it.

So as I’ve been in this holding pattern I’ve been turning the decision over in my head a lot. I believe that the decision to put this idea on hold is based on a few other things:

  • The above business model relies on building an online audience and create an influencer-type reputation in the business development space. As an INSF personality type – this is not something I’m particularly enthused about doing. In fact, the very idea of it turns me off. I’m capable of doing it, but it certainly wouldn’t be comfortable or fun.
  • This idea would require a whole new business for me. Basically starting from zero and spending the next 2-3 years building an audience, creating content and creating authority. That’s a lot of energy to expend … I’m not convinced that I have enough passion for this business model for that much energy.

Self-Awareness is Key to New Ideas

My good friend, Nikki, once told me that I’m the most self-aware person she knows. It’s true that I’ve got a pretty high level of self-awareness. It truly bugs me when I can’t figure out what’s in my own head so I pick it apart until I understand.

I am thankful for the level of self-awareness I have even if sometimes it gets in the way of acting… like now. But I’m going to embrace this and see how I can leverage my self-awareness to help me develop a business based on my strengths and passion to grow a thriving business that I love.

That last part – “business that I love” – that’s the key for me. It’s easy to build a thriving business that makes money. But if I don’t LOVE it, why am I giving it my passion? So it’s time to focus on that part of the equation and see where it takes me.

Self-Discovery Journey

In the coming weeks, I will use my own sly techniques of discovering my strengths, expertise, and passion in an attempt to generate business ideas that are a good fit for my personality and lifestyle goals.

What the heck is a self-discovery journey?  Ha! I have no idea! In fact, when I started writing this blog post I had no idea it was going to end up here. I guess it’s time to figure that out, huh?

I do have a technique where I help people identify their skills and strengths to help them build a stronger business. Read it here: How to Identify Your Business Strengths. So I guess I’ll start there and see where this journey takes me. I did that exercise about 4 or 5 years ago so it’s probably time to do it again. I’ve learned a lot of new stuff in the past 5 years. I’m way more brilliant now!

So I guess that’s what’s next. Come back soon!




Business on my Mind

Business on my Mind

When you visit the homepage of this website you’ll see some fancy words about exploring and being present and letting this space be my little slice of the internet where I am free to be myself and ramble on about whatever interests me. As the title implies, lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my business ventures. I think it’s time that I write about it. My site traffic stats confirm that nobody* reads this blog anyway, so why not ramble when I’m the only one listening.  (*In reality, there are a few dozen of you out there, no offense intended, of course.)

I work a day job, have a long commute, and run a thriving design business on the side.
But I’m tired and I don’t know what to do next.

First the back story.

I work a day job as the lead graphic designer for a large organization. Most days I spent my time acting as a brand manager, intern herder, marketing strategist, and art director… sometimes I actually get to do real design work too. The job is good and I enjoy it. The commute is not good and I don’t enjoy that (more than an hour each way). On a normal day, I leave my house around 7:15 a.m. and get home around 6:45 p.m.

Almost as soon as I walk in the door, I grab a quick dinner and cozy up to my new, beautiful, powerful and fast design computer where I start right in on client projects.  If you click above on the “Creative Services” link, you’ll see what my business is all about. But in a nutshell, I do graphic and web design for small businesses and solo side hustlers. There’s also a bit of marketing strategy, brand management and business development thrown in there too. I have a few retainer-based clients and a few open contracts for one-off projects.  I like to put in 2-3 hours a night in the evenings and then another 8-10 hours over the weekend.

It’s a solid “part time” business and I’m pleased with my success and the growth I’ve seen in the past few years. I love my clients. I love the work they do. I love seeing them succeed and know that my design work had some small part in that success.

What I don’t love about my business is the fact that I’m trading my time for money. If I don’t perform the work, I don’t get paid. If I take a vacation or sick day or just decide I need to be on the beach on a sunny Saturday… I don’t get paid. I hate that about my business. I’m also really, really tired. I’ve spent the past 5 years of my life with this kind of schedule.

I’m also really, really tired. I’ve spent the past 5 years of my life with this kind of schedule.

Present day situation.

I’ve actually made a few decisions already and it’s taking longer to implement them than I thought it would. So I’m on the edge of frustration. I’m powering through and doing what I can to keep a good attitude about it all. But that part above about being tired. Yeah. There’s that.  But let’s talk about those decisions first…

  • I’ve decided to step back from any new client contracts. In the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve actively been saying no. A lot. I’ve created a list of other freelance designers, web/tech experts, and marketing gurus who have been getting a number of referrals from me. What’s fascinating to me is that as soon as I verbalized my intention to stop taking on new clients… suddenly new clients were showing up on my doorstep wanting help. I’ve taken on a couple small projects, but for the most part, everyone has been turned away.
  • I am doing everything I can to wrap up the current contracts I have as quickly as possible. I have three main projects that have an “end date” attached to them. Although that end date isn’t’ an actual date, there is a time in the future when the project will be done and the contract complete.
  • I have a few ongoing, monthly retainer clients that I plan to keep. Anyone who has a long-term relationship with me like this is someone I enjoy working with and want to continue helping them grow their businesses.

So now what?

That’s the big question. What now?  I’ve got some ideas. In fact, I’ve even fleshed out a solid business model overview for a new venture. I’ve talked to people I trust in my Mastermind Group and my inner circle. But I’ve been feeling overwhelmed about all these plans and ideas. So I’ve had to take a step back, set it all aside and try to focus on what’s essential for the moment. The existing client lineup is what’s important right now. I have time to worry about what the future of my business will become.

A trusted friend suggested I document this journey. Keep track of what I’m thinking, what plans I’m making and how all the jumbled pieces of the puzzle eventually fall into place as I work through the steps. I tend to be a methodical thinker. I see the end project in its completed form… and then have the skill to break down the individual tasks it will take to achieve that end goal. Somehow that skill is a bit clouded when it comes to my own projects – or at least this one, in particular. I think my friend is right. Documenting this process could help me find clarity, or at least be a comical way of keeping track of all the crazy mistakes I make along the way.

Stay tuned for more updates. I’ve got lots to tell you!

Fear is a Sign Post

Fear is a Sign Post

This morning I listened to a podcast where Shawn Blanc was being interviewed about focus and using deep work to experience success in business. Someone in the podcast audience asked him the question:

How do you get over being afraid so you can birth a new idea?

Shawn’s response? You never really get over being afraid. Instead, you need to learn how to persist despite the fear, uncertainty, and doubt. You need to start thinking about fear as a sign post on your path. When you come to the sign on the road that proclaims fear, take this as the signal that you’re on the right road to achieving something important.

I like this philosophy. It sounds great on paper. It’s not so easy in reality, but I suspect the more often you persist through the fear the easier it gets. I think it has a lot to do with being self-aware and being comfortable with feeling your emotions and not letting those emotions and fears dictate your actions.

I’m definitely no expert in persisting through fear. But hearing Shawn’s words today has given me the inspiration to practice and do better.

Anticipation is Half the Fun

Anticipation is Half the Fun

The anticipation is killing me! As of this writing, I am 22 days away from next trip and I’m completely invested in the vacation mindset. Not only am I excited about getting away and enjoying the Caribbean sunshine, but I’m also excited about the preparation itself. I’m a “list” person so I love thinking about all the things that need to go on a prep list and then getting to cross things off as they get done. It’s like a game. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even told you about my upcoming trip…

At the end of April I will join 3,000 of my closest friends on the Carnival Glory for a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise out of Miami with stops at Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Grand Turk. I’ve booked a balcony stateroom and will be traveling on my own (aside from the other 3,000 people onboard). This will be my third cruise, all of them with Carnival.

Why did I choose this particular sailing? The past two cruises I went on (in 2013 and 2015), I don’t think I was a deliberate about the choice as I was this time. Probably because I didn’t know enough about cruising to know what to look for. And yes, I know I have a LOT more to learn still, but I feel like I’m a bit more prepared this time around. Here are some of the thing that were important factors in my choice of this particular trip:

LENGTH – I wanted a 7-day cruise. When you figure that the first day onboard is really only a half day by the time you embark, go through the muster drill and get settled into your stateroom, you’re already losing a day. Then the last day isn’t really even a day since you’re disembarking early in the morning and kicked off the ship before you even finish eating your last breakfast burrito from the Blue Iguana. So a 7-day cruise is really more like 5.5 days of true vacation.

TIMING – Based on obligations at my day job, I needed to travel after a bunch of deadlines in April. With an April 29th sailing I’m actually cutting things a bit close to those deadlines and I’m going to have to scramble in the coming weeks. But waiting much longer factors into the next point…

PRICE – Price was definitely an issue for me. Traveling alone comes at a premium since cruising is based on the dreaded “double occupancy” — my fare wasn’t exactly double what a single person pays, but it was pretty darned close. (Yes, I’ll be talking about exact prices in another blog articles if you’re interested.)

AMENITIES – The ship was important to me this time. My first cruise was on the Carnival Legend and I discovered the adults-only Serenity Deck was my favorite spot on the ship. My second cruise was on the Carnival Conquest and to my dismay, I discovered there wasn’t a Serenity Deck on this ship (I naively assumed it was a fleet-wide amenity, I guess). So finding a ship with this feature was essential to me this time around. Carnival Glory fit the bill.

PORTS – I wanted to visit San Juan so finding an itinerary with a stop in Puerto Rico was factored into the decision. This was a “nice to have” not a “deal breaker” option, so I’m happy that I found a trip that worked for this wish. The rest of the ports on the list didn’t really matter to me. I haven’t been to many places in the Caribbean so my main goal was to visit new places rather than repeat an itinerary that I’d already been on.

This trip is the first time I used the services of a travel agent – specifically a Personal Vacation Planner from Carnival. Once I had settled on the exact trip I wanted to book, I left the trip in my shopping cart on the Carnival website and called David Chirinos and asked him to look over my reservation and get me booked. I have heard from multiple sources online that having a PVP with Carnival has been super helpful, so I thought I’d give it a try. David saw the cabin I’d chosen on my own and pointed out a couple flaws with my choice (I would have been right above the theater and the crew often have full-blown, loud rehearsals after the shows are over and it can get noisy). So he helped me move my cabin choice to a quieter area of the ship but still convenient to the amenities that were most important to me.

Once the cruise is booked then there are all the “other” things to tackle. Like airfare, hotel, transportation, excursions and port activities. I’m a researcher, so this part is just as fun as figuring out which cruise itinerary to book. The hotel and transportation are figured out, but activities in each port are still up in the air. But thanks to Amazon I’m now armed with a couple new travel guides about the ports of call in the Caribbean and I’m still doing my research on what to do in each port. No, I haven’t yet booked any excursions so I’ll save that discussion for another blog article about the plans.

Once I have a trip booked I find myself highly distracted in almost every other area of my life. It’s hard to focus on the mundane tasks of the day job or my business and I have to force myself to pull back from thoughts of lounging in the sun if I expect to get any real work done. But anticipation is half the fun, right? Surfing Pinterest and Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic and Facebook for fun things to do while you’re traveling and meeting new people before you even arrive. Right now I already know 145 other people who will be on the same cruise as I’ll be on because I’ve connected with them online already. And they’re just as excited about the trip as I am.