The routine of most working professionals is to get up, and go to work. But what if your routine is, “Get up, go to work, come home and do a second job you are more passionate about than the job that pays the bills?” What if your routine is a balancing act between what you spend your time doing and what you truly love? Can you turn your “side gig” into a “full-time gig,” and if so, how?
It may be possible to transform your passion into a full-time job. It happens all the time. Here are some important steps to take to determine if such a move will work for you.
PHASE ONE: RESEARCH
Step 1 – Determine your skill level.
This must be an honest assessment. Ask yourself if you have something that the marketplace demands, and for which the market will compensate you enough to make a living.
Here is a perfect real-world example – photography. Our example, Bill, got hooked on underwater photography during his many deep-sea diving excursions around the world. His photos were stunning, looked amazing blown up and framed, and he generated some earnings by selling his work on the side. Could he do this full time?
The professional benchmark for natural photography, undersea or otherwise, is National Geographic. Bill compared his work to what was published in National Geographic, and determined it didn’t quite compare to what he saw. He made a deliberate and honest assessment of his skills vs. the marketplace, and decided that his photography passion should remain a side gig. He is now a PhD in psychology with a thriving private practice.
Step 2 – Benchmark the professionals who are successful at what you want to do.
Whatever it is you want to do, there are already many people doing it. Familiarize yourself with their educational and professional backgrounds, identify the professional organizations to which they belong, take note of the broad perspective of their career arcs, and analyze any barriers to entry that may exist.
LinkedIn is a great platform on which to conduct this kind of research. Let’s take a closer look at the “barriers to entry.” A quick LinkedIn search should give you plenty of professionals from whom you can easily deduce vital shared credentials that are common to success.
Take a look at, for example, consulting vs. graphic design. Consulting full-time may require much more applied experience than a full-time job in graphic design, but graphic design requires specific degrees and knowledge of industry standard design platforms. So, for the individual without a visual arts education but a deep business background, the graphics field may have more barriers to entry than consulting in the form of going back to school.
Step 3 – Conduct a cost/benefit analysis.
Take a look at your current finances. If you live paycheck-to-paycheck, your strategy to transition a side-gig into a full-time one is going to be more challenging than someone who has a year’s salary saved up as a cushion.
Research salaries related to your side gig vs. what your current position pays vs. your baseline life expenses (e.g. rent/mortgage, health care, car, insurance, etc.). Determine how a move will impact your financial status and stability. Create as full of a portrait of your financial landscape as possible, including potential changes to your tax liabilities.
Step 4 – Determine your Happiness Factor.
Now you must ask yourself the most important question of all (and YOU are the only person who knows the answer!): Will you be happy doing your side gig on a full-time basis? The work you do as a hobby may not be so rewarding when you are doing it day-in, day-out and your livelihood depends upon it.
And there are psychological risks associated with turning your passion into full-time work. You must now trade the freedom of approaching your side gig in whatever manner you choose to conform with the realities of the marketplace. Being self-employed or freelance carries demands that are very different than those you face working for a company. Now you must be three people: the CEO of your business, the head of sales marketing (the market can’t compensate you if it doesn’t know you are there), and the full-time employee who does the actual work.
PHASE TWO: MAKE THE MOVE
You’ve decided to make the move. But how? What is the best way to go about it? Your primary options are, 1) Baby Steps, or 2) Full-throttle.
Option 1 – Baby Steps
Taking baby steps means slowly building up your side gig and gradually transitioning it into a full-time operation when financially and professionally appropriate.
There are many advantages to this approach. It may minimize the financial impact of the move, it allows you more space to make rookie mistakes and adjust your methods as necessary, and gives you more pathways to grow and develop like apprenticeships, internships (apprenticeships for students), or even part-time/contract jobs.
Disadvantages to the Baby Steps approach include carving out the needed time to be a success while treating your endeavor like a legitimate full-time business, maintaining a level of professionalism that separates work from a hobby, and measuring your happiness factor with only one foot in the water.
Option 2 – Full Throttle
If you are the type of person who believes in bold moves, then you may decide to go full-throttle, which is pretty self-explanatory.
This approach is more dramatic, carries more risk, will have a greater and more immediate impact on your finances, and requires you to build a business from scratch. A business with one employee is still a business, and its success requires a whole different skill set than the skills you need to perform the actual work, which must already be of a professional quality and service level the market demands.
That said, dropping everything to fully commit to a new endeavor can be a challenging and exhilarating experience. You may make a few more mistakes, and you may hit some extra bumps along the way, but an immersive and aggressive learning-by-doing approach may accelerate your professional standing and turn your passion into a successful full-time career.
Philip Roufail contributed to this article.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.