Originally published in Inc. on June, 30th 2022
If you spend any time on social media, you’ll be inundated with entrepreneurial “influencers” urging you to join their program, promising to help you build a six-figure business. They tout their fancy cars and lavish lifestyles, making everyone believe they should abandon their current work situation to strike out of their own in pursuit of success.
Then, reality hits.
After quitting their jobs and realizing their hobbies won’t make them rich, these would-be entrepreneurs put themselves and their families in precarious situations.
With so much noise out there, it’s hard to discern what’s helpful versus harmful when deciding whether or not to become an entrepreneur. An excellent place to start is asking yourself if the idea on which you’re banking is a hobby, side hustle, or main hustle.
How do you know what you have? And how do you know whether or not you can transform hobby or side hustle into your main hustle? It helps to understand each.
A hobby as something recreational you do for fun in your spare time. No one needs to pay you to do it; you’re motivated by your interest.
My hobby was fixing computers while I was still in school and working full time. As a computer science major, working on the hardware helped me learn and get better. Plus, it gave me hands-on experience in my area of study.
The biggest difference between a hobby and a side hustle is that people are willing to pay you for the latter. With a side hustle, you have an in-demand product or service that generates supplemental income. And if no one is willing to pay you? Sorry, you have a hobby, not a side hustle. And despite what social media might tell you, no program will change that.
In my case, as I began fixing more computers for people, they’d tip me. Soon after, I’d ask for a nominal fee. Then I charged a bit more and kept raising my prices. My side hustle was thriving.
A main hustle is a business that can stand alone, generating enough revenue to pay for your expenses, allowing you to go all-in on it and quit your W-2 job.
For me, this happened when I realized that my side hustle had grown exponentially. But unfortunately, it also coincided with me being laid off from my job.
At that moment, I had a choice: Keep my side hustle as a side hustle and find another job to provide the benefits I had just lost or make it my main hustle. I choose the latter, as many hopeful entrepreneurs do. Of course, this is not a decision for the faint-hearted. But, as any successful entrepreneur will tell you, you must be willing to risk your livelihood and bet on yourself to transform your side hustle into a thriving business.
There is no shame in keeping your successful side hustle as a side hustle. Supplemental income is wonderful, and you get the added satisfaction of seeing your service or product help others without risking your regular paycheck, vacation days, or health insurance.
In my case, I found that my side hustle had allowed me to “back out of the room” over time. First, it funded my car payment, then my mortgage, and then it matched (then exceeded) my regular compensation.
The bottom line is this: If your side hustle is funding your lifestyle, that’s a pretty good indication that it’s a viable, thriving business; feel confident in making the leap into entrepreneurship.