If Your Side-Hustle isn’t Growing, Quit
If we’re not growing, we’re shrinking. There’s no stasis in business. When it comes to our side-hustle, we must have forward progress or we should dump the project.
If you work on a new idea for a year, and, at the one year mark the business is in the same place it was when you started, stop.
Growth comes in many directions, not only money.
We grow by honing our craft. We grow our customer base and our knowledge. We grow our reach.
There’s a danger in wheel-spinning and over-trying. Eventually, we’ve got to ship our work so we can make it better.
We need to have the ability to know when to quit so we can start the right project sooner. A bad idea is still a bad idea, no matter how hard you polish it. The sunk-cost fallacy is real.
Trouble Will Come
Every side-hustle has peaks and valleys. Seth Godin calls the valleys ‘the dip.’ It’s not a question of if we’ll struggle, but when.
Those who succeed with their side-hustle have the ability to endure (and persevere) through the dips.
The problem comes when the dip becomes the daily normal. If there’s no up-swing in your progress, it’s time for a change.
It’s important to see the difference between over-working a bad idea and enduring through the dips of a great one.
Think of how much time you’ve wasted on propping bad ideas that went nowhere, while you could’ve spent that time growing a great idea.
We need your best work.
There’s only room for your best work. The landscape is too busy for anything else. Competition is around the corner, waiting to pounce on a hole in the market. Don’t be that hole.
There Will Be Failure
When it comes to your side-hustle, you need to fail fast. We fail fast so we can learn and improve for the next run.
Failure isn’t always a negative. Failure means you pushed the limits and found room for improvement. If we aren’t failing we aren’t trying hard enough.
As Francis Ford Coppola says, “failure isn’t always durable.”
Quitting isn’t the same as giving-up. When we quit we make room for the right work. When we give up, we haven’t endured long enough to make the right work a reality.
Every side-hustle is filled with small and large failures. We must learn to embrace the failure and recognize when it’s time to endure and not give-up.
Plans are Made to Be Changed
Planning is important. But, like any good plan, life gets in the way of perfect.
Don’t see you plan as some sort of concrete tablet l, from which there’s no deviating. That’s prison. A plan is nothing more than an ideal direction given perfect working conditions.
With a side-hustle, conditions are never perfect.
Your working plan this year should be different than your working plan last year. If you repeat the same work process and hope for better results you’ll never get there.
Don’t Stop What’s Working
The opposite side of positive growth is shiny object syndrome. New ideas are exciting.
We tend to abandon the old ideas in exchange for the shiny ones.
If something works—you had a process that made sales or brought customers—never stop doing that until you’ve got a better replacement.
If I have one traffic channel that brings 500 people a month and I substitute that for a new channel that brings 500 people a month, net, I haven’t gained anything.
If I keep my old channel and add the shiny object, I’m now growing my side-hustle. Beware of shiny objects in favor of what already works.
Test Your Hypothesis
Every day is an opportunity to test our side-hustle. Whether it’s a new product, a new traffic source, or new sales copy.
If we want to maintain a growth position we’ve got to take time to test, daily, if possible.
Most of your tests won’t work. This is a numbers game, not a how-smart-you-are game.
You don’t have to get it right every test, all you need is a ton of chances to take a swing.
In the early stages of your side-hustle you can’t have too many data points. You don’t know which ones you’ll need until you get deeper in the project.
Test the big rocks that could move your business 300% and don’t spend too much time on ½ percent tasks that drain all your time.
Monitor Your Progress
Now we’re getting to the critical tipping point. Know where you were last year and last quarter.
- Has your project moved from idea to production?
- Have you grown from one sale to 100?
- Have you tested a concept, then found it worked?
- Are you in the same spot as last year?
- Has your progress reversed?
- Have you sold a single product?
- Is your audience shrinking?
We monitor our progress so we collect data points. The truth is in the data. We can only improve our side-hustle if we know both the historic and current information about our progress.
How to Grow
There are only three ways to grow your side hustle:
- Increase the number of customers
- Increase the dollar amount of each sale
- Increase the frequency of your sales
Not only do we need to work on shipping fast and testing our hypotheses, we’ve also got to increase sales.
Whether it’s a boost from zero to ten, or from 100 to 10,000–we can’t grow our side-hustle if we don’t grow our income.
In addition to improving the business daily, we must also take time to market our work.
- Tell the others—write daily content
- Advertise on social
- Keep customers informed with email
As a side-hustle owner, it’s our duty never to let our customers forget about us. If they forget, because we didn’t market, they’ll replace our product with someone who will.
Perform a Postmortem
After every project, or every phase of your new side-hustle, do a postmortem.
- List what worked and what didn’t
- Understand what you need to do differently next time
- Uncover what you should repeat
The postmortem is your best defense against repeating mistakes. As I said, we need to fail faster. If you want to know when you should quit and when to endure, the postmortem will shine a candle on the strengths and weaknesses.
When to Quit
If, after you’ve tested, compared, marketed, and tracked with a relentless enthusiasm, and you still haven’t moved the needle—it’s time to quit.
You’re dragging a dead horse.
Track your quarterly progress with older projects and as frequent as weekly progress with new ones.
We need to know where we’ve been.
If next month is identical to this month, there’s something seriously wrong with our side-hustle.
There are better uses of your energy.
If you have an idea that customers don’t want, or your side-hustle doesn’t spark a fire in your belly.
It’s time to quit.
Not in a giving-up way either. We quit to make room for side-hustles that work.
We quit so we can grow.
We quit so all our attention is now laser focused on a winning idea instead of wheel-spinning on a loser. We quit the right way, using data. If you don’t have a method to track your progress, you won’t see the signs.
Without data, you could be working on the same bad idea the next three years, thinking, “I just need to hustle harder,” when what you should’ve done, is quit.
You are Not Your Side-Hustle
When entrepreneurs get sentimental they lose. Yes, this is your baby and a huge part of your life went in to trying to make that work.
But you are not a business. You’re not an idea. And you’re not the people you serve.
The business is a vehicle to help you build the life you want around the work you enjoy.
Part (maybe a lot) of your identity is wrapped in the business, but you are not your side-hustle.
Most businesses have a finite lifespan. Usually no more than a generation or two. The majority live even less.
Your life will go through seasons and so will your business. Quit the losers and keep the winners.
No one benefits from you trying to float a terrible side-hustle idea.
- Your tribe won’t benefit
- Your family won’t benefit
- You won’t benefit
So… why hold on to a losing idea?
Quitting is Noble
When you quit a bad project, not only do you leave room for the good side-hustle, but you leave room to serve your tribe in a better way.
In the end, this process is about the end-user.
If your side-hustle doesn’t benefit the people you intend to serve, what good is it?
Quitting (for the right reasons) is noble.
Quitting means you recognize a bad idea before you take it too far. Quitting means you didn’t allow your brain to trick you into trying harder, digging the dirt from under a deep pit with no ladder.
We quit the wrong projects to make room for the right ones. When we chase garbage, not only do we short-change our tribe, we also steal valuable time from ourselves.
Quitting leads to prosperity, as long as you can recognize the right time to dump your side-hustle.
August Birch is an author, email expert, and entrepreneur from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make more work that sells and sell that work once it’s made. When he’s not writing or teaching, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor