Side Hustle Realities
From the outside perspective, it’s easy to think that everybody has it together. From a side hustler perspective, things tend to be all over the place. Side hustling is consistent trial and error to follow your passion, whether you know what that passion is or not. Keep reading to find out about my journey and lessons I’ve learned from mistakes early on.
I am a full-time 4th grade inclusive teacher. This is my 4th year teaching in NYC and I love my kiddos. I get into school at least an hour early each day to make sure everything is set-up and ready for when that subject comes along. Throughout the pandemic, I have been balancing constant back and forth in the classroom and teaching remotely, finding it difficult to nail down a routine that works under both conditions.
After work, I usually need some sort of mental-break. My job as a teacher, as rewarding as it is, is also very exhausting. This break sometimes looks like staring at a blank wall for awhile (no joke!), taking a nap, eating, working out, doodling, or mindlessly conditioning clay through my pasta maker. Since my job starts early, it ends early and by 4pm, I’m about ready to go full-force again. Side hustlers, or small business owners, have a lot of passion and after teaching, my focus turns to “I have an idea for my business...now what steps can I take to get there?” My vision is to create art and jewelry for people to feel good. Having my art on people’s walls and earrings in their ears is a pretty rewarding feeling as well.
In the beginning, I didn’t know that was what my passion was - I just knew it was art-related. In my previous blog, I show you all the different art styles I went through to land on the Kara-style. On the business side, I had NO idea what I was doing. I had this vision but had a very hard time breaking down an abstract idea into concrete steps to get there. I went to college and graduate school to become a teacher and have taught for 4 year but I didn’t have the slightest clue about business.
Not just that I didn’t know what I was doing, I also was extremely scared to begin. Fear was a big barrier for me because I wanted to get started but was scared I was spending all my time on something that wouldn’t help me in any way. Early on, I listened to numerous podcasts about small business owners / side hustlers and found one called the Women’s Side Hustle Society. It’s focus was women balancing full-time jobs and side-hustles and in each episode, women gave advice about some sort of challenge they overcame. There are many out there so feel free to find podcasts that make sense to you. When I listened to that podcast, I felt heard, understood, and realized I wasn’t alone in my confusion.
Over the summer, I went on runs and listened to this podcast along with others I found on Spotify. I almost became obsessed with absorbing knowledge about business as well as listening to others feel similarly as me during the process. When I got home from the runs, I either felt confident, excited, and had a clear idea of what to try next OR I would come back explaining long-winded scattered thoughts. Luckily, my boyfriend has a superpower of being able to take in a lot of information and put out one underlying sentence that just clears everything up. I don’t know how he does it but I am thankful.
When you start a side hustle, you make a lot of mistakes. These mistakes are helpful in the end because they guide you in the direction you want to go but only after taking many wrong turns. The process of learning completely new skills can be very frustrating.
- Early on, I bought a bulk amount of prints that didn’t sell. Looking back, I would have purchased a couple and see what sold before buying more. I was told this but didn’t listen but did find peace with this mistake because it is a very common one for artists in the beginning stages of starting a business.
- I said yes to too many commissions and became burned out. This is a lesson I learn again and again. Finding that balance is difficult and also varies depending on what else is going on in life. Try to be vocal about the amount of work you can handle and recognize it is okay to not be able to do everything at once.
- I spent hours working on a “sales funnel” after learning what that was when I wasn’t ready for it. I talked to so many people, from artists to people in marketing to CEOs of companies to learn more which I do not regret; although, sometimes, I would come out of conversations thinking I had to change everything I was doing. Listen and learn but also, take it slow. Their process is not necessarily your process so it’s important to be realistic with where you are in your business.
- I created art that I thought people wanted instead of what I loved creating. Oof, I explored so many styles before finding my own (see blog). I asked customer-profile questions to my followers on Instagram, called friends, etc. and at the end of the day, I strayed so far to try and make others happy which led me to not have fun creating, which was the whole purpose. Now, I create art I love.
- I had too many ideas and I became overwhelmed rather than productive. This lesson was a blessing and a curse. I had passion flowing out of me in every direction but had trouble organizing my ideas and setting realistic deadlines. Now, I use my favorite journal, by Iconic, to jot down my ideas and give myself deadlines that make sense while building in work and self-care time.
- I spent hours creating art and gave it away for free in hope of more Instagram engagement. Classic. Many artists go through this when sharing on Instagram. Your work should not be free. All your practice, materials, and love goes into what you create so don’t sell yourself short. It’s not worth it, even for a few followers that probably won’t lead to sales.
(Iconic Planner from FallNDesign)
After mistakes, especially ones I did again and again before learning from, brought up some self-doubt. Should I continue to see if things change for me? Am I doing the right thing? Is my work good enough? Maybe I’m not cut out for this…
The self-doubts are real. Starting a side hustle and learning new skills after new skills without any training is hard. That’s when resilience comes into play. Small business owners are bound to feel lows. But it’s the getting back up part and continuing that make it all worth it. The ups of a small business feel incredible because the hard work I put in helps lead to the outcome.
With a support system, your dreams do come true over time. One lesson I learned, after my boyfriend and family said it only 50 times, is that I don’t need to do everything right now. This is a long-term commitment. A long term goal. So I don’t need to burn myself out to get things done now when there is realistically, always more to do. For example, I’ve wanted to expand my business for some time to more products. Each product takes time to plan out, create, test, and then purchase. I have wanted to create notepads to include in my shop for a couple months. That is okay that it’s taking longer. Instead of rushing, it will feel right.
I am balancing a full-time job with my side business. Recognizing the realities and understanding that you can do everything, just not all at the same time is a game-changer. Try your best not to compare with others on Instagram or other social media platforms. Many of them are creating full-time. You are not. So you cannot set yourself up to the same expectations. If you are like me, you should realize that you are already doing so much. You are choosing to continue working after work because it’s something you are passionate about and love doing. That alone is something to be so proud of. Give yourself a break every once in a while and reflect on all the progress you’ve made. I’m sure it’s more than you realize.
Share your journey by DM-ing me on Instagram @kara_artwork or email at karaglassartwork at gmail.com.