I believe in the side hustle 100%. It’s unrealistic to think that you could ever reach a moment where you can just cut off all financial security and start the career of your dreams. Unless you have years of savings or planning a couchsurfing trip. You know who else believes in it? Marie Forleo. She was a bartender and fitness instructor when she was first launching her life coaching business.
But beware. There’s a trap where the unassuming fall to their detriment. It’s called “the eternal side-hustle”. You work hard and try again, never giving up, but never succeeding either, and you either have a ton of failed projects or you run a business that never gets a break. And even though I agree with Jeff Goins that you can be on the right path right now and not know it, I also believe that you’re responsible for your successes and your failures, and if you accept this responsibility, you’ll get a lot farther in life.
What I did was work my butt off for a year, save up every spare penny, and invest it in my future. Actually, let me tell you the story, to illustrate.
Last year’s failures.
Here’s my background in short: I’ve been writing my whole life, blogging for 7 years, tweeting for 5, and marketing for 2. I graduated in Psychology, which gave me a pretty good basis for all of the stuff I’ve been doing since. And I’m a multipassionate.
Now, let me tell you where I was this time last year.
After having spent 2 years au-pairing in Rome, I finally had it with the place and not knowing what I wanted — I’ve had a fiction phase, a photography phase, a life coaching phase — I did what I always do after the honey moon was over — got bored and crashed.
This has been my entire young adult life.
After my Roman adventure, I came back to my parents’, fell into depression, and basically had to go to a psychiatrist. But the worst part was -
This time last year, my self-esteem was shot.
I remember a conversation between my best friend and me so vividly — I was telling her I was going to go to London and clean houses for a living. She flipped out, of course. She said I had so many skills and was too amazing to clean houses. I disagreed.
So what happened between then and now?
This year’s gains.
Look, I’m not going to say that I make 20K every month or that traffic to my site has been monumental, or even that I have tons of clients. But I will say this:
I am confident and working. I am financially independent. I am my own boss and make my own schedule. And I get new client inquiries every week. (Some turn into amazing collaborations and some just aren’t meant to be.) Definitely not complaining.
Basically, I’m in a place that’s the opposite to last year’s.
And even though I’m not making as much as I want to, I feel JOY. I feel so happy that I’m finally doing what I love — writing and helping people — and I’m doing it MY WAY. I’m not just writing stuff people want to read. I’m not following any expert advice, besides the one that helps me do what I’ve already decided was on the agenda. And finally, I get to choose the clients I want to work with and the terms in which I do it.
And it feels like heaven.
Speaking of which, I just registered my small business: Violeta Nedkova, Ltd.
It wasn’t a big deal. It’s just something I did because I was frustrated with Paypal (although they did help in the end) and because I wanted to have an “official” bank account and some other perks that came with business ownership.
But then I stopped to think about it today — I have a business. Officially.
And from now on, it is going to sustain my lifestyle.
Isn’t this the dream of so many people?
Taking the steps.
I wanna tell you exactly HOW I got here, mostly because I want to document all the lessons I learned this past year. There have been so many.
1. I surrounded myself with great people.
When you’re down in the dumps, the only thing that helps is getting out of your head and talking or working with other people. Which is why I practically started living off startup communities, seeing as I was interested in startups more than anything.
I met so many amazing people that are still my friends today. I got involved in projects, got my feet wet, and surrounded myself with people like me.
And by people like me, I mean: entrepreneurs. Doers, not talkers.
Then something amazing happened! These people’s strengths and successes started rubbing off on me and inspiring me to better myself. I was so fixated on getting better and learning more that at some point, my depression completely melted.
But the even more amazing side effect was — I gained back my confidence.
Maybe mostly because I was hanging out with Nichole Elizabeth DeMere, and she’s one of the most confident people I know — not obnoxiously so. Hanging out with her inspired me and made me believe that women can be just as successful as men, and that we must all take responsibility for our successes and believe in our own abilities.
Thanks, girl. You really changed things for me. :)
Always surround yourself with inspiring individuals.
I don’t mean successful necessarily, like influencers, but people who can teach you something, something that will help you become a better and stronger version of yourself; the version that can start a business and run it, and succeed.
2. I started doing instead of thinking.
I was so busy working that I had no time to think!!!
And thinking can be dangerous because of the little voice. You know the one — she tells you you’re not good enough, not smart enough; she reminds you of your failures and warns you of terrible things to come; she makes you feel useless and sad.
The first barrier to success is called a mental block.
The little voice is your mental block. If you want to be successful, you have to find a way to be louder than it. One thing I have found to be helpful is to get angry. Say to the voice that she has no idea what she’s talking about. Even better is ignoring it is remembering to listen to the other voice. If you don’t have the other voice, you have to get it today. (I think they sell them on eBay.) The other voice tells you that you’re AWESOME.
The other voice forgives you when you make a mistake. You love that voice.
A lot of successful people attribute their success to a shift in mindset. Some people adjust their mentality towards money, others become friends with stress and fear, and still others become sensitive to their weaknesses and acknowledge them.
These people are immensely brave. It takes courage to open up to things we label as “negative”. But they are just a part of life.
3. Providence interjected big time.
This is the part where things got a little freaky.
After having been a part of some communities and doing my work without thinking, something shifted in the industry. I don’t mean the entire industry changed or anything, but it did open up some space for me, and let me in.
People started contacting me in all sorts of ways. Asking me for advice, interviews, collaborations… and it threw me a little because I was so used to kind of shoving myself in people’s faces. (It’s true. Just look at my twitter strategy.)
Having people come to me instead of vice versa was freaky, and amazing. (Malcolm Gladwell calls this moment “the tipping point”. And even though he means it in a bigger scale, I believe each of us has our tipping moments.)
And then the impossible happened — someone asked me if I consulted. I thought it was a fluke and moved on. Same thing happened that same week. And by the third time, I was just ready to embrace what fate has served me on a silver, shiny platter.
You can’t say no when people offer to pay you more money. Can you?
But it wasn’t about the money. It was about the freedom. And if I’d ignored that opportunity, I’d still be freelancing. You gotta open the door when opportunity knocks. This is maybe the single biggest thing success depends on.
4. I found focus and purpose.
At some point I realized I wasn’t making any progress and that I was still working for other people. The only opportunities I got for a while were freelance gigs, and I hated those. There’s nothing wrong with being a freelancer writer/marketer or any other freelancer you might be, but it doesn’t really fit my personality. I just like calling the shots. Period.
And so, there I was, miserably freelancing, trying to learn everything I could in order to be able to do more jobs, and some of these things were — facebook, marketing apps, growth hacking. Nevermind I don’t really like these things…
I’m not sure but maybe one day I woke up tired of listening to “expert advice” and doing things I hated. I wasn’t even sure I liked my clients! (You I like.)
So I decided it was time for CHANGE. Big time.
And it came in the form of Beth Grant. She created the Archetype Alignment Grid and I’ve mentioned her before, as I’ll continue to do because her framework changed everything. And by the way, I am not an affiliate. I am just really, really grateful.
After using the Grid and speaking with Beth, I was able to go back to myself. I was able to remember my deepest values and start fresh.
Once I had my purpose, I felt like I was finally seeing things clearly.
So don’t think I just woke up and knew what I wanted to do. Finding your purpose is hard, and sometimes all you need is the right tool.
5. I started a business.
You can tell yourself that you’re going to start a business when you’re older, wiser, more experienced, richer, etc. But I think there’s no difference between starting a business NOW and starting a business later. Except the fact that NOW is better than later.
Procrastinating small tasks is one thing, but procrastinating your life is unforgivable.
I still haven’t finished that novel or went to Barcelona or visited my best friend in Berlin. And it’s only because I find other things — things I have the rest of my life to work on — more important than doing what I might not be able to do one day.
And we all know “one day” doesn’t exist anyway. There’s only now.
I think that the last frontier in the pursuit of success is procrastination. Even if you have all the other ducks lined up, all your cards ready, you can still miss out on wonderful opportunities because… well, because you’re afraid.
Fear is the single biggest reason behind people not starting things. And it can hold you prisoner for years.
And the thing is, your fear is right — you might fail, it will be hard — but it’s also wrong because it doesn’t tell you the most important part — it’s going to be worth it. Starting your business will be your greatest love affair. And if you get off your laurels and ignore your doubts, you’ll be able to do it, and do it right.
6. I invested in my business.
Like I said in the beginning, if you side-hustle for a year and save up every spare penny, you’ll be able to afford a few months to acclimate to the new business. And it’s not like I stopped my previous work when I saw the faintest hint of money. I actually spent months on building relationships and a steady client base. Because I wanted to invest in this thing I’m calling a business now, this thing that’s making me so happy.
Business doesn’t just “happen”. You gotta invest a lot along the way.
In a way, investing in your business tells your brain you’re serious about it, and when you get serious about something, you do your best to make it work. On the other hand, if you don’t invest in it, you’re telling your brain it doesn’t matter as much.
For someone who has barely paid for anything in her life, I’m investing a ton of money for courses and services and books, and I’m doing it because it’s MY business and I believe in it 100%. But if you just expect to try something random — because it’s trendy — and do the minimal effort, see if you “strike out”, I can tell you — it ain’t happening.
Working on an idea you don’t believe in is the same as working for others. And if you enjoy this kind of thing, great! If you don’t, you need to listen up.
And the secret is…
It’s time that I gave you “the secret”. You ready?
I became my own boss because I worked hard, saved my money, and just started something.
Uhh, that’s it?!
Yep. It’s something literally everyone can do right now.
Oh and maybe it had something to do with being myself and following my heart. You see, all these years of blissful blogging and tweeting paid off in the end. And they paid off because I wasn’t doing them for money. I was doing them for joy.
And the biggest truth is — when you do what you love, you attract people. You attract success, too. When you do what you love, you attract everything you need.
Again, it bears repeating:
You must start with joy. If you start with joy, the money will come; if you start with money, it won’t come and there will be no joy.
What about you? Do you have your own business? If not, what’s stopping you? Leave a comment or response, I’d love to know. :)
This article was originally posted on Violeta Nedkova’s blog, where you can find more info about starting your own business and growing it.
P.S. Thanks for all the encouraging comments! It means a lot that this resonated with so many people. Based on this article, I’m giving away “The Creative Rebel’s Guide to Starting a Business”, in the hopes it’ll help even more people.