5 Ways to Turn Your Side Hustle Into a Career

Let’s face it: We are done about talking about the pandemic. We’re exhausted. The last 16 months or so have turned our entire worlds upside down. From quarantines to rapid testing, we want a break from the news and we want a little more joy in our lives. Part of the reason for the disdain over the last year was the blurred lines between work and life. For most accountants, bringing your career into your home meant a laptop that was always plugged in and email notifications that were always chiming.

Naturally, burnout ensued. This year saw a flurry of unemployment, furloughs and lay-offs. Businesses trying to keep afloat and maintain a bottom line while workers were pushed to their actual limits – both in the (virtual) office and in their personal lives. But, get this: This year also saw a flurry of people choosing more joyful career options including side hustles and alternative work from home options.

Bankrate’s Side Hustle Survey found that nearly half (45 percent) of U.S. workers say they earn extra income on the side. While the motivation varied from needing to make ends meet to padding savings accounts, these side hustlers were seizing an opportunity and advancing their financial positions. These side hustles were creating joyful passions beyond their day jobs. In fact, more than one-quarter (27 percent) said they were more passionate about their side hustle than their main job/career.

What if you want to make your side hustle your only hustle? Many accounting firms are breaking the traditional mold and offering alternatives to the Big 4 grind. For example remote bookkeeping and advising firms, like Breakaway Bookkeeping + Advising, offer flexibility in scheduling, a supported network of other advisors (who are equally working from themselves) and joy. Here are a few steps for turning your side hustle into your next career:

1. Find what brings you joy. The first step, and arguably the most important, is to discover what you love. Sure you can crunch numbers at tax time, but does that bring you joy? Or, do you feel love when you’re using those calculations to help a client plan for a commercial move or invest in a growth five-year plan? Joy is a secret ingredient that often gets deprioritized in accounting. Passion fuels creativity and the desire to “work.” Our team enjoys advising their clients. When you truly find happiness from the daily conversations that help you get to know your clients’ businesses, then you’ll never “work” another day again.

2. Keep expanding your network. As humans, we are social beings. This doesn’t avoid the workplace. No amount of advertising, marketing technology, or promotional efforts even come close to the impact word-of-mouth referrals have on purchasing decisions, according to a Small Business Marketing Report from QuickBooks and LinkedIn. This also is proven in the numbers: often an entrepreneur or business can convert only 20-30% of cold leads, but up to 60% of warm leads. Networking is so important and it takes time for those checking to come back to roost. 

3. Find your community. Beyond having a professional network, side hustle success is directly tied to having a community. This is a core group of mentors and colleagues who can be resources and fallback as you navigate bringing your side hustle full-steam. Peers can be confidantes in knowledge-sharing and pressure testing. At Breakaway, advisors work for themselves, but are not “by themselves” as advisors are powered by Breakaway’s advisor network. This includes Slack channels for continued learning and ad hoc client questions, as well as funny memes and dog pictures. While each advisor is running his/her individual bookkeeping and advisory services firm, they are all connected and supported by Breakaway. Most side hustles also start in the home and that can be an isolating working environment, but it doesn’t have to be if you’re open to leaning into your community and treating a digital community like a real life one.

4. Be in charge of your schedule. More and more companies are tossing out the strict clock-in and out of 9 to 5 and instead entrusting their teams to get their work done at a time where they can give their best. In the case of working parents, perhaps they can focus more on work while the kids are down for a nap, or perhaps an advisor just is more of an early bird and can concentrate better when they are out for a morning walk. Technology has enabled teams to work from anywhere at any time – and yields more profitable results. Just look at the recent experiment in Iceland. BBC reports that now 86% of Iceland’s workforce have either moved to shorter hours for the same pay, or will gain the right to, and [they are reporting] less stressed and at risk of burnout, improvement in health and work-life balance, more time to spend with their families, do hobbies and complete household chores. As an entrepreneurial financial advisor full time, you’ll get to plan your time around what brings you the most joy and when you can be the best for your clients.

5. Choose clients who align with your core values. A huge perk of your side gig is that you determine who you work with. One important temperature check: core values. Aligning with like minded clients helps create a better experience for both client and bookkeeper; not to mention, circles back to the joy principle. The more ideal clients you work with, the more you find. That passion and joy will fuel turning up the heat from side hustle to full-on career.

At the end of the day, it’s crucial that you lean into what brings you the most joy. If your accounting side hustle is that, then I invite you to explore how you can turn that into a reality. Be sure to identify what brings you joy and then maximize your network and find a schedule that works for you.

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