9 Things I Learned from Building and Selling 6 Side Hustles
Disclaimer: These stories and projects are over 15 years old. Most of these companies don’t exist in the same way that I built them.
In a recent Living the Fit Life podcast interview, we spent time reflecting on the previous year. Reflection is something I practice often. Oftentimes, I’m reflecting on the previous 90 days or the previous year. I started thinking about the revitalization of Projekt19 and thought, it’s been a long time since I entered the “side hustle” game.
1. Believe in your Ideas
My first involvement in building a side hustle was in high school. Young people take pictures and get them printed, yes physical printed photos. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could go to a site to relive the weekend shenanigans! Yes, this was in 1999, well before the book! These were the early days of the internet, Geocities all the way! This was the first website I built! We called it Scholar Parish. As you can imagine, this was a hit we had a designer, developer, writer, and marketer. Quite the full-fledged team for a bunch of high-schoolers. I’m not saying we were about to be the next Facebook. I am saying if you have an idea act on it , you will know whether it’s something you should continue.
2. Know Yourself and Find an Audience
Being introduced to early technology in high school was a tease. Attending post-secondary education for Multimedia Design was where I started thriving. Having the ability to learn and try out all aspects of design was exciting. I had a teacher tell me — my work should be on MTV. I guess it reflected a certain trendy grunge style. Music has always been a huge part of my life. I started thinking, I should design something and see if I can get it in front of this audience. That’s what I did, I create a few designs and submitted them to different bands that fit my style. Bands are struggling artists too! I had many designs selected for merch and album covers.
3. You Better Validate
Off my recent success with the band shirts, I created my first apparel company, Amped Apparel.
Yep, picked a few designs, borrowed some money from family, and printed some 500 shirts! I know what you are thinking… oh no!
Well, like any “entrepreneur” the journey isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. This was a hard lesson that I learned, luckily early. I had my friends and family support but I was young and didn’t know how to validate an idea or business.
At the time, this felt like a huge failure at a young age a few thousand dollars was a big investment and it failed. I created designs and a brand that I thought was “cool”. I spent no time researching the apparel market, understand the audience I wanted to sell to. The designs weren’t cohesive in any way. They were designs plastered on the material.
4. Don’t Overthink it
After the failure of a said apparel company. I went into survival mode, how do I find a serious way to make a small side hustle. Like many designers, someone would ask me to design a business card or a website. I turned to the obvious “Freelance work”.
This was the first rendition of Projekt19. Did it , registered the business, partnered up, and started small. Projekt19 is a web design agency that helps support small businesses online. This provided me with a steady creative outlet and proper “side hustle”. It was my first take on working with my own customers. We hit early success we had over 30 customers and grossed $35K ARR within the first two years.
The only problem, you are trading time for money. This isn’t the most scalable solution when you are running a side hustle. If you grow it and can manage a steady client base it should work.
5. Pursue your Passion
I had started a big collection of inspirational images, mood boards, and screenshots. The problem had no easy way of organizing it. I figured I could create a blog that has a powerful database and search. I figured this would help me stay organized and give me a chance to flex a skill that I was bad at… writing! I created Inspiredology.com and the rest is history.
I put a few posts together and then one morning, I woke up to 16,000 unique visitors overnight! The post that put us on the map was “120 Brilliant Logos”. A massive list of yes, business cards. This was the space back then, massive lists of inspiration. After that day Inspiredology became my baby. I owe a lot to that project. A few years later we purchased DesignBombs.com and BestWebGallery.com. I had a portfolio of design sites that was driving in over $2000 MRR.
6. Be Aware of Burn Out
Due to the increasing demand from my full-time job and starting a family. I held out for a long time, but , decided to sell and get out. We had 3 properties and wanted to make sure that the exit was appropriate. Looking back do I wish I stuck it through — yes I do. My advice would be to try to find ways to continue hanging on to what you built.
7. Try Something New
Feels like this was the second chapter in the “hustler journey”. I’ve grown from being a creative designer to now a design leader. My career had changed and I wasn’t “designing anymore”.
Fitness and nutrition become a bigger part of my life again.
You want to sell Smoothies, are you kidding? I want to offer a healthy alternative for folks on the go.
I can hear my wife cringe while I write this, Yes, another crazy idea!
Smootheees — Again, I have to say another good brand name! Create a food-truck business offering healthy alternatives to funnel cakes and pulled-pork sandwiches.
The focus was on fitness festivals and other large mass weekend events. This turned out to be a decent business. We attended CrossFit events, Triathlons, boat races, and music festivals. This was different, it was different from my previous ventures — it wasn’t behind a computer screen! The ability to interact with customers and seeing a consumable product was a good learning experience.
8. Scalability is Important
The problem with this business is, well it needed to scale to the next level.
- It’s seasonal, selling Smoothies in Canada in the winter doesn’t sound like a fun idea.
- It took up every weekend of our summers. Prep Thursdays, Sell Friday — Sunday, Clean Monday. Rinse. Repeat. We had a 2-year-old and my wife was pregnant. Didn’t mesh well!
We had a decision to make, in order for the business to take the next step we had to scale. Scale meant more time, not only more weekends, but weekday. I considered pivoting the brand to be less of a physical offering and more into manufacturing consumable drinks. This was a big leap for sure. Did a little research but never took the leap. Still think about this and wish I had tested this further.
9. Putting use to Lessons Learned
This sort of takes us to now! If you are reading this, and you haven’t heard about Projekt19 read more here. Make sure that you take the learnings from previous failed experiences. That’s the growth of an entrepreneur. You don’t read about all the failures, we see all the successes, most of those successes are years in the making. Don’t forget that! Looking back on my hustler journey I’ve learned a lot. My hope is that I can take these learnings and put them to use in a new age of business.