How to Make Your Business or Side Hustle Sustainable and Profitable

A man works on his side hustle with a computer and phone

How to Make Your Business or Side Hustle Sustainable and Profitable

You’ve got the best business idea, or your side hustle is finally taking off … but have you overlooked key considerations that could make your operations sustainable and profitable? How do you price your goods or services? How do you convince customers to buy what you’re selling? How do you leverage your successes?

Expert and solopreneur Mat Casner of Freelance CEO, a coaching business that helps freelancers, and Redlogic, a freelance design agency, knows the ins and outs and can answer these questions. He has nearly 20 years of entrepreneurial experience since he left his cubicle in 2006 to work for himself, and he wants to show you how to find success and navigate common pitfalls of starting a side hustle or business or becoming a freelancer.

Think like a business owner

Mat says you have to find your “why” for starting a side hustle or discover what drives you to do what you do. For him, it’s his family. He also says you need traits that entrepreneurs have. Do you want to work for yourself? Do you see a solution to a problem that others don’t? Are you full of ideas? Does the thought of sitting in a cubicle freak you out?

“I wanted more than what my 9-to-5 was giving me,” Mat says. “I found lots of limitations at work when I saw possibilities elsewhere.”

You have to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. At its core, a business or side hustle is really just solving problems for customers, again and again. The problem has to be big enough that customers and clients will pay for your product or service. The bigger the problem, the more they’ll likely pay.

Leverage that pain point

Mat creates branding systems for businesses that give them more confidence when they sell to clients. It’s a problem they are glad to pay him to solve because of his expertise. And because he has a special set of skills, he can charge more. Mat says when he increased his prices, he found clients that were a better fit for his freelance business. He also says not to price yourself too cheaply; people who want a solution will pay for your expertise.

“Clients that are looking for cheap services usually aren’t usually good clients,” Mat says. “They might ask, ‘Why is this product or service cheap? Does this freelancer not believe in their work?’ Low prices can also ding your perceived credibility and skills.”

Mat thought no one would pay him $3,000 for a project until he charged that much — and they actually paid him that amount.

Mat says you have to think about what you want to be known for. He says if you aren’t making enough money, you aren’t solving problems that are valuable enough. Sometimes testing the waters with pricing structures can help you nail down how much to charge for your services. It’s OK to experiment and find what works.

Develop multiple sources of revenue

For a successful and sustainable side hustle or business, you’ll also need multiple income types.

Passive income is income you earn while you’re doing other things. A great example of this is a self-directed online course that teaches something for a fee. You earn money while you aren’t actively working.

Recurring income is income that you receive over and over and what will make you a profitable and stable business. Think contracts, retainers, monthly service agreements and monthly rates. 

You can also have multiple income streams (Mat has seven) that will help you build your side hustle. When one stream isn’t flowing as strongly, another might be.

Having all of these types of income will help your side hustle or business be profitable and sustainable.

Find your perfect clients

Another big factor is finding the perfect clients. Mat defines a perfect client as, “A client pays well for work that you would do for free if time and money were no issue.” To find these clients, you must be clear on what you will offer. What you do and sell is important; think about the solution you offer. 

Mat says he was an introverted designer who didn’t like to sell, so he transformed from a salesman who’s selling something to a servant who offers help. He says that with this altered approach, potential clients respond differently.

“If you want to gain a client, ask them what they’re struggling with and then shut your mouth and listen,” he says. “They want to know you heard them and that you can help them.”

Mat likens looking for new clients to fishing, and there are different ways you can fish. Net fishing is communicating to a wide audience with low effort, like an email blast or a social media post. Spear fishing takes more time and involves communicating one on one. Mat says this is the most effective way to find clients.

“People buy from people, and cultivating that relationship takes a while,” he says. “Tailor your strategy to the type of client you want to catch.”

Build your customer base with the client snowball

There’s a process that enables you to leverage your past successes to get future clients. Mat calls this the Client Snowball.

Once you make a sale, the process begins. Because you’ve got the expertise your client needs, you do a great job, and they notice. Now all you have to do is collect the testimonial or story from your client, who is now a free promoter of your business.

Post that positive testimonial everywhere: on your website, in your newsletter, on social media. When other potential clients see that success, they’ll want that for themselves. This starts the process over again, and now you’ve got a snowball that builds itself with each new client success story.

Be open to guidance

Mat has some business advice from all those years in the trenches.

“Never quit learning if you are trying to grow a business,” he says. “Learn from as many people as you can. I refine my business every day. And have mentors if you want to go further faster.  Find someone who will tell you where you need to improve and where you might have the wrong mindset. If you want to make it, know your craft. Bet on yourself every day.”

Get more help for your side hustle or business

If you’re looking for a free, customized plan for your business and want to meet with the experts who can help, KCSourceLink has your back. Just call us during business hours Monday through Friday at 816-235-6500 or tell us what you need, and our friendly Network Navigators will outline the next steps to get where you want to go on your entrepreneurial journey.

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