Setting up your Side Hustle

The environment we currently live in

One of my professional colleagues recently posted on LinkedIn about the whole idea of “the side hustle,” opening with this unfortunate anecdote: He had encountered a manager who claimed side hustles were for “people not good at their main hustle.” This is an old-school way of thinking, and side hustles are tremendously important these days. 

That’s become an increasingly reality for many reasons: There is a rise of ageism in the workplace, which means drawing income from a single primary job after age 40 becomes challenging. Then, you have issues around mergers and acquisitions; the Sprint/T-Mobile merger, for example, will end up costing about 28,000 people their jobs (while the executives of both companies make a good chunk of change). One of the fastest paths to growth for a company is to acquire another one, but when that happens, certain roles become overlapping and redundant. 

The side hustle isn’t so much something that should interfere with your main hustle — there needs to be an amount of respect and professionalism afforded to your main income source — but it’s more along the lines of thinking of your career as a pipeline, just as sales professionals think of their work. If Opportunity A drops, is there an Opportunity B? As many in various fields have said, develop your network before you need it, not right after you become unemployed. Side hustles are a way to develop your network — and one of them might become your “main hustle” at some point. In fact, that’s likely to happen.

So if you’re building side hustles right now, what do you need to be thinking about?

The questions to ponder regarding side hustle development

These would be some of the big ones to start thinking about:

  • Is there a conflict of interest with your full-time gig? For example, I knew someone once who was writing about learning and development, but his main job courted bigger companies that worked in the L&D / instructional design space. Sometimes those companies would go to him directly, because engaging with one freelance option is cheaper for them than engaging with his main company of employment. This created a series of issues and eventually he was fired from that company. Make sure there is not a conflict of interest between main gig and side hustle, and if there’s any potential overlap, make sure that you make it explicitly clear to your current full-time manager.
  • Register your business: You can get an Employer Identification Number relatively quickly, which is a good boon for small businesses and the self-employed. There are similar steps, with different names, in Canada.
  •  Establish a brand: This is hard and massively time-consuming, so you will not be able to do it overnight. How to begin, though: Start by thinking about what you offer and where people who need that would be spending time. If you offer instructional design as a side hustle, for example, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are likely better platforms than Instagram. You could get into niche discussions on Reddit and other boards / industry sites as well. Your brand needs to be unique, i.e. you cannot say the exact same stuff everyone else is saying, and it needs to be a mix of visual and text-based, with some video thrown in, as humans are creatures that respond to multiple learning modalities. You can check out brands you admire, but don’t straight copy them. Take elements of them and infuse those elements with your voice.
  • Create a proposal and contracting templates: These can be pretty simple, and proposals can start by thinking about your finances (scroll down a bit). Look around at what others are offering. You don’t want to be the lowest in a market because that means you’ll attract mostly people competing on price, and people competing on price tend to — not always — be less-than-stellar client engagements to have. Here’s one self-employment contract template, and here’s another.
  • The numbers: This is a series of steps. You need to work out these numbers — >
    • How many hours per week can you devote to side work?
    • How much money would you like to earn from side work in those hours?
    • What are your core offerings?
    • How can you price those offerings to meet the other numbers?

Here’s a relatively simple math breakdown: Let’s say you think you can devote 10 hours/week to a side hustle of consulting on instructional design. In a given month, you’d ideally like to make an extra $2,000 from your side hustle. That means you will be spending 40 hours/month on the side (10 per week) and need to make $50/hour to reach $2,000 (40 x 50). $50/hour is not a huge rate for many businesses, so this is totally doable! You could probably get it from one client, or break it up across two clients and potentially even clear your $2,000 goal.

  • How do you find those clients, though? Start with your networks, especially LinkedIn. Explain what you’re doing, what you can offer, and ask if anyone knows of referrals. Message people directly as well. Send emails to old colleagues, confidantes, and bosses you trusted. Work the existing network you have; this can usually land you 1-2 initial conversations (or more!) and those can become clients. Once you get clients, it’s about delivering for them and getting more referrals and recommendations; that’s largely how the self-employed make the hustle work. But as you go through these steps, consider slightly advanced ideas like building an email list around weekly content blasts, using Facebook or Google ads, and more. You want to get a little bit established with people who have a pre-existing knowledge of you before you try that out, though. 
  • Get business insurance: Look specifically into errors and omissions coverage.

How will you know when to move “side” to “main?”

There are easy, direct ways to know — i.e. getting laid off at main gig. Then there are more subtle ways to know, i.e. you enjoy the side work more, there seems to be more of it, the relationship with side partners is growing and your main income source seems purposeless and flat. Most people reach a specific point where they inherently know they should switch from Option A to Option B, but it’s obviously a great idea to discuss with friends, significant other, mentors, and more to see if it feels right to someone not experiencing both options daily. 

What else would you add about setting up a side hustle?

2018: Year in Review

2018 was a big year for me. I’m going to do a quick-hits bullet point list of my accomplishments in 2018, so I can reflect.

  • Worked with 5 wonderful high-achieving mentees to help them achieve their goals
  • Worked with a great mentor and a fantastic coach
  • Spoke at my first overseas conference
  • Analyzed, designed, developed and delivered several training programs, elearning courses and curricula
  • Took over as chair of the WWA Chapter of the Institute for Performance and Learning
    • We had 10 networking breakfasts
    • 4 pub nights
    • 1 full-day PD event
    • 1 half-day PD event
  • Got a promotion to team lead
  • Planned and ran 2 concurrent pre-conference training tracks for another conference
  • Hired three team members and contributed to the hiring process for several more
  • Progressed into a new manager-level role
  • Increased my income and doubled my freelance income
  • Increased my savings and retirement savings
  • Joined the Grand Philharmonic choir again and sang 7 concerts

2019 is shaping up to be a big year as well! I’m looking forward to it.

February and March 2018: Recap

What an unprecedented couple of months it has been!

I missed out on a recap of February, so I’m going to go ahead and lump February and March together here in one big list of bullet points.

  • Caught up with some friends, had some great lunch dates!
  • Had minor surgery to remove a mass (which wasn’t cancer, hooray)
  • Designed and piloted a new customer training program at work
  • Designed another training program on top of that (pilot to come)
  • Travelled to Holland to give a talk at LXDCon (which went fantastic)
  • Successfully completed the Escape from Casa Loma King/Queen of the Bootleggers escape room with 15 fab friends for a dear friend’s birthday
  • Delivered new training program to the first cohort of customers (~40 in all)
  • Worked with I4PL chapter executive to add a new member and plan upcoming events
  • Worked with a few fantastic professionals as a mentor
  • Worked on a new safety training program for a client

Now in April, and there’s a lot more to come! I hope your 2018 has been going well too!

 

January 2018: Recap

So much has already gone on in 2018, I feel like I need to write it all down so I don’t forget.

  • Presented my team strategy at work to the CEO and got approval
  • Attended and presented at work Sales Kick-Off event
  • Team won 2nd place in the Dragon’s Den contest at said event
  • Took on a new mentoring project which has been going really well
  • Started a new courseware development project
  • Completed several Daily UI challenges
  • Got a talk accepted to a conference in the Netherlands
  • Transitioning into new role as Chair of the Waterloo, Wellington and Area chapter of the Institute for Performance and Learning
  • Started designing and developing the first of 4 key facilitated sessions that will become a key piece of my company’s new training program
  • Did a singing video for fun because someone asked and it was well received
  • Donated to the Humane Society
  • Joined YW Kitchener-Waterloo
  • Walked over 163k steps (so far, looking to increase this number in February!

And it’s not even fully over yet.

2017 Year in Review

2017 was a good year for me personally and professionally, and as always, I learned a lot! Here are some stats and highlights from my year for reflection and preparation as I look into 2018.

If I had to sum up 2017, I would say it was a big-deal year. It felt like the importance of everything I’ve been doing has been increasing, and I’ve been jumping into more and more interesting and complex challenges.

Travel:

I enjoyed several opportunities to travel this year, taking three big trips! I had a quick trip to Omaha in May, then I travelled to Ottawa with my whole family in July, and then in August, got to go to Belgium and Germany. I learn so much when I travel, and it was great to get to visit these three very different locations. Aside from that, I did a quick trip into Toronto for an industry conference (more on that below).

I love Belgium, particularly Brussels. I am so fascinated by government and policy, and the EU Parliament has both in abundance. Köln had amazing history to see in and around the Dom. We also flew in and out of London, and I was reminded again how much I love that city. All in all, another great trip to Europe (our 6th!)

Below:  Me with the Palace in Brussels (which I loved!), my son with the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, and me with my best friend Summer and her daughter and her friend.

Work and Learning:

I did a lot of work with seven new-to-me or updated tools and platforms. These included:

I’d used some of these prior to 2017 but not to the degree I did this year. I got updated photos and did updates tomy website. I went to the Institute for Performance and Learning Conference (which I helped to program) and helped program 4 professional development events locally as well.

I completed a Marketing course on LinkedIn Learning (and have touched on a few more!) I checked out a few different MOOCs, and joined the xAPI cohort (though I haven’t started on a project yet). I started doing the DailyUI challenges, and haven’t looked back (I’m about a third of the way through, now, check out my posts here or on Twitter!).

I did high-level design and initial development for a two large learning programs with big audiences, some of which will be realized, some of which might not. I designed and developed three new eLearning courses, and updated many others. I took a new job with a fantastic co-worker and am jumping into bigger and better things there. I’m moving back into the world of customer experience and professional services, and it’s great to be getting back into doing what I love- helping people solve problems and do meaningful work using technology.

I re-certified as a CPLP and have sent in my recertification for my CTDP as well. It has been three years holding those credentials and the learning never stops! I’ll never have a problem hitting my numbers for PD hours

I’ve learned a ton about design, tech, and communication this year, which is fantastic.

Giving Back:

I made monetary donations to 12 different charities this year, along with ongoing volunteer work, fundraising, and a few blood donations (when I pass the hemoglobin screen). Giving back has become a bigger and bigger part of my life, continuing from the plans I started in 2016. While I may not be able to give as freely of my time as I once was able to, my monetary donations have increased to take up the slack.

Below: Economical Insurance Heart and Stroke Big Bike Team, I’m in the first row, second from the left!

Health and Wellness

I lost about 25 pounds this year, and really settled into my 3-times-a-week gym schedule. I’ve managed to make activity and health monitoring an easy part of my routine thanks to my Fitbit and my Aria scale. I got better at eating breakfast every day which seems to make a difference. My resting heart rate has been greatly improved over 2016 and I look forward to keeping things going in the right direction on all these fronts. Check out my weight graph below:

2017’s Thumbs Ups:

  1. This has been the year of fantastic coffee mugs. I had a great mug at work that made every day easier.
  2. I finally stopped being so lazy about my hair and now book regular hair appointments like a grownup. I found a cut that works and am sticking with it!
  3. I stopped answering the phone with “hello?” which has saved so much time in my life.

2017’s Thumbs Downs:

  1. I definitely did less reading books and more Facebooking than I would have liked.
  2. Still working on becoming more relaxed and even-keeled in general. Trying to balance excitement that keeps me engaged vs. excitement that makes me anxious is an ongoing effort.

More on 2018 goals in my next post.

Productivity Tip: Rescue Time

People are always trying to squeeze more productivity out of an increasingly fragmented day.  I find for me one of the best tools for this is Rescue Time. It’s an application that tracks how you spend time on your computer, and based on information you provide it, can give you ongoing productivity scores.  I find it really helpful for keeping me on task.  You can restrict the information it has access to (so for example, I would have it record that I was using Outlook, but not the title of my Outlook windows).

It’s great for discovering just how much time is really spent on communication and scheduling.  As demands on one’s time increase, managing those becomes yet another demand on time. Timeboxing email and scheduling has really helped me to reduce some of that timesink.

I also found it really interesting in that I always thought my most productive time was the morning, but I fairly reliably am actually more productive in the afternoons.  I’ve been able to adjust when I book things and take better advantage of time when I’m at my best.

Give it a try if you’re interested in better tracking and managing your time!

Taking charge of your professional development

87% of millennials (as much as I hate the term) rate professional development as important to them on the job. I would hazard a guess that most employees would agree with this. Despite this, many organizations are less and less willing to invest in professional development for their staff.

As a insatiably curious person, this can be challenging for me. I constantly want to learn, to network, to share knowledge. Professional development is extremely important to me and has been throughout my career, though I’ve frequently been in the position where development budgets are cut and support is restricted.

Rather than let this discourage me, I’ve taken charge of my own development. If I’m not willing to invest, why would my employer be? Knowing I like to attend events and conferences, I’ve started to seek out low-cost ways to do this. I’m involved with industry organizations and frequently volunteer time in exchange for passes to events. Some industry conferences provide free registration for speakers, so I propose sessions to conferences I’d like to attend. I program PD events in my area and am able to attend these at no monetary cost. I’ve found my companies more willing to give me a PD day here and there than they are to approve budget for tuition or registration feeds. I make use of free resources at the library, read LinkedIn voraciously, join open slack channels, buy books on sale, and constantly seek out new low-cost opportunities to learn.

Even with all this, sometimes I do still want to attend an event or course where I can’t get a discount. To cover these things, I have a personal PD budget. I set up a separate savings account, and auto-deposit 3% of my pay for professional development. I’m able to draw from this fund to cover costs that I can’t cover other ways. It’s a big priority for me, and so I invest in this area. I have found that since I started doing this, I’ve been able to advance significantly in my career. If you’re struggling with getting the development you need and want, give this approach a try!

LinkedIn and how I use it

I make no secret of the fact I love LinkedIn. LinkedIn gives me so many opportunities to network and learn from other professionals that would be tough otherwise- sometimes it’s tough to make it out to events or conferences, and when I do, I don’t want the conversation to be limited to these events!

I am a bit unusual in the way I use LinkedIn, however, based on what my network tells me. It seems that most LinkedIn users use the platform to maintain a (fairly high-level) profile, and add mostly co-workers and former co-workers to their network. If they get a connection request from someone they don’t already know, they find that strange and are likely to ignore the request or block the person.

Somewhat different from that approach, I maintain a pretty extensive profile, with details of accomplishments and media from past positions. I include my volunteer work and achievements with community organizations, rather than just professional experience. I think of my LinkedIn profile as a way to capture all my skills and accomplishments, and keep me focused on my career goals. I actively give and seek recommendations and skill endorsements (though I don’t give out endorsements for skills that I haven’t seen evidence of).

The thing that I do that is most different from many of my colleagues is that I will add anyone and everyone to my network. People I met for 2 minutes at an event get an add, people who work in roles that I’d like to learn more about get an add, people in leadership for companies I’m interested in get an add, people with interesting headlines get an add.  I send out hundreds of invites, usually at least a few a day.  Plenty of those people won’t be comfortable adding me, which is fine, but some do, and I have found these people to be invaluable. They share interesting perspectives I might not have seen otherwise, I get to see the kinds of articles and content that interest them, I can cheer their career advances.  There’s so much interesting stuff happening on LinkedIn!

Through building up my network in this way, I have been able to connect people to mentors, become aware of jobs that I might not have known about otherwise, and been able to closely track the pulse of the industries that most interest me.

If you’re a reluctant networker, I recommend giving this approach a try. It has been very useful in my career and could be in yours as well!

Jargon, acronyms, and buzzwords- oh my!

Communication challenges are the basis of so many business problems. At the same time, businesses and the people who work in them are incredibly attached to their jargon, acronyms and buzzwords.

The idea behind these things is making communication among those “in the know” more efficient- why would I say “Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation” when I could say “ADDIE”?  But for whatever small efficiency gains among a small group- it causes much bigger challenges for those outside the group.  I do my best to limit my jargon and buzzword usage, but I still struggle with this!

In order to help facilitate better communication, here’s a list of 15 buzzwords, jargon, and acronyms that come up frequently in my day-to-day:

ADDIE: Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation, a widely used instructional design framework

Agile: Methodologies for (software) development that involve requirements and solutions evolving through collaborative effort and adaptive change

Asynchronous: Learning that combines self-study and asynchronous interactions (discussion boards, etc) to achieve objectives

Buy-in: Approval and support of an idea or action

BYOD: Bring your own device- meaning content may be accessed using any number of different devices or methods

Cloud: a tech term referring to external configurable resources that can be used for software, storage, or other computing needs

Design Studio: A method for early designs that speeds up initial design processes

Gamification: The application of game principles in non-game contexts

Kirkpatrick model: A commonly used “4-level” model for learning evaluation.

Microlearning: Comparatively smaller learning units and activities

RACI: Responsible-Accountable(Approver)-Consulted-Informed, a common method for illustrating responsibility assignment

ROI: Return on investment

SAM: Successive approximation model- a framework for instructional design project management that draws from agile methodologies

SWOT: Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats, A structured planning method that evaluates these four elements of a particular team or venture

Universal Design: designs intended to be accessible to the largest possible population of users

Training Industry has a more instructional/learning related glossary to check out. If there are any plaguing your daily life, add them in the comments!

 

Universal Paperclips, engagement and visual design

I played a game this week, called Universal Paperclips. On the surface, it’s a simple clicker game. But through the course of playing it, I kept thinking about engagement.  What had me coming back to make more paperclips? What about this game was so irresistible?

There are an awful lot of articles and studies out there that talk about increasing engagement, and one of the strategies to do so is adding more visuals. Visual design is one of the main vehicles for communication. Some say, without visuals, experiences fall flat.

But Universal Paperclips isn’t much to look at.

It’s just text, a couple lines and buttons. As you play through the game, there’s a bit more complexity that is added, but there’s no color, and the bulk of the experience is text. So what keeps it so engaging? Here’s a few techniques that the game employs that reeled me in:

  1. It provides constant feedback. You always know how many paperclips you have, and if you click “Make Paperclip”, ta-da! Another paperclip. That instant feedback is incredibly engaging and kept me coming back to adjust, optimize, and buy in order to make that number go up faster and faster.
  2. There’s no rush. While you are timed (a little notice appears in the black bar with your time when you complete each phase of the game) there’s no countdown clock, no push to sort things out more quickly other than your own sense of urgency. If you walk away, you can come back later and make sure everything is running along smoothly, and then progress to the next inputs required from you.
  3. There’s no artificial pacing. There’s no mandatory tutorials or obastacles designed to slow you down- you can (and do) pick up the pace as you go.
  4. It keeps you guessing. Each time something new appears in the game, it presents more questions than it answers. As with a well-written short story, your creative mind will fill in the blanks, identify patterns, and develop a story that’s far better than anything more prescriptive.
  5. You have a clear goal. Throughout, you’re always making more and more clips. There’s various steps you have to take to achieve this (including spending clips!) but that number is always there at the top of the screen, incrementing ever upward.

These same techniques can be used in your learning experiences- keep those goals front and center and build in opportunities for frequent feedback!