Business Maverick


Getting to grips with your side hustle

Getting to grips with your side hustle

Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Nic Haralambous has started a business or two and loves nothing more than to dispense the ‘motherhood and apple pie’ on the subject of side hustles.

Search “ideas for a side hustle” and Google spits out 34.3 million responses in a fraction of a second. It is evident that starting a side hustle is the latest big thing. Whether it’s teaching English to foreigners, AirBnB’ing your spare room or selling your organisational skills online, it seems there is something for everyone, should you have the inclination.

That was before Covid-19 forced millions of people around the world to sit at home and wait out the spread of the virus, many of them accepting a reduced salary in the bargain.

Since then, the idea of a side hustle has grown in leaps and bounds. 

A side hustle is a little business operation on the side of your ordinary career. It’s a way to boost the family coffers so that you can afford to pay the school fees, or the bond, or save for the car you want. Maybe, just maybe, it grows to replace your primary income – although that is not necessarily the intention.

It should come as no surprise then that South Africa’s most charismatic entrepreneur, Nic Haralambous, founder of cryptocurrency platform Coindirect and the Sexy Socks company, wrote an e-book called How to Start a Side Hustle, which is short, easy to read and is deliberately targeted at those folk sitting at home thinking about how to reinvent themselves.

He teamed up with Business Maverick’s Ray Mahlahka and about 550 online guests to talk about the book and dispense some advice – gleaned over a 19-year career that has seen more than its fair share of failure.

Does one have to be an entrepreneur to start a side hustle? 

As it turns out, Haralambous differentiates between starting businesses serially, as he has done, and hustling for extra income. An entrepreneur is a completely different person. Not everyone is an entrepreneur. But everyone can have a gig on the side.

“I must be honest,” he says, “I have an unusually high propensity for risk – but that is not for everyone and that is not a criterion for success. It is up to each individual to decide how much risk they can afford to take.” 

What you do need is resilience – the ability to pick yourself up and start again because the chance of immediate success is slim.

And, of course, an appetite for hard work because doing anything over and above the day job requires sacrifices. 

As with many things, Haralambous says, there are riders. Work hard, but don’t neglect your health, diet, exercise and most importantly your family – otherwise, there is no point in what you are doing. We only have one life.

“Preparing yourself mentally for the journey ahead is going to be key,” he says. 

The questions many would-be hustlers have, is when to start, how to start and where do you find an idea?

Start now. Today. This doesn’t mean shooting from the hip, nor does it mean spending the next five months working on a business plan – that’s for MBA students. Rather develop a one-pager outlining your goals, the business idea and costing, and then start. “Starting is the only way to find out if the idea will work.”

He is utterly against risking the family finances. 

“If you are living paycheck to paycheck and all your financial hopes are pegged to this little idea of yours becoming a fully-fledged and profitable business then I’d urge you to hold off.

“Take the time to prepare, that is a form of starting right now. Cut down on your living expenses, save the money, you need to have a rainy day fund of at least three months living expenses and then start saving the capital you need to build a business on the side. Do not throw your life savings into the idea and hope for the best.”

Haralambous is clearly not a man who struggles to find business ideas, so questions on what business to start bemuse him.

“Write a list – what are you good at? Are you highly organised, articulate, good with numbers? Is it a skill you can turn into money? If so, he says, explore service sites like where freelancers can offer their services.” 

And then some strange advice: Don’t follow your passion. 

“If you love Spanish dancing that doesn’t mean open a Spanish dance studio,” he says. Dance because you love it, not because it’s your business. Rather, be passionate about the business you are building because time is one of the things you can’t get back.”

Thoughts on what defines success and failure, when to say no, how to build a market (hint: family, friends, fools), and what advice to accept and reject flow effortlessly from him, and are mostly detailed in the book.

Perhaps most importantly he also stresses: “Don’t let your side hustle become a side hassle – it shouldn’t make your life worse. If you hate it, walk away. Don’t worry about social definitions of success or failure. If you have put too much money in it – stop; if your wife complains – stop.”

For anyone interested in starting a side business, Haralambous dispenses sensible advice. 

But like anything in life, you still need to do the legwork. BM


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