Arpana is a global marketing nomad, who is Indian by origin, born and raised in Japan and moved to Australia 14 years ago. With a husband in the Navy, she’s had to uproot her life and career every two to three years. An extensive entrepreneurial streak lies in her family, and whilst at university, Arpana started her own side hustle consulting in marketing for a local business which was the flicker that lead to owning her own full time digital marketing consultancy Give Me Marketing, which is driven by a global team of freelancers.
For those that are running a business on the side whilst working a 9-5 job, it can be especially tantalising to want to be your own boss and take that side hustle to the next level. We discuss the pros and cons of being your own boss with Arpana, tactical tips for startups and figuring out when the right time is to take your own side hustle, full time.
Tell us about your marketing background and how and why you actually started your side business. Did it start off as a passion project?
Starting my own business actually goes back to my days at university, where I was hired part time to help a small business with their marketing, and they took me on as an individual sole trader. After graduating from University though, I decided to enter the corporate world full time, but kept working on marketing projects on the side, I just loved it. Coming from a foreign background, it wasn’t easy, but I was lucky to find employers to give me my first corporate break in Sydney. I don’t think that without this corporate experience, I’d be where I am today and would have possessed the confidence I have in starting my own business.
Did you find it tough balancing moving around, working your consultancy and also your full time job? What were the main challenges here and what advice can you give to those committing themselves to both startup and full time work life?
It’s never easy striking a balance between full time work and nurturing your own business. Make sure your side hustle is scalable. When I took on a full time job, I would scale down my side business and managed my clients’ expectations, ensuring that they were aware of my situation from day dot.
Never promise more than you know you can deliver and do everything you can to make it work. Work early mornings, evenings and weekends if you need to, if that means you’ll meet the requirements of delivering the outcomes of both; your side hustle and full time job. This was a very challenging period before I fully committed to my side business and you will likely sacrifice family, friends and recreation time so it has to be absolutely worth it for you in order to achieve long term goals.
Time management is the most crucial aspect of balancing all these moving parts. Plan out your delivery time frames for each project so you can avoid being stressed and burnt out at everything you do. I have encountered so many people who over commit and under deliver. A little bit of planning goes a long way in saving you stress later.
It’s all about communication, managing parameters and expectations as well as having the right mindset!
When was your ‘lightbulb’ moment for when you knew it was the right time to take your marketing business full time?
Everyone’s situation is unique and I knew that from my lifestyle of moving around, that I wouldn’t be fulfilled in a professional sense. It was taking me months every time we moved across states to find an appropriate full time position in marketing, and at times I would find myself taking up to a $40K paycut! I was never going to get the opportunity to build my career and have consistency, and more importantly growth.
Whilst I was sitting on the fence during this uncertain time in my career, my small business mentor and I workshopped the numbers for what it would take for me to go full time with my own business. It was when I knew my earning capacity in my side consultancy had the potential to be greater than my full time income (from my day job).
If you’re a freelancer, you know these numbers aren’t easy to forecast with certainty. However, if you know the value of your services that clients are willing to pay for, and know what your expenses are – you can make logical decisions. Don’t be purely driven by your passion, as much as you’d like to. Crunch the numbers.
Startups can involve lots of working in isolation and working away from your clients. How do you work around this when you first start your side hustle?
Pros: It’s rare for clients to want to have face to face meetings, especially in the digital marketing space. Having phone and video conferences can cut down on expenses and travel time.
Cons: It’s hard to keep people accountable when you’re working remotely. I can’t create content or marketing strategy without any insights or information from my clients so unless the people you work with do their ‘homework’, a lot of time can be wasted asking for the deliverables you need when you can’t just walk over to someone’s desk and ask them for something.
Being able to communicate what is important to you can be difficult without face to face interaction. This can be solved if you are clear with communication and ask for a watertight brief on any project you take on, and still build in a bit of flexibility into your timeline.
Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs looking to take their side business full time?
Take the time to build your side hustle and assess if it’s kicking goals regularly. Use resources from here to put into startup expenses. Again, crunch your numbers so that your savings don’t dwindle too quickly. Remember that if you are out of action for a while, there won’t be an employer around who will pay you sick or annual leave – will you be able to survive? Think of all the scenarios that might get in the way of your progress.
Also, never stop learning and dust yourself off and keep going when there are unforeseen setbacks. Industries and their technologies innovate and evolve quickly. Always have a range of blogs you’re following, listen to podcasts and learn as much as you can about the changing landscape about your particular industry. I always make sure that I upskill and attend conferences, marketing seminars and workshops. You’re never going to be the absolute expert in your field so it’s vital to have that passion to learn in your own space, and share that knowledge with others and your clients.
Want more advice? Connect with Arpana on LinkedIn here.
Image by David Beach.