Today’s interview is a special one because Harvey and I run similar blogs aimed at helping sidepreneurs — his blog is called Sidepreneur Magazine and I recommend you check it out. I met Harvey on Twitter and we’ve kept in touch ever since then. Let’s dive into his story!
1. WHAT IS YOUR DAY JOB AND WHAT IS YOUR SIDE BUSINESS?
During the day I write Web apps for a shipping logistics company. For the geeks among your readers, that means I write AngularJS and C# using Microsoft’s .NET framework. At my job, I get to collaborate with some highly skilled and generous people. The employees regularly vote my employer one of the top workplaces in Memphis.
On the side, I freelance as a Web developer and offer a business Web hosting service that brings in some residual income. I also interview entrepreneurs and share their stories on my blog, Sidepreneur Magazine. You contributed a thoughtful, detailed interview early on. Thank you for your generosity!
2. HOW DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR SIDE BUSINESS?
As a 4-year-old, I discovered our ancient Remington manual typewriter. I spent hours hammering out pages of type on that old clattering machine. I couldn’t even read yet. Still, there was something almost spiritual about that feeling of self-expression. Right then, I knew I wanted to write something worth reading. Now, I spend much of my spare time trying to connect authentically with the world in a way that changes people.
From 2003 to 2010, I supported my family mostly as a freelance Web developer. That business died in 2010, but I still had a strong desire to return to self-employment. I didn’t want to return to the capricious feast and famine cycle of freelancing. Now, I spend most of my time writing. My writing lets me build residual income through information products and affiliate marketing. I love to write about business since it has the potential to improve the lives of people all over the world.
3. HOW DO YOU FIND TIME TO WORK ON YOUR SIDE BUSINESS?
I have a strict schedule that provides time for work. On weekdays, I get up at 4:40. I am at a local Starbucks by 5:30. There I spend about a half-hour for quiet time and then work until nearly 8:00. In the evening, I spend an hour or two having dinner and conversation with my family. Then I return to work until bedtime at about 10:00. Some evenings I go to bed earlier if I need to make up lost sleep.
I always pay attention to what moves my business forward. The most important thing I can do at this phase is to write something each day. I email business owners I want to interview and reach out to experts who might write an editorial article. Most days, I also spend some time writing an article for Sidepreneur Magazine.
I am grateful for my wife, Jodelle, and our 3 children who allow me to work more than an average husband and father. I have a deep need to build something that is my own. I love working with and for other people, but my desire for ownership is impossible to eradicate. I have no problem getting up early to pursue the dream of supporting my family with my own business.
4. WHAT’S WORKING FOR YOU RIGHT NOW IN GROWING YOUR SIDE BUSINESS?
I get freelance clients by word of mouth. I don’t promote my services, and few people outside of my immediate circle know that I do freelance Web development. I build friendships with professional people without the motive of sales. They get to know me as a friend and turn to me when they need something done well.
This past week, I spent some time optimizing my website to put more attention on my email list opt-in offer. Nothing compares to the response I get from my email list. I hope those changes will grow my list more quickly.
Recently, I surveyed my list and found that my most engaged readers already have businesses on the side. Others are planning to create one in the next year. I am working through what I learned to come up with a strong giveaway offer (lead magnet) that will entice more of my blog visitors to subscribe.
These technical improvements are important, but the wisest thing I have done is to hire a coach. He holds me accountable for my goals. He challenges me to push beyond my limiting beliefs and to connect with prospective clients and contributors. I would rather take a back seat, but he pushes me a step or two beyond my comfort zone. I am happy to recommend Allan Dubon as a coach to anyone who wants to build a business around their blog.
In addition to hiring a coach, I connected with other business owners through an Innovate live event hosted by Dan and Joanne Miller and their family in Franklin, TN. When I went to the event, I expected to get information that would help me find a breakthrough business idea. Instead, I learned the value of imagination, creativity, and above all, authentic relationships. What has been missing from my success plan has been more relational than informational.
5. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS THINKING ABOUT STARTING A SIDE BUSINESS?
First, don’t start a side business to get quick income. That’s a side hustle, and it will burn you out if you’re not careful. In an ideal world, you should create a business when you don’t require extra income. Your financial flexibility will allow you to play a long game and create value without immediately extracting it.
Second, build a product based business instead of a service business. Having products to sell will allow you to leverage your time more effectively. If you already sell a service, find a way to turn it into a product. Products make your income more predictable. They allow you to market aggressively without worrying about capacity and human resource issues.
Third, take your time coming up with business ideas, and don’t be afraid to test them. View failure as data and not a reflection on yourself. Your business can fail without you being a failure. Make a personal commitment to creating a successful business. Don’t stop trying until you succeed.
Fourth, never try to go this road alone. It can be difficult to persuade yourself to pay fees and join a mastermind, but it is often worth the cost. It feels weird to pay for a coach—kind of like buying a friend. But it works! It is likely that few of your existing friendships are built around transforming you into a new person. But that is exactly what you must do to build a successful business. Often even core beliefs must be modified. Friends want you to stay the same. Do whatever you must to get around others who are determined to walk the entrepreneurial path. Walk together—never alone.