Before you transform your side hustle into a full-time occupation…

‘I do this as a side hustle’ is a common refrain when one is asked what other sources of income they have besides their full-time occupation. However, the phrase tends to minimise the economic importance of a side hustle. Some, who start these hustles do not see them as routes to financial freedom.  Here are 7 ways to transform your side hustle into a full-time business venture. 

First things first, Is the hustle practical?

Any viable business must solve a specific problem within the community or else it dies. Therefore, before taking the plunge from full-time work to running a side hustle, ask yourself if, during its brief existence, it has served the practical needs of the intended focus group. “For example, leaving one’s full-time work to expand a business dealing with wall clocks may be futile. Unless one is buying a wall clock for decoration, people can tell the time through hand-held devices,” says Linet Mwakio, a proprietor of a mobile phone shop along Kenyatta Avenue.

Get a mentor

Studies show that small startups that receive mentorship are more likely to survive the first five turbulent years that those that did not. For example, a person may be good in a certain craft but fail to monetise it simply because they have no business acumen. David Macharia, for instance, worked at a photo studio in downtown Nairobi but hoped to set up his studio in another part of town. “I was a good photographer but a poor businessman,” he says. However, chance meetings with accomplished photographers such as Boniface Mwangi changed his business outlook. “They told me to register a business name rather than do the work on an unofficial basis. That, they told me, would help in creating systems that would run the business even in my absence.” Macharia listened and turned his business from a freelance photographer running around on a bicycle in Kangemi to setting up Versatile Photographers. Among his highest moments was being selected to photograph President Barrack Obama in his last visit to Kenya.    

Make the hustle a priority

Many people choose a hustle that can run in the background, with minimal personal interventions. In choosing a serious side hustle, however, ask yourself if you will be in a position to make important decisions on a daily basis. If you have to rely on other individuals to make most of the business decisions as you concentrate on your full-time job means you are not ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship. In addition, decide if you have the time to see important aspects of the business from conception to completion. For example, do you have the time to develop a product, market and deliver to clients without extensive and costly outsourcing services? Only when the business has grown exponentially can you plan on delegating some key roles to your assistants.

Can it pay all your bills now?

If your side hustle can pay almost all your bills, that is a sign that you can live on it. A warning though. According to author and business coach Christy Wright, your side hustle may not necessarily replace your current income, for those employed. “What you can do is reassess your budget and decide if you can live on less. Maybe you can make some cuts and live within a smaller budget because running your own business full time is worth it to you,” she advises.

It has to be interesting to you

Are you engaged in a side hustle for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses—’because my colleague runs a hair salon, I too will start one in my estate’ kind of thinking? People with such a viewpoint show they are not ready to leave the comforts of the current occupation or employment for a full-time business career. They want the thrill and bragging rights of owning a business but do not consider the hustle interesting enough to warrant their undivided attention. According to Harvard Business Review, people who intend to turn side hustles into full-time occupations tend to align them with their key personal interests. “Individuals who are looking for a side hustle to turn into their primary work one day ought to select a side hustle that is more personally interesting than their current full-time job and yet has enough earning potential to be able to support oneself.” Successful business people say that if you are employed, your side hustle is ready for the solo flight when you feel that you are running two full-time jobs!

Create a community of believers

A promising hustle must have a system of getting constructive feedback from clients. This helps you in creating a community that believes in your products or services. At times, such feedback can be instant, like what Uber drivers get after a trip. Apart from helping to improve customer experience, such feedback drives business growth by creating products that resonate with your client base. Again, one who has no time dealing with such feedback — positive or negative — will have a hard time transforming the hustle into a full-time business venture. “Never be afraid of the comments coming in through your business WhatsApp group. That is one of the reasons why you created it in the first place. The more you show your customers that you value their input, the more they will trust you and believe in your business,” says Anne Njenga, a vegetable vendor who does home deliveries in Lang’ata.

Be ready to innovate

Kenya has become a graveyard for startups that refused to innovate. The converse is also true. The country is full of businesses that succeeded because they dared to test fate through innovation. According to, a business analysis platform, 77 per cent of business leaders believe automation saves time, 70 per cent say it eliminates human error while 53 per cent say it improves efficiency. During the peak of Covid-19 pandemic, businesses that had put in motion innovative ideas such as customer service, goods delivery and automated pay points were more resilient than those that continued to rely on aging, manual systems. Among other things, says some of the processes that must be automated from the onset include business leads, payroll and systems, and inventories.