Think Small: How to Make Money and Stay Motivated

If you’ve pursued a side hustle, there’s a high probability you’ve failed at some point. I’ve failed a lot. Much more than I have succeeded. I started multiple websites years ago. They did OK, but I never saw a wild success with any of them. I’ve started several businesses that never made a dime. I’ve had many business ideas fizzle out for one reason or another before they even got off the ground.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up” – Thomas Edison

If I look back at all of these failures, the root cause is consistency, or in my case, lack of it. The more I speak to other entrepreneurs, side hustlers, and wannabe side hustlers, there’s a regular theme. There’s a whole host of reasons you might fail. You could make a bad business decision. You might manage your time inefficiently. You could focusing on the wrong things. The list goes on and on. This article is focused on the number one killer of dreams, however: Lack of Consistency.

Problem 1: Consistently Inconsistent

The most obvious symptom of a lack in consistency, is inaction. Nothing gets done. You think of ideas, and they don’t go anywhere. If you’re lucky, you might even put a day or two of work into them. You might even do really well for a few weeks. Then, radio silence. No progress, no ideas, it all dies. I have been the victim of this, and when you’re in the midst of it, it feels like your heart and mind are trying to help you. They want you to stop working because of something that seems logical at the time. You might think that its a bad time for a business, or you don’t have time for that side hustle. You’re busy at work and it would interfere with it. You don’t have enough money. All are very valid reasons normally, except there’s one problem: they’re lies. Fear is responsible for this misinformation, and when it creeps in, your mind uses it to justify giving up, or not trying, in order to protect you from failing. If you quit, you didn’t fail (in your mind) – you just decided not to pursue it. It’s the safe way out.

Luckily, there’s a few remedies for avoiding a lack of consistency.

Remedy #1: Scheduling

You need to take your side hustle, or business, seriously. If you don’t, nobody else will. If, however, you treat your hustle as a job, you’ll do it. The best way to accomplish this, is to block off time for your work. You have to find what works best for you, but here’s what I do.

  • Pick a target date to accomplish my work
  • Determine if I legitimately have time to get it done
  • If so, I take the first opportunity to get it done, within the target timeline.

Doing this ensures that I am scheduling, without being rigid. Some people might benefit from simply blocking off time on a specific day, and that’s fine. The point is, you absolutely have to make your work a priority.

Remedy #2: Take Smaller Chunks

If your goal is to start selling custom designed T-shirts, don’t make your goals for the week to finish the shirt and start selling. Make your goal to develop a plan. The next week, make your goal to come up with one design. Week three, you’ll create your first shirt. Week four, you sell. Bite-sized goals are much easier to manage.

Problem 2: Thinking too Big

One of the biggest mistakes people make when beginning to pursue side hustles, or new business ideas, is thinking too big. While it’s important to have a high level view of where you want to be in a year, you shouldn’t be focused on that. The reason this is bad, is that it makes the journey seem insurmountable. If your goal is to achieve $50,000 in revenue, you’ll be demoralized when you have a $500 month. You would, understandably, feel like you’re behind, and failing. When that feeling encompasses you, fear enters the picture and begs you to give up. It’s easy to say ‘Yes’ to fear and quit. Like a mountain climber in harsh conditions, you need to focus on one thing: putting one foot in front of the other. How do you translate that into side hustle success? Think Small.

Remedy #1: Think Small

Thinking Small has nothing to do with being less ambitious. It’s about setting milestones that are very achievable, and tackling them as aggressively as you can. For example, my goal for Side Hustle Dad was to build an audience of 50,000 visitors per month. I’d venture to guess this is a solid 12-18 month goal. I don’t really know, nor do I care. What I do care about, is writing great content today. Tomorrow I’ll care about another piece of content. Next week, I might be focused on making the website better. Six months from now, if I keep doing the right things with a high level of discipline, the numbers will be trending in the direction naturally as a byproduct of my work.

The bottom line is this: set a big goal, but in your day to day grind, think as small as possible. One task at a time. If you do this, you will feel a sense of achievement and progress, which will motivate you to continue. It’s a cycle.

The Flywheel Effect

I love reading anything by Jim Collins. The guy is a business genius. In his book, “Good to Great,” Jim details the Flywheel Effect. Basically, it goes like this: There’s a massive flywheel. At the beginning, you might try to turn it but it feels stuck. You consider leaving it alone (quitting). You keep pushing, however, as hard as you can. It might move just a centimeter. Then it moves a foot. Then two feet. It begins to get easier, and spin more. At some point, its own weight will allow it to continue spinning without you pushing as much.

How does the Flywheel concept apply to you? Well, when you begin your hustle – whatever it is – it will be hard. You’ll feel like you’re making no progress. You need to think of your hustle as a flywheel. It will move, and once it gets moving, it will have so much momentum that you won’t work as hard. But you have to make it move first. To do that, remember to Think Small. Don’t try to move the flywheel a full turn, just start with one inch.