#64: Grow Your Side Hustle

How to test, optimize and scale your passion project

It feels like everyone I know has a side hustle.

For some, it’s consulting. For others, it’s a digital product, a coaching business or an e-commerce shop.

As product marketers, I think we’re inherently wired to build (I know I am). And whether you’re building for fun or building an empire, one thing is true: it’s hard work.

It requires discipline, experimentation, bravery and a little luck.

One person I’ve repeatedly turned to for advice since making the leap into entrepreneurship myself is my friend Nick Lafferty.

For today’s edition, I asked Nick to share what he’s learnt from building his business the Early Exit Club. Previously the Sr Manager of Growth Marketing at Loom, Nick’s now grown his consulting business from $0 to $30/k a month in just 6 months.

Here’s his advice for testing, scaling and optimizing your passion project.

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Grow Your Side Hustle

In his weekly newsletter, Nick shares super transparent details about his challenges and wins as a solopreneur (he even shares his revenue). It’s one reason I trust his advice — he’s honest about what works and doesn’t work.

Earlier this week, Nick and I spoke about the most common challenges I hear from product marketing entrepreneurs in my network. Here’s a summary of our conversation.

Q: How do you recommend finding your first 5 customers?

I found my first customer while I had a full-time job because I reached out to the founders of a pre-seed software product I loved and asked if they needed marketing help. At the time they were only a team of 6 so my genuine enthusiasm for the product really resonated with them.

I think many of us that work in software have similar feelings, where you just fall in love with a product because their features, mission, or design just jives with you. Use that to your advantage! 

I was consulting for that small startup for 4 months before I quit my job, and they were my first call when I made the leap. I told them my plan and outlined a few ways I could spend more time to help them out, and they were excited to get more of my time and experience.

While having a client locked in before quitting your job certainly makes life easier, it's not required. It can be hard to talk about your freelancing business while you have a 9-5 job (and in some cases your employment contract forbids it), so you can't exactly advertise yourself on LinkedIn. 

The above example is what I’d call passionate outreach. Another kind of outreach is past relationship outreach.

After first nailing your personal positioning statement, start reaching out to former colleagues, managers, and VPs you worked with.

Give them your short positioning statement and ask if they need help or if they know anyone who needs help. You'll be surprised by how successful you'll be with this, but you have to make the effort.

But you don’t have to quit your job to start reaching out to people. You can do that right now!

Q: How important is it to diversify your income streams?

Diversifying your revenue streams is huge as an early entrepreneur, but it’s also easy to get sucked into too many projects at once. Here’s the timeline I followed and what I recommend to other people.

Bucket your ideas into these three buckets: short-term revenue, medium-term revenue, and long-term revenue.

Short term revenue: This brings money in right now. I bucket my consulting and advising work here. If you have multiple consulting clients then you’re diversified within this bucket already! I’ve spoken with other entrepreneurs that do career coaching and I consider that short-term revenue as well.

Medium term revenue: Digital products and affiliate income. These are things that you spend a few hours creating with the potential of generating revenue from them in the next 1-2 months.

Long term revenue: Paid courses, communities, or maybe a cool SaaS idea you want to build. This is big picture stuff that won’t pay off for 3-6+ months.

In the beginning you should focus your time on generating immediate income. You have bills to pay and you need to build momentum. 

However, it’s easy to lose sight of your longer-term goals when you start getting a steady flow of short-term income. In my experience it’s really hard to say no to a big infusion of cash by signing a new client so be mindful of where you are in your journey and if you’re making progress towards your big picture goals or not.

Q: Should you start by going broader or more narrow?

Nearly every consultant I’ve spoken with has started with a very broad service offering and narrowed it down over time. Because our corporate careers are typically T-shaped, it tricks our brain into thinking we can offer all of those same skills to our consulting clients.

This is the wrong approach. 

It’s a consultant rite of passage to at first offer a broad range of services, realize the pitfalls of it, and then niche down to a specific offering later.

The pitfalls are: 1) doing work that doesn’t excite and energize you and 2) not offering your best skills, so you don’t provide your best work

Sometimes we don’t know what type of work we hate doing until we do it for someone else. I learned that I really don’t like doing SEO for clients, but I love running paid ads. It took me accepting two SEO clients to painfully figure this out. So while I wouldn't recommend everyone start broad on purpose, the benefit of doing so is you'll quickly find out what you don't enjoy doing. 

Q: How do you determine the price you should charge?

Consulting prices are just like that opening line from Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Everyone makes up their own prices (except the points do matter because that's how you pay your bills).

But there are ways to help improve our pricing precision:

  • Asking other consultants what they charge to get a baseline

  • Using my free rate calculator to get a tops-down and bottoms-up view of how much you should charge

  • Anchor towards project-based and retainer-based pricing models and away from hourly-based rates

At the end of the day, how much you can charge is a reflection of the perceived value you can bring to prospective clients.

Q: What’s the first thing someone should do if they’re considering turning their side hustle into their full-time gig?

Here’s the steps I recommend to people considering self-employment:

  1. Define your ultimate goal. This is your why.

  2. Track your monthly expenses for 2 to 3 months to understand your baseline expenses.

  3. Build an emergency fund to cover 3 to 6 months. This will help give you some runway.

  4. Have a plan, but don’t be afraid to pivot.

Q: If you were to start Early Exit Club today knowing what you do now, what's the one thing you would do differently?

I’d charge my first clients twice as much as I did and I’d charge them on a retainer model instead of hourly. Doing that one thing would’ve gotten me to my $20,000/month income goal within 2 months instead of 5 months, with a lot less work on my part.

I’d also still do many things the same:

  • Starting my newsletter

  • Posting a lot on LinkedIn

  • Doing an insane amount of networking calls

Hindsight makes it so easy to cringe at our past mistakes, but as painful as those mistakes were, they’ve made me a better consultant, business owner, and internet friend.

I’m now approaching my first anniversary as a solo consultant and the future has never been brighter. I know exactly what type of work I want to do and what type of work I will absolutely refuse to do. 

I’m building a business that supports my ideal lifestyle and right now that’s all that matters to me.


📚 Reading List: Learn how to negotiate your rates as a consultant with this helpful framework.

🗓️ Events: In cased you missed it, I launched a new Camper Connections matching program. Connect 1:1 with another product marketer for a 30-minute chat. First round of matches goes out Wednesday. Sign up here for free.

Until next week,

Tamara Grominsky

Ready to build a high-impact career? Here’s a few ways I can help:

  • Build connection and grow your career alongside 150+ other PMM leaders. Join the waitlist for PMM Camp’s private community, the only community built for (and by) PMM leaders. New spots open up March 18.

  • Craft your own personal positioning statement in 30 minutes or less. Take my free mini course and learn how to identify and communicate your “secret sauce” as a PMM.

  • Need a product marketing mentor? Book a 45-minute 1:1 session with me to cover any topic of your choice.