Could your side hustle become your next career move?

Julianne Williams, Employment Consultant at the Forces Employment Charity explains how to turn your passion into profit.

From unprecedented technological advancements and a rapidly evolving job market to dramatic changes in flexible working, the working world has shifted significantly in the last few years.

These changes have seen many people moving away from a traditional 9-to-5 employment model, looking to embrace a portfolio approach to their employment, or even turning their passion project into their main source of income.

This can be a hugely fulfilling and enjoyable career choice. However, it can also be a tricky and risky transition.

Before making a leap into the unknown, there are some key things to consider first to help you work out if turning a side hustle into your day job might be right for you…

Identify your passion

This may sound obvious, but working out what you find enjoyable is a very important task. What skills do you have that are in demand, perhaps as a freelancer? Or do you have an incredible idea for developing a niche market product? Perhaps you have a flair for upcycling?

Ask yourself, ‘Are you passionate enough’?

While baking or crafting handmade goods may be something you love to do in your spare time to help you unwind, is it something you love enough to do for the number of hours required to give you the lifestyle you’re aiming for?

Running a business requires more than one skill

When setting up a business, you effectively become a full organisation – with one employee running every function! Are you prepared for the realities of fulfilling every role of your business beyond your initial skill, from finance expert to tech support to marketing expert?

A solid foundation is crucial

Before making the leap, ensure your side hustle is built on a solid foundation. This includes creating a business plan, understanding your target market, and establishing a strong online presence. A professional website, active social media profiles, and effective branding can set the stage for a successful transition.

Money money money!

Financial stability is crucial when transitioning to full-time self-employment. Assess your current financial situation, create a budget, and build an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. It’s advisable to have at least six months’ worth of living expenses saved before making the switch.

Top tips for success

Having weighed up your options, if you decide you’d like to develop your side hustle further, here are some top tips to get you up and running:

Allocate your time accordingly

Balancing a side hustle with a full-time job can be demanding, but effective time management is vital. Create a schedule that allows you to dedicate focused time to your business without neglecting other responsibilities. As your side hustle gains traction, gradually allocate more time towards its growth.

Get networking (it’s less scary than you might think!)

Building a robust professional network is essential for any aspiring entrepreneur. Attend industry events, engage with fellow entrepreneurs on social media, and join relevant online communities. Networking opens doors to potential collaborations and partnerships and provides valuable insights and support. If you find the idea of networking a little intimidating (and many people do), just remember, it really just boils down to being able to chat with people and be enthusiastic about your plans!

Think about how to make yourself, or your brand, famous – aka marketing

Effective marketing is the lifeblood of any successful business. Utilise digital marketing tools such as social media advertising, content marketing, and search engine optimisation to increase your business’s visibility. If that all seems a little overwhelming, don’t worry – there are many free online guides to help you get started.

Remember, ‘every day is a school day’

The business landscape is dynamic, and staying updated on industry trends and developments is crucial. Invest time in continuous learning through online courses, workshops, and conferences. Adapting to new technologies and evolving market demands will give your side hustle a competitive edge.

You’re military – you’ve got it in you to succeed!

Military service instils unique skills that can be invaluable in the entrepreneurial journey, but it can be all too easy to forget the incredible skills that are acquired by those who have served.

In case you need a ‘cut out and keep’ reminder, here are some skills learned in the military that can be particularly useful when venturing into self-employment:


Military personnel are trained to adhere to strict schedules and exhibit discipline in all aspects of their duties. This discipline can be translated into consistent work habits and the ability to meet deadlines, which is crucial for any entrepreneur.


Military experience often involves leadership roles, fostering the ability to lead, inspire, and motivate teams. These leadership skills are transferrable to business, helping entrepreneurs build and manage effective teams (if the business grows sufficiently to require it), or manage external stakeholders such as suppliers.


Military personnel are accustomed to adapting quickly to changing situations and environments. This adaptability is a valuable asset in the ever-evolving landscape of entrepreneurship, where the ability to pivot and innovate is essential.


The resilience cultivated in the military, dealing with challenging circumstances and overcoming adversity, is a trait entrepreneurs often find indispensable. Resilience helps navigate the inevitable ups and downs of self-employment.


Military training emphasises quick and effective decision-making, a crucial skill in the fast-paced and dynamic world of entrepreneurship. The ability to make informed decisions under pressure is a valuable asset for any business owner.

Hannah Saunders explains how her experiences in the RAF helped her succeed as an entrepreneur

Ex-RAF Officer Hannah Saunders shot to fame after appearing on BBC One’s Dragon’s Den, a show where entrepreneurs can pitch their business ideas to five multimillionaires willing to invest their own cash in return for a percentage of the company.

Following a hugely successful pitch, Hannah secured investment from leading business figures Steven Barlett and Deborah Meaden for her start-up business, Toddle. Since its inception, Hannah has grown the business exponentially, with ventures spanning Europe, the USA, Amazon, retail, and worldwide e-commerce.

Having been described on Dragon’s Den as the ‘most prepared’ entrepreneur to ever appear on the show, Hannah credits her preparedness to serving in the military.

During an interview on the Forces Employment Charity podcast, she explains, “I treated it (Dragon’s Den) like going in to brief the harshest senior officers I ever had to go in and brief.”

The military ethos to get the job done

When elaborating on the skills veterans possess, she says, “Lots of people in the military don’t think they have the skills to be an entrepreneur because they haven’t got an MBA, or they haven’t been in the corporate world. But, in my experience, I would say one of the key attributes of any military serving person is this ethos that you just have to get the job done. So often, as is often the case, you may not have the budget or amount of manpower, but this ‘thing’ has to get done, and this ‘thing’ could have a huge impact on people’s lives. So that ethos of ‘I’m just gonna get this thing done’, there is no ‘no’ in this (is important).”

“We didn’t have the best idea, but we just kept going.”

She continues, “And that resilience as well, when things go wrong (in the military), you just have to find a different course of action. You don’t give up. When I started my start-up, I was in an incubator with 10 other people, and there was one other guy who did exceptionally well. I wouldn’t say we were the best businesspeople; we didn’t have the best idea, but we just kept going.”

Military people make great entrepreneurs

“I’ve had issues where I’ve run out of money, or had manufacturing issues, where things go wrong – these things happen in business, and I’ve never given up. I always just think, ‘We’ll change direction’ or ‘We can tweak the brand slightly. We can change the product line slightly. There’s a pandemic? I guess we’re an e-commerce company now.’ So, I think that ability never to see anything as an out-and-out failure, and that resilience, and that grit and determination to pick yourself up and say, ‘Oh, that course of action has changed therefore I need to do x, y and z.’ – military people make superb entrepreneurs for that reason.”

Turning your side hustle into your main job is a rewarding but challenging endeavour. Remember, with dedication, perseverance, and strategic planning, you can turn your passion into a thriving business and enjoy the freedom and fulfilment that come with being your own boss.

For more free support with any aspect of your next career move, register with the Forces Employment Charity today.

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