Side Hustles

This 26-year-old turned her side hustle into a $170,000-per-year business: '4 things I wish I knew sooner'

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Gabby Beckford, founder of Packs Light
Photo: Gabby Beckford

In 2020, at age 24, I quit my job as an engineer to focus on my travel blogging side hustle. That turned out to be the best career decision I've ever made.

My blog, Packs Light, brought in over $170,000 in gross income last year, thanks to sponsored social media posts, blog articles and B2B marketing consultations.

But my success didn't come easy. When Packs Light started out, it was just a hobby, and I had no idea how to create content that would grow readership and attract clients. I had to find mentors, ask questions and embrace failures.

The good news is that I can now pass on advice to people who want to turn their side hustle into a profitable full-time business. While you can't possibly anticipate every single thing that will happen in your journey, knowing the hurdles you'll inevitable face can help you stay motivated and mentally prepared.

Here are four things I wish I knew earlier:

1. At first, you'll take on roles you didn't even know existed

The key to success is to be a self-starter and continuous learner. If you're serious about building a business, you must be willing to take on as many roles as you have to.

As a content creator and marketing consultant, I've worn all the hats you can think of — a writer, photographer, graphic designer, copywriter, accountant and marketing. I also had to teach myself how to do all these things.

I regularly applied to business grants and pitch competitions. And to save money by not hiring a web designer, I launched the Packs Light website on my own.

Doing all that work and working a full-time job was exhausting. But I'm glad I did, because you can't begin to delegate tasks until you have a solid understanding of how every aspect of your business works.

2. Invest in building a team

Once your business starts growing fast, don't operate with the mentality of trying to do everything yourself. Plan ahead and strategize how you'll build your team.

Today, I have a personal assistant, blog manager, management agency, and an entire group of contractors. But I wish I knew sooner that growing a team is a key ingredient to creating a sustainable business and work environment.

In "The Big Leap," psychologist Gay Hendricks says there are four zones of work:

  • The Zone of Incompetence, where you're doing things you're not good at, and therefore wasting time.
  • The Zone of Competence, where you're getting the job done, but no better than the next person.
  • The Zone of Excellence, where you're doing things you enjoy and are better at than most people.
  • The Zone of Genius, where you're doing things that you're intuitively amazing at, and that only you can do.

Time is the most precious resource. And Hendricks says that in order to see the best business results, entrepreneurs should spend as much time in The Zone of Genius as much as possible. Growing a team as soon as possible allows you to outsource the work you aren't good at and focus on the tasks where you shine.

3. Not everyone will be happy for you

When I shared that I'd brought in $170,000 in my blog's first year of full-time business, I got a lot of congratulatory messages. But some were less supportive.

People online said I was wasting my engineering degree, while others suggested I had just gotten lucky with my success.

Now, when I face criticism for my business or my entrepreneurial lifestyle, I don't allow myself to feel down. I watch Brené Brown's Netflix show, "A Call to Courage." In it, she quotes Theodore Roosevelt: "It is not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena."

Don't take criticism from people who aren't willing to bet on themselves and take a risk to pursue their passions in life.

4. Don't let money be your primary drive

Having a six-figure year as a small business will mean different things to different people. It might mean breaking out of the five-figure bracket the first time, but it can also mean teetering on $1 million.

Money milestones are fun, but at the end of the day, they are arbitrary. It's more satisfying to be able to say "I'm financially free" or "I'm doing what I love every day" or "I'm making an impact."

Enjoy the milestone, but don't get caught up in the race to your next dollar figure. To be successful, you have to remember your "why" and keep going. The financial success will eventually follow.

Gabby Beckford is a digital nomad, travel blogger, content creator and TEDx speaker. She educates and empowers young people to seek risk, seize opportunity and see the world through her website, Packs Light. Follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

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