My first trip abroad since launching this side hustle has taught me a lot about the importance of having systems in place for operating your business.
If you aren't thinking about your side hustle as a business, you MUST start now. A business, whether it be a side hustle, start-up, or fortune 500 company, should not be dependant on one person. I know with my day job if I fall off the edge of the world tomorrow (no, I am not a flat-earther) the business will keep on moving, no matter how important I like to think I am. This should be the same for your side hustle. Creating and documenting these systems is one thing that corporate America will teach you well.
I really didn't consciously think that I was creating robust systems, nor was I worried about it because the side hustle only has one person involved at this point, me. However, when I left for a 9-day trip to India where I would be almost completely disconnected from my business, I realized that I did have systems in place and they were working well.
I cannot quite explain the feeling of hiking a mountain in middle-of-nowhere India then getting back to the hotel (it was actually an old fort for the 1400's) and getting a notification for a sale when my phone connected to the network. Or, receiving an email from my warehouse that 89 orders shipped out that day while I was eating dinner, legs crossed on the ground, in a local village in Japuir India. These things told me that I had systems in place and they would facilitate my business continuing to run, even when I am away.
So, if you already have your side hustle up and running you should take a step back and evaluate the processes you have in place or lack thereof. If you are just about to start your side hustle, then this is the perfect time to get it started properly so that it is not 100% dependant on you.
Here are a few things you should be focusing on to systematize your side hustle.
Out of the three strategies that I will list, this one will seem the most simple and straightforward but will be the most difficult for most.
Do you often spend time digging through emails or desktop files on your computer looking for a document? If the answer is yes, then how can you expect to create an efficient process that can be managed by someone else or by you with little effort.
The first thing you need to do is move EVERYTHING to the cloud. I personally use the Google Drive, which is part of the Google Suite. There are a ton of other options out there as well so look around if you aren't a Google user typically. It is super important for all your files to live in the cloud because you are no longer tied to your laptop at that point and you can give access to anyone that needs it -
your virtual assistant, warehouse, accountant, etc.
Once you have everything in the cloud, you need to start organizing into high-level folders. These are the main categories which all your files can live under. I recommend no more than 5 to 8 high-level folders. I'll give you some examples of my own: Finances, Manufacturing, Marketing, Legal, Blog. Under these, you can have sub-folders to further bucket items. The idea behind folders and sub-folders is to make things easy to find and have a home that makes sense. Often times, less is better when it comes to this. Do not create 20 folders, because you will never find anything and you will end up saving files in a different place each time.
If you do that same activity over and over, you need to try and automate or at least batch it. There is a ton of free software out there today that can help you automate things. Today, you can connect most major pieces of software so that they "talk" to each other. This makes things so much easier than it was just 5 years ago. One of my favorites is Zapier. You can find out more about that one here, as well as 50+ other free resources.
These tools will allow you to take those tasks that don't necessarily add a ton of value but must be done and make it hands off. You need to be spending time on the things that move the needle for your business, not sending follow-up emails. Automate it! You could be creating content that your audience loves, not adding that lead data to your spreadsheet. Automate it! If something happens in System 1 that you must then replicate in System 2, you need to see how to connect these systems! Time is money, remember that.
An example of batching would be using a software tool such as Buffer for social media. This tool allows you to schedule out all of your social media posts for weeks or months in advance. You create all the content now, then schedule it to post periodically over the coming weeks. I also do this for a blog post. Typically I write blogs on Sundays and try to complete 2-4 of them at one time. This allows me to knock out a month of them at one time and have consistent content throughout the month.
When you do similar activities in batch it increases your productivity a ton! When you are in the groove with that task, such as writing a blog, you are able to pump out content much faster than if you were switching task every 5-minutes. The focus on that specific type of activity is a gold mine for getting shit done.
Ask yourself this: To grow my side hustle, my time is best served doing ...
For me, my time wasn't best-spent processing orders, packing boxes, and taking them to the post office. I am certainly capable of doing these tasks but I knew that my time is better served in other places. Truthfully answering this question is especially important with a side hustle because the time you have available to work on it is already very limited. If I did all the order fulfillment myself then I would not have time to create content and work other products that will propel my side hustle forward and help serve my audience.
A few things to consider are:
Get a Virtual Assistant (VA) to help you out. There are VA's that can do everything from manage emails, handle customer service, finances, personal task, and many many more things. You can look at sites such as Fiverr to find freelance VA's, or you can look at more VA specific sites such as VirtualEmployee.
If you have a physical product that must be shipped, check into Amazon FBA or find a local logistics company to do the warehousing and order fulfillment. I went with the latter options and found a small local logistics company in Atlanta, GA that would give me great customer service and I wouldn't feel like a "small fish in a big pond".
If your side hustle depends on good quality written content, then you should consider hiring a ghostwriter through a service such as GhostBlogWriters.com or Fiverr.
If you aren't familiar with it, a ghostwriter is someone that will write on a topic of your choice and not require credit to be attributed to them - it looks like you wrote it. Typically you will both agree on a set amount of words that the blog post should contain, the frequency in which the blogs should be written, and the topics. From there, it is pretty much hands off until you hit publish on your site.
If you are truly chasing freedom in your life, you MUST systematize your business! Get started today and you will see immediate benefits in your productivity and you will be able to leverage outsourcing options much easier.
If you need help adding structure to your life and side hustle so that you can systematize things, check out The Side Hustle Journal.