The secret secret to making money without burning out

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A tangible revenue goal that is meaningful to you will help you scale your sideline business without overload. Here’s the one that worked for me.

I started my first business, a fashion retail business, seven years ago while working a full time job and attending school evenings and weekends.

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Thinking that you will earn as much as possible is a surefire way to burn out

An average of 4.4 million companies are launched in the United States each year. As a financial and business coach I teach starting entrepreneurs, who grow a company next to their job, how to increase their turnover without reaching a total burnout.

Like 59% of female entrepreneurs, I wanted to experience more balance between work and family. I mistakenly thought that being an entrepreneur would provide more flexibility, but the opposite turned out to be the case. My first year of running my own business full-time was incredibly stressful. I couldn’t figure out how to balance all my responsibilities and not lie awake at night.

The worst part: I worked twice as hard as I did in my corporate job, but I wasn’t making any money. I made the mistake of setting a business goal to earn as much as possible without a clear goal or strategy.

The concept of ‘finding your why’ was too abstract for me

When it comes to effectively setting business goals, a common piece of advice I’ve received from other entrepreneurs and thought leaders like Simon Sinek is “find your why”. Instead of just setting an arbitrary revenue target for your business, add a meaningful reason to make it more motivating for you.

However, when I tried this, my list of reasons still felt abstract, self-indulgent, and downright difficult:

  • I want to be financially independent.
  • I want to be more generous.
  • I want to have more free time.
  • I want to go on vacation more often.

Finding your why takes time and patience, and I didn’t feel like I was in a financial position to have either. The fear of going deeper into debt paralyzed me from taking action to move my business forward. I had to make money or my bills wouldn’t get paid.

A simpler start: match your income target to your housing

Instead, I set a very practical and measurable revenue goal for my early-stage business: I want to make enough money to pay my mortgage.

According to US Census Bureau datathe median monthly mortgage was $1,672 in 2021. However, a 2023 Lending Tree survey found that new homeowners are now paying an average of $2,317 because of higher interest rates and rising home prices.

Whether you rent or buy, you will have to pay for housing anyway. Instead of making as much as I could, I reset my company’s revenue target to $2,000 a month. That was the amount I needed to cover my mortgage. If I sold enough of my services, I equated it to living essentially mortgage-free.

Use this revenue target to drive your pricing strategy

This more tangible goal allowed me to set a realistic price to boost my activity each month. To reach $2,000 I could choose from selling to:

  • 100 customers for $20;
  • 20 customers for $100; or
  • Two customers for $1,000.

I ended up choosing the middle option, rationalizing that on average I needed one client every weekday and I could still take the weekends off. I set aside every sale for my mortgage and that made every sale more rewarding.

If you’re trying to scale a side job and feel like you’re not making progress, you probably need to recalibrate your money goals. I started with the basic need of a roof over my head, and the assurance that it would not be taken away from me.

Now I’ve made a six-figure income working less than 30 hours a week — in the hustle and bustle that eventually replaced my day job. Paying for those costs through my business was the “why” element I needed to keep moving forward, even in tough times.

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