Welcome back to the third article in our six-part series on the journey from First Sale to Full Freedom.
(We covered this model extensively back in the first installment of this series, so if you need a refresher, click here.)
In our last article, we:
- Talked about the Phase 1 of the journey in detail
- Examined exactly what you need to know to identify if you’re currently in this phase
- Showed you how you can successfully navigate to the next level (while avoiding the common pitfalls + obstacles that could prevent you from doing so)
As a reminder, here’s a graphic to show you what the journey looks like from start to finish:
In this article, we’re going to go deep on Phase 2 – Building a Sustainable Side Hustle.
We’ll start off by examining the typical business profile of a brand in this phase of their evolution.
We’ll then move on to talk about:
- What your Core Focus should be at this point
- The Key Levers you should dial in on and the critical Mindset Principles you can focus on to achieve success as quickly as possible
- The Biggest Pitfalls you need to avoid and Powerful Success Strategies you can use to navigate around the obstacles you’ll encounter during this part of your journey
By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of how your brand can move from the start of this phase (making your first sale) to the end (turning your business into a steady side hustle).
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Is This You?
If you’re in this phase of your journey, you probably:
- Have made multiple sales
- Struggle with inconsistent demand and low revenues (typically under $1,000/month)
- Have a small customer list (and even smaller number of repeat buyers)
- Generate some traffic to your website from your social media accounts, but are finding it difficult to gain traction
- Run this business “on the side”
This stage is characterized by struggle – but you don’t need to stay here for long.
Aspect #1 – Core Focus
At this stage of your journey, there’s only one thing you need to worry about:
Taking your business from a one-hit wonder to something that generates steady sales on autopilot.
Making your first sale is fantastic. Making several is even better! But until you push things further, your business is nothing more than a hobby.
Figure out how to build on that first win and turn it into 10, 100, and 1,000 more.
If you can do this, you’ll succeed in transforming your business into an asset that generates a steady stream of sales (and at least some profit)…
And someday soon, you could be collected delighted reviews for your brand – just like the ones Loox customer Rinfit get:
Aspect #2 – Key Levers & Critical Mindset Principles
To ensure that you stay on track, you need actionable tools and reliable metrics you can use to keep making progress.
With that in mind, there are three Key Levers you should use to ensure you make progress – and three Critical Mindset Principles to help you get the most out of each.
Now, let’s focus on each in more detail.
Lever #1 – Customer List
Reach is important…
But don’t forget: unless a solid percentage of the people you’re reaching convert into customers, you’re going to struggle.
Repeat purchases from existing customers are great (high customer lifetime value (CLTV) is never a bad thing). At this stage, you want to focus on getting your products into the hands of as many different people as possible.
Critical Mindset Principle: Build Your Base
You need a strong foundation before you can build a tall tower.
Your customer list is your foundation. Monitor this asset on a weekly basis. Snowball your momentum and keep your growth trending upwards.
Treasure the people who buy from you. Each and every one of them represents a potential champion for your brand. Take good care of them and you have a real chance of building a serious business.
If you can consistently create new customers, you’ll be well on your way to turning your fledgling brand into a sustainable side hustle.
Lever #2 – Social Media Followers
Your website is where sales happen, but it’s not where customers first interact with your brand.
Before you have strong referral and word of mouth systems in place, prospects will usually become aware of your business through social media.
At this stage in your journey, it’s useful to use social media for building your brand.
While there’s no need to abandon performance marketing entirely, brand-focused marketing will allow you to build trust and awareness with your audience.
This is as true for ecommerce brands as it is for billion-dollar businesses.
The more often they’re exposed to you, the more they’ll grow to see you as credible. And that’s a crucial part of completing this phase successfully.
Critical Mindset Principle: Credibility is Key
Having a respectable following on whatever platforms you use is an important indicator of trustworthiness.
Focus on engaging with your followers one-to-one, but remember that numbers matter.
Having a large number of people you can reach is an asset you’ll rely on time and again throughout your journey, so it’s worth focusing on it – even at this early stage.
Lever #3 – Connections Made
One of the most valuable marketing strategies you can use at this point in your development is to partner up with micro-influencers.
Rather than needing to build your following from scratch, you can tap into someone else’s audience and get insight into whether your offerings are valuable.
Getting access to good audiences isn’t always straightforward. Without the credibility of an established brand behind you, you need to prove that you’re trustworthy before most influencers will take a chance on you.
Critical Mindset Principle: Personal Connections Matter
There’s no substitute for making genuine personal connections when you’re getting started.
Reach out and engage with people you want to work with. Show what your business is about, what you stand for, and that you’re here for the long haul.
It’s not as exciting as driving 1000’s of visitors to your site via PPC every day. But when you’re getting started, doing things that don’t scale is the secret to your success.
The more genuine connections you make, the better the chance you’ll successfully complete this phase of your journey.
Aspect #3 – Biggest Pitfalls & Powerful Success Strategies
No two entrepreneurial journeys are exactly the same.
But as different as your story may be, there are a few pitfalls that you – just like most other ecommerce brands – will encounter along the way.
To help you navigate these obstacles, we’ll now:
- Profile them in detail (so you know what to watch out for), and
- Give you some high-value strategies you follow to stay on track for success
Here’s what’s up next:
☠️ Pitfall #1 – Too Many Platforms
Many ecommerce entrepreneurs end up devoting significant time to posting on different platforms, creating content, reaching out to potential partners, running ads, engaging with communities, and more just to cover their bases.
This is fine for a big brand with the resources to support omnipresence…
But for a solo operator, it’s a recipe for disaster.
All of these strategies can work. But none of them will unless you can give them sufficient attention to succeed.
🚀 Success Strategy: Pick Your Major
The ability to focus is a superpower. This is as true for people as it is for brands.
Pick one platform and go all-in on it. Keep focused on it until you start getting traction.
Commit to learning how that platform works. Once you’re established, feel free to branch out and syndicate your content across multiple channels for more reach. But don’t spread yourself too thin.
Pick your path and see it through: you won’t regret it.
☠️ Pitfall #2 – No Core Product
Selling multiple products can be useful for increasing Average Order Value (AOV) and CLTV. But if you don’t identify a core product to build your business around, you’ll struggle to cut through the noise.
Unless you’ve found an untapped niche to serve with no competition, high margins and tons of customers lining up for what you have to offer…
Differentiating your offer from what your competitors sell is key.
🚀 Success Strategy – Zoom In
As a startup brand, you don’t have the resources to compete against Amazon or your multi-SKU industry rivals on all fronts.
Diffusing your attention too early in the process will hold your brand back.
Specialize. Figure out what problem your brand can solve better than anyone else in the market, then dial in on finding a core product that achieves this.
☠️ Pitfall #3 – Not Enough Time
Do you think you don’t have enough bandwidth to get the results you want?
Do you feel you could move much faster if you could just work on your business full-time?
Here’s the secret:
As long as you can pick the right things to focus on, you can make meaningful progress – no matter how much time you have to devote to your brand.
🚀 Success Strategy – 80/20 Your Time
Our days are filled with action and activity…
But when we look back, only a few choices have a lasting impact.
Bear this in mind, then take a closer look at how you’re spending your side hustle time right now.
Focus on finding the 20% of actions that drive 80% of the results.
Eliminate trivial time wasters. Identify the small number of items that will make a meaningful difference on your path. Complete them, repeat them, and keep optimizing.
John is passionate about helping brands build better relationships with the people they serve. He's also a content marketer with Loox.