Linktree co-founder Nick Humphreys shares his top tips for growing your side hustle into a legitimate business in part three of our side hustle bootcamp.
By now you’ve done your research and you’ve got the tools you need from our side hustle bootcamp parts one and two. We ran you through how to get your side hustle off the ground. Now let’s take it to the next level.
In 2016, Linktree’s three founders were running a digital agency where they managed social media accounts for bands and music festivals. There, they noticed a market need for something: a way to connect audiences to all of your content and social media profiles with just one link. To test their idea out, brothers Anthony and Alex Zaccaria, along with co-founder Nick Humphreys, began working late nights and early mornings into the product they called Linktree. A few years later, Linktree has grown into a business with more than 12 million users who belong to more than 250 different industries, averaging 32,000 signups per day.
So what’s the secret to leveling up your side hustle? To find out, we asked Linktree co-founder Nick Humphreys to share a fundamental lessons he learned along the way so you can turn your side hustle into a legitimate, thriving business.
What does success look like to you? This is the question every side hustler needs to ask themselves.
The key is to research your goals before you set them. “You can’t just pull a revenue target out of the sky or you’ll end up disappointed when you don’t get there,” says Humphreys. “Get advice from others that might be able to help you to shape your field of vision.”
Knowing what success is will help you gauge whether or not your side hustle is working. If you’re starting a podcast, you might want to find out how many listeners brands generally want a podcast to have before they start advertising with them. From there, you could set yourself audience targets. Or if you’re selling e-books, research how many sales it takes to make it onto the Amazon Top 100 charts and aim to crack that #100 spot.
If you start hitting those targets, work on a new set of goals. If you’re not, figure out what needs to change so you can reach them.
“Be realistic with what success looks like,” Humphreys explains. “Don’t be blind to when it’s going right or when it’s going wrong.”
Don’t do it all yourself
Take it from Humphreys: “the realities of the side hustle is that you have to be incredibly good at prioritizing and efficient with your time.”
If you’re balancing a side hustle with a full time job, you’re probably going to be short on time. It’s important to automate what you can and outsource what you can afford to for efficiency. For example, get invoices automated with software like Xero, hire an agency to do marketing, or bring in a freelancer to help with writing tasks.
For Humphreys, it’s about being smart with your time. “I look at anything I have in my day to day that’s taking me away from what I do best,” he says. “What can I take off myself, so I’m not wasting time on something like finance or accounts, because I have no clue about any of that. It’s about figuring out what you do best and making space for it.”
Collaborating with existing brands or influencers can be a great way to get your product out there. It allows you to tap into someone else’s audience, so that you can start building your own following.
This might mean engaging an influencer to spread the word about your product, or coming up with a way for you and an existing business to work together on something. You could also look for public events like markets or conferences to get your product involved in. Or maybe you could write blog posts for an existing website that would help to establish your brand.
The key to a good collaboration is making sure the relationship is beneficial for both of you. Give your collaborator incentive to want to work with you. If you get strategic with this, you could open new doors for your side hustle.
To help make your dreams a reality Linktree is proud to introduce the Passion Fund: a grant program designed to give creators, business owners, activists, or anyone with a big dream, a cash boost to help them turn their passion into a living. All you have to do is tell us a bit about your dream and how you’re turning it into your livelihood. Learn more about the Passion Fund here.
Ask For Feedback
One of the most valuable tools a side hustler can get is feedback.
Whether it’s positive or negative feedback can help you assess which aspects of your product are working and which are not. You can do this formally with customer surveys or feedback forms or informally, such as by asking your peers for their opinion.
Ask for it early and ask for it often—just be wary of who you’re asking for feedback. “You don’t only want ‘yes’ people around you,” Humphreys says.
Look for people who are objective and experienced, someone who’s been there and done that. “Get a soundboard from someone who’s walked around the corner you’re about to approach. You want to rip that Band-Aid off and have open conversations. If your product sucks or something can be changed, you really want to know that early.”
According to Humphreys, the best feedback comes from customers themselves. “If you can get direct and unfiltered feedback from a customer, they don’t really care about your feelings and they don’t really care that you were up until 2am working.. What they care about is their experience and they’re generally willing to share that with you. And that is the most valuable feedback I’ve ever gotten.”
Customer feedback ultimately helps strengthen your product: “If a customer loves your mittens but hates the feel of the material, that’s good feedback,” says Humphreys.
Test, Test, Test
As we covered in part one of our side hustle boot camp, research is critical. But the flip side to that is sometimes, you have to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
Humphreys says that’s called taking the MVP, or most viable product, approach. “Just get something in the hands of consumers. Get a product in front of someone.”
That tactic helped mold Linktree into what it is today. “Once we had the Linktree prototype, we asked clients what they thought of it and what capabilities they thought it could have,” Humphreys explains. From there, the Linktree founders were able to tweak the product and make it better.
If you’re making a physical product, get a sample made. If you’re building an online business, get it up to see what bits work and which don’t. Putting something out there and learning from what goes wrong is an important stage in the side hustle journey.
Learn From Your Mistakes
No matter what kind of side hustle you’re starting, there are bound to be hiccups along the way. Things will go wrong. This is all part of the process.
What matters is that you learn from your mistakes. “Do a retrospective of any failures, figure out why they happened, then measure yourself and be willing to hold yourself accountable so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes,” says Humphreys.
A little failure can actually help you build a stronger product. Take Airbnb for example. The home rental service started as a side hustle, launched, and failed, multiple times before it got the formula right. But every failure helped co-founders Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk figure out how to make Airbnb better and eventually grow it into the billion-dollar business it is today.
Every failure is a chance to reassess and refine your side hustle—which is valuable. Go forth and fail. We believe in you.