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A side hustle has been viewed for years as a way to make a peripheral small income on top of your full time salary or main business. And other names such as “lifestyle business” often give the impression that such a business is destined to stay peripheral.

However, if a side hustle becomes successful, then it is legitimate to ask the question of whether it should grow beyond just being something on the side, and if so, when is the right time?

In business, timing can be everything. So it’s worth being able to read the signs.

Scaling up a side hustle to become a main business isn’t as simple as just clicking your fingers and making it so. It will involve hiring more staff, applying for different licenses and a whole lot of new considerations, so it can’t be done half-heartedly.

It requires you to be ready to make what might be tough, life-changing decisions – and some of them might be surprising to you. Below, we’ll look into some tips for recognizing when the iron is hot, and when to strike.

1. A buzz is developing – and escalating

Your side hustle can be anything from domestic cleaning to investment advice. But one thing that all side hustles tend to have in common is that they are commonly advertised through word of mouth.

One person asks another how they keep making profits on the markets, and the latter explains it’s all down to sound advice, and voila – you’ve got another customer.

A buzz happens when this is repeated time and again. If you find that your efforts are being praised further and wider – and you’ll often know this because you get enquiries from out-of-state – it may well be time to ramp things up.

It’s not necessarily the case that if you can make a nice pile of supplementary cash from ten hours’ work a week, you can make five times as much from a fifty-hour week. But if you know where to make additions and changes, a business you started out of boredom could eventually become a billion-dollar concern.

The key word there is “eventually”. The longer you’re doing this work, the better your instinct for when to scale up will become, and the better you’ll be at managing each step.

2. Your gap in the market is bigger than you realized

Sometimes people start a business with the idea of selling a few products to a small audience covering a minimal geographical range, and are happy for it to stay that way. But after a while, they realize that there is consistent demand for their products and curiosity about what they have planned in the future.

You may not have even considered developing any other products, but not every big hit business is planned as such. For example, Yankee Candle started when one young man didn’t have the cash to buy his mother a birthday present and his DIY candle attracted attention from a neighbor.

If people are clamoring for new product, and you have the ability to provide it, then it’s worth riding the wave and building past your initial forecasts.

Sometimes, there is an obvious and natural way to make your business bigger and broader. When presented with this kind of opportunity, it would be a shame to waste it.

Read also: 6 Ideas for Side Hustles That You Can Start This Weekend

3. Bigger business is interested in you

Sometimes, you won’t want to turn your spare-time business into something that takes up all of your time, but there can be ways to make a profit from your idea without giving up your freedom.

If a small business is doing well enough, it’s liable to attract the attention of a bigger business. You can look into either selling your business completely, or allowing a takeover while retaining a stake.

There are important steps to take in order to value a business before you make any decision. But if you believe in your product, sometimes letting someone else take it to a wider market is the smart choice. You can make a decent profit from your idea, but without the pressure that is involved in bigger business decisions.

If this opportunity comes to you, it doesn’t mean you have to give up working a few extra hours a week on your own project. As long as you’re sticking to the terms of any sale – which will usually involve not competing directly with the buyer – it may be worth putting the proceeds of a business sale towards starting up something new based on another idea you have had.

Some people are serial startup entrepreneurs – recognizing where their talents lie, they have an idea and make it real, and then have another idea. They’ll let more conventional business owners take their idea all the way, and not let anything slow up the conveyor belt of ideas.

Read also: How Becky Started a Shopify Side Hustle and Paid Off $80K of Debt

4. You’re noticing some competition

Finally, scaling up your side hustle might be a step that you feel bound to take because you’ve noticed a few others trying to compete for your share of the market.

If you’ve been around for longer than they have and have built up a reputation, then it’s worth seeking to protect that reputation by expanding and offering a more competitive service. 

New businesses in your market will usually try to offer something that undercuts you. They’ll offer lower prices, a gimmick product or something similar. It will be important to underline your value by reasserting your position in the market.

Expanding your line of products or services or dropping your prices – along with your existing trusted status – should serve to remind customers that you’re the original and the best.

Taking a side hustle up a notch is something you may find yourself doing for a number of reasons. Whatever the reason may be, it is important that you show awareness of where you stand at all times.

There are ways to scale up while still enjoying your freedom and spare time, and ways to do it while looking to expand your role. The most important thing is that you do it in a way which works for you.