My 3-step Planning Method: Make an Action Plan for Your side-hustle

My 3-step Planning Method- Making an Action Plan for Your side-hustle, how to plan and get a side-business organised

Not so long ago I was stuck in job I hated and longed to get out. I just didn’t fit into the corporate mould and I despised having to sit in a dull, grey office from 9-5 regardless of how much work I was actually doing.

I’d watch the clock tick down and at 4.59pm I’d look for other people who were packing up so I too could get the hell out of there without too many judging looks. How many of us have been there?

I longed to be my own boss, to have the freedom to choose my own work hours and create a lifestyle that was meaningful to me. My escape route was my side-hustle, I had some ideas and all the intention but I was darting around from shiny object to shiny object. There’s was no focus or direction to what I was working on.

So I decided to get serious about my side-hustle and create an intentional plan that would level up my business.

Desk with notebooks and lit candle

I’ve been side-hustling for about 7 years but it was only this year that I finally went part time at work so that I had more freedom and time to do the work I really love.

So, why did it take me so long? Well, there are quite a few reasons and I’ve got another post coming on that soon but one of the biggest reasons was that I just wasn’t planning for my side-hustle effectively. I was flitting around from project to project and getting distracted by lots of new ideas. I was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things I felt I had to be doing and that was dividing my focus and limited time over too many things.

In a nutshell I was an anxious, stressed, hot mess. 

After a couple of failed attempts at annual planning I used my project management skills from my 9-5 to create an easier, less pressure way of planning. Very quickly it just clicked and I started to make some big things happen in my business. My business grew and I was feeling way more in control.

Desk with laptop and notebooks

The action plan that I create each quarter using my 3-step planning method is at the centre of everything I do in my business. It tells me exactly what I need to do each week to reach my goals in the most time-efficient and impactful way. Because after all, growing a side-hustle is about creating a business that supports the lifestyle you really want to live - it’s not about working around the clock between a 9-5 and a side-hustle with no time for anything else.

That’s why making an intentional and achievable action plan using my 3-step planning method is first on the agenda for everyone taking my course Make a Plan > Make it Happen. We dive into it wholeheartedly, working through the steps in loads of detail to create everyone’s side-hustle action plan. The next course starts on the 5th of January and you can find out more here.

In the meantime, here’s the quick version of how my 3-step planning method works

Mug and notebook on cosy beige blanket

STEP 1: FIND YOUR FOCUS

Step one is about figuring out where my focus needs to be. I totally get that the temptation is to start with scribbling out a planning right away but to look forward it helps to look back first.

At an absolutely foundation level, the basis of any side-hustle action plan needs to be centred around the lifestyle you’re working towards and it needs to be fulfilling your purpose. Without being conscious of these things you don’t know where you’re heading. I’m think I'll forever be figuring this stuff out but as I’ve become conscious of this foundation stuff my planning has become a lot easier.

At this stage it’s also good to do a bit of a health check on your side-hustle right now. What needs to change in your side-hustle? What projects do you really want to get your teeth into but you keep postponing them? Which parts of your business need some attention?

Out of this exercise I pick a maximum of three areas to focus on over the next 12-weeks. Any more than three and I’m spreading my focus too thin.

Action plan for my side hustle on the wall

STEP 2: MAKE A PLAN

Ok, so the background work is done and this step is all about making a plan. This is where everything gets broken down and put back together into a plan that’s really approachable and simple to follow.

I set three goals around the focus areas I picked out in the first step. It’s really important to take the time to set goals, making them specific and measurable, with a deadline so that you know exactly what it’s going to take to achieve each one. If you need a hand with goal setting, take look at my post on how to set goals you're excited about.

Next, each goal gets broken down into tiny steps. To do this I grab a notebook and write down all of the steps I’ll need to take to achieve each goal. I try to make each step as small and as approachable as possible.

Then it really is time to make your plan

I used to use wallpaper samples for my plans, which worked perfectly well and are always a good option. For my plans I’ve now created an A1 printed 12-week wall planner which means I don’t need to faff about drawing the framework, it’s all done for me. And you can pick up a copy of my 12-week wall planner as well, in my shop. Here are the steps to filling out my planner:

  1. Put dates on to your plan with a start date for each week and make a note of any weeks where things might be busy at work or when you have a weekend away etc

  2. Write your three goals at the top of your plan

  3. Plot out your actions that you’ve broken down from each goal over the next 12-weeks - don’t be tempted to front weight most of your tasks to the first few weeks, try to spread them out evenly over the 12 weeks to make your plan realistic in terms of what you’ll have time to achieve each week

  4. Give it a reality check, move some stuff around if you feel like some weeks are looking too busy

  5. Set up milestones, support and accountability (that’s coming up in step 3).

Sat at desk next to my business action plan

STEP 3: GET MOTIVATED

Having a beautiful plan is one thing. Making it happen is a whole other ball game. Before I get to work on my plan, there are some things I do to give myself the best possible chance of achieving my goals.

Highlighting milestones along the way helps to break down the 12-week journey in to smaller parts and encourages you to celebrate wins as I go. Another thing I do to motivate myself is set a reward to look forward to at the end of the 12 weeks and use it as a way of celebrating my achievements - otherwise it’s all to easy to just keep looking ahead without taking a moment to acknowledge what I’ve achieved.

Having a support system around you when you’re getting serious about your side-hustle is essential for lifting you up and getting you through the tough bits. For me this has come in a few forms, setting up an accountability partnership with a business buddy, working with a mentor and joining communities online.

Notebook and a cup of tea on a blanket

And there’s one last accountability push, I make my goals a little more public. In the past I've done things like told my audience the live date of a new product I’m launching on Instagram or said there’s a new freebee available on my website in my podcast which is scheduled for a weeks time, before I’ve even created it. This always helps to light a fire under me. I’ve also found working with a coach invaluable for helping me stick to my goals and actually achieve them.

This planning method has been a total game changer for me. It’s given me the tools I needed to create the business and lifestyle I want and I’ve learned that growing a side-hustle doesn’t mean working all hours and getting burnt out. And I know it can do the same for you.

This just part of what we cover in a lot more detail on my course Make a Plan > Make it Happen. We’ll also make your plan happen by working on how you can be be more productive and efficient with your time and how you can create a routine that works for you and fits with your lifestyle. The next course starts on the 5th January and you can find out more here.

Pin for later

Make a Plan > Make it Happen My 3-step Planning Method for Side-Hustlers | How to make a 12 week plan for your creative business, How to make a plan for your side hustle, How to plan in creative business, Project planning for makers, Action plan for creatives