12
9 Comments

How to keep side-hustling when you're a year in and still pre-revenue — Allison Mui of Sidekick (~1,000 users)

Arguably the best way to start a business is to keep your day job and launch a side-hustle. But it's no easy task — especially when you don't have added income to keep you motivated.

I caught up with Allison Mui (@allison_m) because she's really (side)hustling, and she has been for over a year now, but she’s still pre-revenue. Many of us would have lost steam by now, so I was curious to hear how she does it.

In short, she time-blocks, wakes up early, stays on-mission, and eats her own dog food. But she can say it better than me…


On working a side-hustle

Allison: I’m a full time product designer, and my side-project is a focus app called Sidekick. It blocks distracting sites (and soon to be apps) while timing your deep work sessions. I currently have 932 users but I’m still pre-revenue.

I’ve been working on this project for over a year, but I haven’t even attempted to monetize it yet because I feel like the current experience isn’t something I would personally pay for. I’m feeling optimistic, though — maybe six months to a year away from revenue.

It's been slow, but everyone works at their own pace, and this is mine.

On how to juggle full-time employment, a side-hustle, and health

Allison: Two things are essential for me in juggling both a job and a side-hustle: time-blocking and waking up early.

I work really hard to time-block my day. Right now, I have three priorities: my side hustle, my full-time job, and my health. I split my day into 3 blocks dedicated to those three priorities. This helps me make sure I spend each day doing what’s important to me.

I personally use Sidekick every day to help me achieve this. I have Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Zillow blocked. Then, I typically start a 3-hour work session with a break every hour. During this time, I focus on my tasks and if I get tempted to visit one of my distractions, the page gets blocked and presents my to-do list and my vision board. It also times breaks in your sessions so your mind has time to recharge.

The other thing I make sure to do is to wake up early. After a full day’s work, I often don’t have time or energy to work on my side-hustle, so flipping the order has allowed me to give my best to my project and make sure I make progress each day.

My daily structure is something like this:

  • 6am: Wake up
  • 6:30-10:30: Block 1 (side-hustle)
  • 10:30-5pm: Block 2 (full-time job)
  • 5-7pm: Block 3 (health - gym, run, yoga, etc.)
  • 7pm: Dinner
  • 9pm: Wind down
  • 10pm: Sleep

I also make sure I have one reset day every week where I don’t work at all. Instead, I spend the day lounging around, taking care of the house, and spending time with my family and friends.

On staying on track

Allison: I’ve learned to keep clear benchmarks at each phase of the project so I can ensure there’s product-market fit.

Clear KPIs and constantly talking to users lets me know that we’re doing something right.

On how she acquired 932 users

Allison:

  • The first 50 came from friends and listing on startup directories like BetaList.
  • Then, we started participating in relevant Reddit communities like r/productivity and r/sideproject. (Reddit and word of mouth have been pulling the biggest weight in growing our community. )
  • We also have a Discord community where we interact with everyone (casual conversation, product support, bugs and feedback, etc) on a daily basis. I would say this is a huge reason why our community continues to grow.

On what keeps her going

Allison: I take time every morning to meditate on my mission statement: “To create a profitable business that makes a positive impact on others and independently provides for my family and our life.”

That alone is meaningful enough to keep me going because it reminds me of my greater purpose. It reminds me that I'm doing this so that I can one day work for myself and earn enough to provide for my family.

I also journal. I write about what I’m grateful for, along with the occasional inspiring quote. Here’s one that frequents my journal:

“We who cut mere stones must always envision cathedrals.” - Medieval quarry worker's creed

  1. 2

    I am with Allison re: morning work.
    I have a full time job, a family and a side hustle that is pre revenue & pre customers!
    I wake up early and work on my app in the morning - so that it gets the best of my brain - and then work hard at my "real" job from 8.30am to 5.30pm.
    As Allison said - your brain can be pretty done by the end of the day.

    Well done to @allison_m for keeping at it!

    1. 1

      Thanks Krystie! You said it exactly. Good luck with your app!

  2. 1

    Thanks for sharing my story James!

  3. 1

    What's stopping @allison_m from putting a price on her offering and turning her "users" into customers. She says her goal is to build a profitable business: does she have a plan to start charging?

    1. 1

      Hi Sean! Thanks for question.

      Yes I do have a plan for charging! Right now, we put a pricing poll on our website to show our intention to charge and what our pricing plan will most likely be.

      Then, we have some building to do to integrate payments. We're a 2 man show so it's just a matter of time.

  4. 1

    1,000 users is an impressive start! @allison_m what KPIs are you tracking? Have they impacted how you build your product?

    1. 1

      Thanks Fluer!

      Some KPIs include monthly active users, sessions completed in a week, or total number of deep work hours.

      They've definitely helped us build our product in directing our roadmap and identifying gaps in the experience.

  5. 1

    Whoa, that's a great quote at the end there. Love it. And kudos to Allison for sticking with it! Looking forward to hearing about her making her first dollar 🚀

    1. 1

      Thanks Toni! :) Yep! It's a great mantra!

Trending on Indie Hackers
50 investors said no to us !😥So, now we are building our startup in public💪 20 comments The data proves you don't need a co-founder 15 comments Google add-on for SEO 14 comments My product is not first-need, should I keep working on it? 7 comments Why modern software is so slow 6 comments Indie Hackers' Hall of Fame 6 comments