Global keynote speaker, obsessive entrepreneur, published author and investor, Nic Haralambous guides, inspires and encourages people to build better businesses and continually move closer to living the kind of life they want, and a life that makes them happy. “The first step is the most difficult,” says Nic, who is so passionate about The Hustle that he has developed a side hustle course that prepares anyone interested to turn an idea into extra income. 

Let's start with the basics... What is your definition of a side hustle? 

A side hustle is something you do that generates income that adds to your existing income stream. It's not your core focus but might become a focus over time. 

At what point should your side hustle become your business? Is it a question of your side hustle reaching a certain profit, or are there other factors that need to be taken into consideration? 

There really isn't a binary answer to this. Side hustles are about each individual and their context. I like to tell people to set their "Success Triggers" and their "Failure Triggers" for their own side hustles. A success trigger is the point at which you have achieved your version of success for that particular business. Failure is the opposite - when you know it's time to reconsider the viability of the side hustle. So there may never be a point at which a side hustle becomes your main gig if it's not what you want for that particular venture. 

In this day and age, does everyone need a side hustle, or are some people simply not built for it? 

Anyone can have a side hustle, definitely! Really what you are trying to do is set up your life to have multiple sources of income. This is not to be mistaken with passive income, side hustles can become passive, but most will start out as pretty active for the person starting out. I believe that diversified income streams are a smart way to ensure that you aren't dependent on a single company, job or income to survive. 

Jobs are changing quicker than we can re-skill and lifetime careers at a single company are no longer. What would your advice be to matriculants entering the job market? 

Take the opportunities that present themselves. You may want to be the CEO of a global brand, but you must start somewhere and there is no such thing as wasted experience. You need to start out sapping up as much knowledge as you can and you never know where the job you get will take you in the future. 

You also don't know what your career path will be. I started out studying journalism, politics and philosophy while working jobs at radio stations and newspapers as a journalist. I was also building businesses in my spare time and using my salary to fund my startups. I soaked up any and all experience and built a network of friends and colleagues as I was going. This is how you build a business life. 


Is big corporate experience still relevant? 

Absolutely, yes! But as with everything in the world it all depends on your context. From a young age I found myself to be unemployable and frustrated with the corporate world but I still did my time at big media houses and Vodacom to gain experience, build a network and then strike out on my own. 

There is no urgency to be an entrepreneur but if there are no jobs then you'll have to make one for yourself by starting a business.

...if there are no jobs then you'll have to make one for yourself ...

You've noted that there is a difference between self-care and selfishness, and you highlight the importance of mental and physical fitness and health. What self-care do you practice - how do you start and end your day? 

I am extremely aware of my own mental and physical health after I spent my 20s with ailments caused by stress (stomach ulcers, kidney stones, insomnia and migraines). Now I start my day at around 05:30, I exercise for 30 minutes, then walk my dogs to get out of the house. I come back, shower, meditate for ten minutes and then start working. I have also put a permanent out of office reply on my email because email is not my job and creates anxiety for me. In the evenings I do another 30 minutes of exercise, walk my dogs to get out of the house then come home, shower, cook dinner with my partner every night together and then we either read our books, listen to a podcast or watch a short episode of something on TV. I'm sleeping by 21:30 every night. 

How can I grow my side hustle when I work 9 to 5 and have no capital? 

What you need to do is plan. Everyone has spare time, most South Africans watch upwards of 4 hours of TV a day. Right there you have 4 hours of spare time to work on a new income stream. Be honest with yourself and carve out as much time as you can afford in your week to work on your side hustle. 

You also don't need to spend money to build something on the side. You can spend time and effort before you spend money. If you do need capital to get started then I urge you to be patient. Pay off the debts you owe before you think of spending more money on a new project. Then save a little bit every month for a year and see how much capital you have to get started with. 

Covid-19 is changing our world. Is it more important now more than ever to have a side hustle? 

I think this is just the next cycle of life really. The global pandemic has accelerated the progress of the world. We are all more connected now than ever before, there is lots of opportunity all over the world despite the economic depression we're about to enter. Be patient and be consistent and you'll win in the end. 

In such a digital world where people connect more through a screen than face-to-face, is customer service still a key element of a successful side hustle? 

I'm not sure that post-pandemic the world will be more digital in terms of meetings than before. I think we're more comfortable with the idea of digital meetings, but I crave personal interactions often. Regardless, customer service is always an important part of any business but it's not the same for every business. It's key to figure out what your customers want from you and then give it to them.

You don't need to spend money to build something on the side...

What is the worst business advice you've ever heard? 

I was told by an investor once that "...these leases will be easy to get out of if we want to." That was completely and utterly incorrect. If you are opening a physical store in a mall or a building with a landlord then the lease will not be easy to get out of. Consider this before you spend money opening physical retail. 

What unlikely or fun side hustle do you know of that became massively successful?

Two come to mind, at differing scales. The first is 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. This business started in 1989 by a 19-year hustler who had a van and wanted to make some cash. He carefully and patiently built the business to a behemoth generating more than $300m in annual revenue. 

The second is White on Rice, a very smart guy I know called Ross Simmons started out trying to do a new piece of origami every day for a year as a challenge and ended up leaving his job as a web developer to do origami fulltime.