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Start-up Advice

How To Build A Side Hustle Into A Massive Success

Emmy-winning entrepreneur Natalie MacNeil’s 10 tips for conquering the world.

Kelsey Humphreys




Natalie MacNeil is an Emmy Award-winning producer and the bestselling author of She Takes on the World, The Conquer Kit and Conquer Your Year.

MacNeil is now focused on transforming businesses around the world through The Conquer Club, a 12-month incubator programme for entrepreneurs. She has appeared in outlets such as Inc., Forbes, ForbesWoman, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Mashable and more.

I recently sat down with her to ask how others can take on the world – and conquer it.

1. Quiet your mind

MacNeil wanted to go solo after college, but faced opposition from friends, family and colleagues. Most recommended she first get “some real world experience.” She also had doubts herself. To figure out what to do, MacNeil unplugged from life and went alone to Europe.

“Sometimes we need that,” she explains. “Sometimes we know what’s right for us, but as Steve Jobs said, we let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out what we know is our truth and what feels right for us.”

On her trip, she not only felt convinced she was meant to start a business, but also came up with the “She Takes on the World” concept. Listening to your intuition is key, MacNeil believes, and can lead to the best feeling in the world: alignment. She defined this as “when you feel like you are in the right place, doing the right thing.”

Related: Entrepreneurs Should Always Be Dabbling In Side Businesses. Here’s Why

2. Make the time

When MacNeil started She Takes on the World, she was actively running her first business with her co-founder. What she is known for now was actually her side hustle for about three years. How did she make the time? She made use of what she calls five-to-nine time, the space outside of one’s nine-to-five.

“There were a few solid hours every day that I would focus on just doing two or three things to move forward,” she says.

“Sometimes that was creating a smaller digital course, sometimes it was writing for the blog or sometimes it was writing for another media outlet. Sometimes it was filming a video, but just small baby steps.”

3. Maximise that time


When you carve out that time, make the most of it. Like many of the entrepreneurs I interview, she swears by batching.

“Batching is my life,” she jokes.

For example, she does all of her meal planning and preparation on Sundays so that she wastes no time on meals during the week. When I chatted with her, she had recently shot 72 videos – basically her video content for the entire year – during a four-day shoot.

But as entrepreneurs, we have new ideas and we want to tweak and to hone, so I had to know, do you still love that video when it actually comes out nine months later? Not always, she said, but as the saying goes, done is better than perfect.

“As an entrepreneur [you need to learn] to just let go of the perfection,” she says. “My goal is to always get things to where I’m 80 percent happy, and then we get it out there, and we get feedback and we tweak it along the way.”

Related: How Nyalu Communications Began as a Side Business but Grew to Success

4. Make the commitment

MacNeil creates and publishes a massive amount of content each year. It’s necessary, she explains, if you want to build a personal platform and grow a blog into business – or grow any business in today’s content-driven world. Many don’t find success because they can’t stay committed.

“It’s a huge investment of time and resources and so many people give up along the way,” she says. “If you want [big opportunities], you’ve got to be in this for the long haul. So find something that you are going to be passionate about, talking about on a regular basis, because you’ve got to do it and you’ve got to do it consistently.”

Consistency is a key component of commitment, and one of her biggest pieces of advice to rookie entrepreneurs. She explains that between 2008 and 2011, there wasn’t a single week that went by where she didn’t work on the She Takes on the World brand.

5. Choose your priorities

Once you make time and start to maximise that time, it’s important that you have your priorities straight. If you don’t know the big picture goals, you’ll end up putting effort into tasks that don’t actually move the needle for your business. For MacNeil, those goals included getting press coverage, finding an agent and getting a traditional publishing deal. To stay on track she has a “5 by 5” Plan: five major goals a year, with five important tasks per goal.

“These are 25 main things that you’re working on for the year, which I find makes your year flow a lot better,” MacNeil says. “Focusing on 25 things in 365 days [makes it easier to know] what to say yes to and what to say no to.“

Related: Hustling on a Side Business? How to Find the Time.

6. Get really (really) detailed


At this point in the interview, as MacNeil gave examples on how to break down goals and steps, I literally touched her arm to make sure she was human, and not a robot. The woman is a planning machine. She’s passionate about this step because she believes many entrepreneurs don’t realise just how much detail should go into their planning.

“The biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs make is not having enough deliverables,” she says. “Not having enough things to hold yourself accountable.”

7. Be proactive

One of the big turning points for She Takes on the World was a Forbes feature on MacNeil. The feature came about, she explained, because she proactively followed reporters, journalists and editors on twitter. She made sure she was engaged in their conversations.

“That is an investment of your time but one that can definitely pay off,” she says. “Business is all about building strong relationships. And Twitter was the platform that I used to build relationships with people who I otherwise may not have had access to.”

8. Take care of yourself

Like many peak performers, MacNeil is a believer in green juices, bulletproof coffee, staying hydrated and eating whole, organic foods. She is also a big believer in meditation and breathing exercises, which she’s practiced for years.

“Health is wealth,” she says. “You’ve got to take care of you, so that you have the energy to do the work that you want to do in the world.”

Related: How To Start A Side Hustle Without Quitting Your Day Job

9. Find support

MacNeil says she believes mentors and mastermind groups are vital for success.

“I think you need to surround yourself with people who are going to lift you up,” she says. “You need to surround yourself with people who have been where you want to go.”

She warned about working with mentors that are too far ahead of you in their journey. Many times they can’t remember what it’s like to be in your shoes, so find someone who is just a few steps further along.

Support for MacNeil also includes a team of about 18, from part-time virtual assistants to production teams and a house cleaner. She recommend to look at your budget and start outsourcing small things as soon as you can.

10. Create a vision

Early on, people in MacNeil’s life didn’t understand how she was making so much money from a blog. But She Takes on the World was never a blog to MacNeil. From day one, she treated the brand as a media company, even raising a round of funding to build the first iteration of her online membership platform. Having a long-term vision is vital not only for success but also for your own morale, she says.

“Know your purpose, stay in alignment with that, stay grounded in that, remember that why, always,” she says. “Remember who you’re serving.”

This article was originally posted here on

Kelsey Humphreys is an entrepreneur and journalist on a mission to inspire and equip you for success. She is the creator of the Pursuit Planner and author of the Amazon bestseller Go Solo. Catch her interviews with today's leaders on her show The Pursuit.

Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden




You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

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Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden




Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck


This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

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Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black




Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

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