Patrick McGinnis and Entrepreneurship as a Side Hustle

As part of the LaunchPad Speaker Series, author and serial entrepreneur Patrick McGinnis recently spoke to students about a question on many of their minds: how should they choose between developing a career or pursuing entrepreneurship? 

Few people have the combination of conviction, expertise, and financial safety-net necessary to commit 100% of their time and energy to a fledgling startup. The risk often doesn’t feel feasible — especially right out of college, without years working in a career that provides a steady source of both income and skill-development. Patrick’s solution? Become a 10% entrepreneur.

“When you’re a 10% entrepreneur,” he explains, “you invest 10% of your time and resources in entrepreneurial ventures.”

As the author of “The 10% Entrepreneur: Live Your Startup Dream Without Quitting Your Day Job,” Patrick literally wrote the book on pursuing entrepreneurship as a side hustle. Below is some of the advice he gave LaunchPad students.

Practical advice for 10% entrepreneurs.

“I’ve made all the possible mistakes,” Patrick says with a laugh. With failure comes perspective, and Patrick offers the following pieces of deceptively simple advice.

1. Find a partner.

Working with someone else ensures accountability, which is especially important when the other 90% of your life threatens to impinge on the 10% dedicated to entrepreneurship.

2. Think about your founder/investor—market fit.

When you find an exciting idea, pause to ask why this is a business you want to start or become involved in. Where can you add the most value? The more an idea fits effortlessly with your lifestyle and skillset, the easier it will be to follow through. “Even though I do a million things, there’s a thematic consistency to my work,” Patrick says. “Think carefully about your area of impact and where you have the most power to make changes.”

3. Seek feedback.

Don’t let the fear that someone might steal your idea hold you back from asking for advice. The more feedback you get, the better you’ll be prepared to execute on your idea. This helps for fundraising too. “When you ask for money, you get advice,” says Patrick. “But when you ask for advice, you get money.” It’s never too early to start developing relationships with mentors, who can only provide advice on a specific endeavor but also suggest internships or make connections.

4. If you have a full-time job, be transparent with your employer.

In addition to following company policy about side hustles and avoiding using company resources, Patrick recommends being upfront with your employer about your side hustle. “You don’t need to wear your startup t-shirt every day and broadcast it constantly… but you can position it as a strength that makes you better at your job.”

Is it love, or is it just FOMO?

While a student at Harvard Business School, Patrick coined a term that would soon become ubiquitous: FOMO, which stands for Fear of Missing Out. 

“HBS is a choice-rich environment, and I realized this was my big chance to do everything,” he says. “But I tried to do everything and I was stressed out, tired, and sick all the time… I started talking about how I had FOMO, but I also realized that it was hard to get people to commit to anything. I called that FOBO – or, Fear of a Better Option.”

When it comes to entrepreneurship, he recommends thinking about how FOMO and FOBO might affect your actions. Are you only pursuing entrepreneurship because you think it’s cool, and you have FOMO? If so, think about doing something more traditional and finding ways to engage with entrepreneurship on the side, maybe as an investor or advisor. On the other side of the spectrum, are you avoiding committing to a specific idea or company because you’re afraid something better will come along? If so, try taking the plunge by committing 10% of your time and energy to one thing you care about.

What about all the FOMO for college students who missed a year on campus?

“There’s a silver lining,” according to Patrick. “When we face adversity, such as what has happened this past year, we typically think there are two outcomes. You’ll be damaged forever OR you’ll go back to normal and keep chugging along.”

There’s a third option, however: post-traumatic growth.

“When we go through something traumatic, if we have the right-mindset, we can actually grow from the experience and become better people.”

The best way to achieve this type of growth is to look at how you can transform your experience into building a more meaningful life and career. Patrick developed a practice that he offered to the students. He suggested making a few lists:

1. What are five new skills, habits, or activities you developed during the pandemic that you want to carry forward?

2. What are five things from before the pandemic that you miss, and want to pick back up?

3. What are five things that were a part of your life before the pandemic that you do not miss and would like to leave behind?

You can view the full talk with Patrick here, along with the rest of the speakers in the LaunchPad Speaker Series.