Growing a successful side-business in 45 minutes a day: Q&A w/ Preston Lee (Sidegig Ep. 1.5)

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In episode 5 of SideGig, we interview show host Preston D Lee, the founder of this website, Millo.

Preston grew Millo (the site you’re on right now), a highly successful blog and community, all while working in a full-time online marketing position, and raising a family.

In this episode of SideGig, we’ll show you how Preston turned 45 minutes a day into success and offer some tips for building your side hustle along the way.

You can listen to the full episode below. We’ve also included some quick-to-read notes as well. We hope you enjoy episode 5 of Sidegig.

Sidenote: Once you finish, read how 4 freelancers built recurring revenue models that changed their business. You'll love it.

How Millo started

Preston started his business in 2009 when still in college. At that time he wanted to become a full-time graphic designer, so the website was called ‘Graphic Design Blender,’ with content focused towards designers.

After 4-5 years, Preston realized he was more into the business side than the design side, and found he had more connections in that space too.

The content was becoming more business focused, so the business name had to change – he made the decision to pivot.

He re-branded and re-named the website to serve a wider audience to include freelancers, solopreneurs and entrepreneurs – anyone looking to scale their business.

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Millo as we know it today was born.

Preston’s business started out as just a blog, but he’s been able to monetize it by turning it into a profitable side business using banner ads and affiliate links. Today, Millo is almost entirely funded by sponsorships—likeminded companies who also strive to serve freelancers, solopreneurs, and small businesses.

In the future Preston hopes to release products, software, and maybe even a paid membership site, too.

Working with a team to maximize time

Preston’s biggest lesson was the day he began to confess to himself that his blog was a business. From that day forward, he started to employ people and get sponsors.

Preston runs his side hustle working with a team. This team is built of part-time employees that include:

  • Three content managers who seek out and collaborate with new writers and publish content.
  • A social media manager.
  • Someone dedicated to sourcing and managing sponsors.
  • One person managing The Freelance Report. (UPDATE: The Freelance Report is no longer active, but all the content has been archived for your review.)

With the exception of one, who Preston met through a desk job, his team has come directly from the Millo audience. Without his team, Preston could not have grown Millo to what it is today.

To determine what tasks he outsources, Preston asks himself a few key questions:

  • What metrics keep my business/website going?
  • What does my business need to keep growing?
  • What don’t I like doing? What burns me out?

Finding sponsors to make money

Preston is always on the look out for potential sponsors, looking to other similar websites and blogs. As he comes across potential sponsors, he makes use of the app Pocket to easily and quickly store a list of links.

Every few weeks he will then run through the list, sending a cold email to the potential sponsor. This email has been pre-built in TextExpander to save time, then personalized to ensure the email is targeted to the sponsor.

UPDATE: Preston now uses Pipedrive and Sales.io to scale outreach to potential sponsors.

After hearing back from the potential sponsor, Preston will state statistics from his website, then find a way to partner.

Preston finds ways to automate this whole process. The book by Tim Ferris, ‘The 4 hour work week’ tells you how you can get a lot of work done in a short period of time, and Preston follows those principles successfully.

Growing a successful business in just 45 minutes a day

Being a family man with 3 children, Preston does the bulk of his work on a 45-minute train ride to work each morning. He has a strict routine which he works through on a weekly basis. This includes:

  • Time dedicated to sponsors.
  • Brand work to grow the business.
  • Wednesdays are focused on reviewing the content calendar.
  • Thursdays are set aside to write something.
  • The remainder of the time he will be replying to emails.

Although most work is done on the train, Preston is still able to fit in an extra few hours in the week, working during lunch breaks, and sometimes at night when his children sleep.

Preston found that when his time was restrained to just his train journeys his business grew faster. This was because the short time available meant he had more focus.

Engaging with his audience

Preston makes an effort to engage with his audience, being genuine and relatable. This has helped him to learn from discussions which continue to fuel content, allowing him to serve his audience.

People are also more likely to buy your products when they see you as a friend, which is an approach Gary Vaynerchuk takes advantage of by offering so value to his following.

Future plans

The book The One Thing by Gary Keller discusses long terms plans, so what does Preston’s future look like?

Preston plans to drive Millo so its able to run as an independent business. He hopes to have more freedom, to have more time with is children and to own and grow an asset that will sustain his family.

Ready to start a side-gig? Listen the full episode here:

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About Ian Paget

Ian is a graphic designer from Manchester, UK. He runs Logo Geek, designing logos and brand identities for start-ups and SMEs. He also runs a popular social media group of the same name where he shares and creates valuable logo design resources.

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Comments

  1. I’ve listened to all 5 episodes of the Sidegig podcast, which I find extremely helpful and exciting.
    This one, however, answers many of the questions I personally wanted to ask Preston and had already told him a few months earlier!
    What I also like, is that you go straight to the point, avoiding long and useless introductions with silly jokes that waste your listeners time. (I’ve listened to podcasts that did exactly this, and it’s not my style!)
    Thanks a lot guys for the great content!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Preston, the man behind Millo has a family with 3 children who he makes his priority. He manages everything by having a daily schedule and creating blocks of time for certain tasks. You can hear more about how Preston works in our interview with him in Episode 5. […]