Does this sound familiar? You know you want to start your own business, but for whatever reason, you can’t quite take the plunge into full-time entrepreneurship.
That doesn’t mean you have to put your dreams on hold. Instead, consider starting your business as a second job or side hustle while you maintain other employment.
If you already juggle a busy schedule, starting a side hustle will make things even more hectic. Yet some people thrive under pressure and accomplish more when they have a finite supply of free time.
Plus, testing your business idea as a side hustle means you’ll still have a safety net in terms of regular income, benefits and other employment perks.
Yet it’s not a decision to be made lightly. The biggest thing is to make sure your side hustle won’t be in conflict with your other employment. You don’t want to set yourself up for disciplinary or even possible legal problems with a current employer.
Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, put yourself on the path to side hustle success with the following checklist.
1. DEFINE YOUR VISION.
When you get caught up in the excitement of launching your own business, it’s easy to get lost in the details of your venture. Yet it’s so important to start by defining your entrepreneurial vision — you want to address the “what” and “why” before you start considering the “how.” Try answering these questions:
- What will your business offer?
- Why do you want to start this business?
- What makes your business different from your competitors?
- What do you hope to accomplish with your business?
Answering these questions — as well as defining your company’s mission — will not only help keep you on track, but will also help inform later work, such as crafting your company story and messaging.
2. SET YOUR BUDGET.
Ready to crunch some numbers? Here are a few important figures to consider: how much are you bringing in from other employment? How much money do you need for bills and living expenses? What are your initial and ongoing side hustle expenses?
You’ll want to break out costs of everything you can think of that you’ll need to get your side hustle going. Will you need inventory? Where will it be sourced/produced? Shipping materials? Office space or other premises? Support services? Research as many costs as you can to help prevent you from being blindsided by the cost of doing business. You might want to reach out to other entrepreneurs in your area to get their input. Or register for Kauffman FastTrac, a free online course that will help prepare you to start your business, including setting financial goals and identifying possible sources of funding.
3. ASSESS YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS (AND BE REALISTIC).
While you work on your budget, this is a prime time to assess your business needs. The most important advice: be realistic! When starting and running a business, it’s always easier to start small and then scale up. Use that same approach here. Do you *really* need separate office space, or can you run your side hustle from home for awhile? Supporting services can be another big expense. It’s a good idea to enlist the help of an accountant from day one — and, depending on your business and industry, a lawyer. Yet in your company’s early days, you don’t necessarily need to foot the bill for outsourced services like a marketing agency.
Try this approach. First, write down every single business need or expense that comes to mind. Then, revisit the list and pare it down to the essentials. Remember: you can always scale up as your business grows and you bring in more money. This exercise is more about determining what you absolutely need to launch (and run) your side hustle so that you’re not left scrambling.
4. LAUNCH A WEBSITE.
In today’s increasingly digital world, a website is among your business’s most important assets. A well-designed, responsive (read: mobile-friendly) website that’s easy to navigate will help more people learn about your company and understand why they should do business with you. There are a number of tools like Squarespace and Wix that can help you build basic, functional websites from a template. Or you can enlist the help of a web developer and designer to bring your vision to life.
Consider this, especially as you build your budget: robust, sophisticated websites aren’t cheap — and they shouldn’t be. This might be another place where you start small — with one of the aforementioned template-based tools, for example — and then refine or redesign your website once you can comfortably cover the expense.
5. FIND CUSTOMERS.
We’re guessing your goal is to build your side hustle so that, at some point, it becomes your full-time hustle! And that’s why it’s so important to find customers. A website is an effective place to start. You should also set up accounts on at least a couple of social media sites. Think about where your prospective customers might be and start there. Depending on your budget and type of business, you can also spread the word with direct mail pieces (assuming you have a mailing list) or go guerilla and distribute flyers in local businesses.
Another helpful resource: networking events. Grab a stack of business cards and share your side hustle story while you mix and mingle. And even in today’s technology-gripped world, few tactics can beat the power of word-of-mouth referrals. Make sure your friends and family know about your side hustle and encourage them to share the great news!
6. MAKE A SCHEDULE.
Starting a side hustle while you juggle other employment and a personal life can be challenging. And that’s why it helps to make a schedule. Where can you make time for your side hustle? If you have a full-time day job, for example, you’ll probably want to carve out early morning, evening and/or weekend hours to devote to your side hustle. If you can, try to schedule in time for personal interests, relaxation and self-care to help avoid burn-out and keep you as rested and refreshed as possible. As your side hustle grows and you bring in more income, then you can look at opportunities to scale back other employment hours so that you’re able to devote more time to your business.
Follow these tips and, before long, you just might find that your side hustle becomes your full-time career. We’re cheering for you every step of the way!