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Becoming an entrepreneur is a dream many people have, but often the fear of leaving a steady salary keeps people from pulling the trigger.
In reality, running a small business doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. By starting your company as a side hustle while you continue to work your 9-to-5 and earn a paycheck, you take most of the risk out of being an entrepreneur. You also get the opportunity to test out your idea to see if it could sustain you full-time financially.
If you do decide to launch a side hustle, you’re not alone. In fact, 37% of Americans have a side hustle that brings in an extra stream of income. Whether you plan to grow the business over time or simply add money to your wallet, start small and grow as you’re ready.
1. Pick something you have time for
You might fantasize about opening a restaurant, but that isn’t something that’s easy to do a few hours a week while you continue to work full-time as an employee. Businesses that work best as side hustles include:
- Affiliate marketing
- Freelance writing
- Selling crafts
Before you invest any money into this new passion, research what it takes to not only start a business like this but also sustain it. If you can’t commit the time needed to make it succeed, you may want to wait until you can devote more energy to it.
2. Have a slow rollout strategy
You won’t have a ton of time to plan your initial launch if you’re working a minimum of 40 hours a week, so spread out your efforts to avoid burnout. Your plan might look like this:
- Month 1: Get a website and logo designed
- Month 2: Set up social media channels
- Month 3: Open a business bank account
- And so on
By spreading these tasks out, you allow ample time to get them done right the first time. Anyone who has ever had a website designed will tell you that, even if the designer tells you it will take two weeks, it will likely take a lot longer. If you’re in no rush, this won’t impact your ability to launch.
3. Choose an established platform
Reinventing the proverbial wheel costs more, takes more time, and is more challenging to find customers. On the other hand, if there’s an existing platform you can use for your side hustle, you can start making money sooner.
Uber is the obvious example of a side hustle platform that’s essentially plug-and-play. But you can also get your green thumb on with Lawn Guru, deliver packages for Amazon Flex, or dog sit with Rover. Even if you still want to launch a fully-fledged business related to an existing platform down the road, becoming a provider through a tried-and-true channel can teach you a lot that will be helpful later on.
4. Get your finances in order
Another perk of having a side hustle and starting slow is that you don’t need a lump sum up front, and most side hustles are pretty low-cost to get started. Still, you do need to create a budget to understand your expenses and how much you can potentially earn (and how soon).
Creating a budget for your side hustle will require a little research, as you’ll need to find out what things cost, from website domain hosting to email marketing software, depending on your needs. In addition to any digital expenses, you’ll have, including equipment (more on that in a minute), office supplies, and materials if you plan on making, for example, crafts to sell on Etsy.
You may want to spread your initial expenses out over several months, the way you did your rollout strategy, so that you can spend a little here and there rather than a lump sum.
You’re probably motivated to start this side business because you want to make extra money, but realize that may take some time. It may be several months before you find a steady stream of customers, particularly if you start your business from scratch. Make sure you can cover all expenses until you start being profitable, or your side hustle will stall out.
5. Get the equipment you need
Speaking of equipment, you more than likely need at least a few items. At the bare minimum, you’ll want a phone, tablet, or computer to do business online. Beyond that, you may need specialty items or equipment specific for your type of business.
If you want to sell produce at the farmer’s market, you’ll need a mobile point of sale system. If you make jewelry, you might want a large desk with a magnifier and lamp on it. If landscaping is your thing, you’ll need a reliable mower and weed eater.
You can save on equipment by looking on Craigslist for used items, but make sure they’re new enough and in good enough condition to rely on them. The last thing you want is for your mower to die in the middle of a job.
6. Do your homework
The more you know about the industry you’re getting into, the more successful you’ll be. Know who the competitors are, both locally and internationally. Know what people charge. Know who your audience is, and where they like to connect with these types of brands.
Beyond that, it can be helpful to read books and blogs about running a business in general. If you don’t have any business experience, paying sales tax, managing your bank accounts, and ordering supplies may be foreign to you.
7. Make time to invest in your side hustle
Initially, sure, you’ll be so excited about your new side hustle that you’ll spend every waking hour working on it. But over time, your enthusiasm may wane, particularly if you’re not seeing results. Remember: you’ve got to put time and energy in (especially in marketing your business) to attract customers and keep them coming back. No one said it would be easy!
Resist the urge to work on your business when you’re at your day job, or you’ll risk being fired. Establish a schedule for when you’ll focus on the side hustle after hours. If you’re a night owl or an early riser, these might be the best times to put in a few hours each day.
If you have a passion that you want to turn into a business, starting it as a side hustle is the best way to test the waters while learning the market and bringing in revenue.
Guest author: Susan Guillory is the President of Egg Marketing, a content marketing firm based in San Diego. She’s written several business books, and frequently blogs about small business and marketing on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and Cision. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.