Your career should be your main meal, but who’s to say having a little desert — like some extra cash every month — is being indulgent? I believe in living the good life, and if that means putting in a few strategic hours after you wrap your day at the office, I’m all for it.
For many of my clients, it’s usually not feasible to quit their job and just follow their passion. In fact, it makes sense to keep their job and start dabbling in the creation of a side business that can increase their income, saving enough so they can eventually quit and take the business full-time.
While that may be the goal, I think it’s important to have practical expectations and goals for the short term too. Here are a few tips for getting a side business going, so you can start to earn a little extra jingle every month.
- Check with your boss first. Before you start sharing your know-how with the world, check with your company to ensure starting a side business does not violate the rules of your contract.
- Start with what you know. If you work in a certain industry, then see if you can leverage what you already know and love into a viable service or product business. That might mean doing consulting, or packaging your knowledge into products.
- Start by contacting your immediate network. This is where a social networking tool like LinkedIn or Facebook comes in handy. Just let people know what services you’re offering, and if they know anyone who could benefit from them.
- Start collecting some market research. This is especially important if your plan is to sell information products. The best way to do that is through an interactive web site like a blog. Creating your own blog isn’t as complicated as it sounds, and you can get your own domain name and hosting for cheap.
- Once you’ve got one or two paying clients, start asking for referrals. If you’ve been able to create results and provide value for your clients, they’ll be happy to refer more work your way.
- Balance the side business with your time off. Be upfront with your clients about your situation, and don’t schedule calls or plan to do work during your day job. Let them know that you’re available evenings and week-ends, and make sure to set boundaries for yourself so you don’t overdo the work time.
- Launch your website. Once you’ve gotten into the groove of providing some great results for your clients, it’s time to officially hang your shingle. You might be able to get away with a business card or a Facebook page, but getting a web site is a must if you want to put your best foot forward.
- Don’t be afraid to outsource. If you’ve been bringing in a healthy side business income, don’t be afraid to hire out the work that you’re not able to do. If that means hiring a web designer, or getting someone to help market your services, then do it.
- Take your new experience back to the office. When you’re at work, you want to give it all you’ve got. Likewise, give your private clients your best stuff.
- Start making the transition. Soon you’ll be able to reach a tipping point, and the opportunity to stay at your job and reduce your hours might present itself. That’s the road to entrepreneurship!
Creating a side business is a great way to improve your skills, and might help you bring fresh insights to your day job too. It’s also a good way to test the waters and see if your product or service is marketable before you jump ship into full time entrepreneurship. Similarly, it’s perfect if you want a little more stability and options in today’s topsy turvy economy.