A side business can be the bridge that takes you from where you are to where you want to go.
Probably the most obvious benefit to having a side business is the additional income. How awesome would it be to be earning an extra $500 or $5,000 per month?
But, some of other benefits that are hidden just below the surface include:
- Testing out being your own boss – You can dip your toes into entrepreneurship and find out if it’s for you or not!
- Exploring your interests in a way that’s profitable – There’s nothing like a passion project that pays!
- Connecting with other people who are on the same path
- Having new opportunities appear as a result of actions you’ve taken
- Discovering and working from your true purpose
Laying the groundwork for your hustle
If you’re planning to start a side business, the first thing to do is to discuss your plans with your family and spouse and make absolutely sure that everyone understands that this will be a new commitment that will require your time, energy, and bandwidth.
It’s much better to have everyone onboard from the start.
Next, you’ll definitely want to spend a little time getting crystal clear on your income goals for the side hustle and thinking about how much time and effort you are willing and able to put into a hustle.
Be honest with yourself here.
- Why do I want to start a side business?
- What are my short-term income goals for my side business?
- What is my longer term plan for my side business?
- How soon do I want to begin earning income from my side business?
- How much time do I want (and have) to spend working on my side business?
- Where will I work on my side business?
- What resources do I currently have available for use in building my side business?
Brainstorming business ideas
A great place to start the idea generation process is with taking an inventory of your existing skills. But I recommend keeping it focused around activities you actually enjoy doing. For instance, if you’re amazing at proofreading other people’s work, but hate doing it, you can leave proofreading off the list.
If you’re struggling for ideas, try getting out of your own head and asking those around you for their input!
Ask a minimum of five people who know you and know your work (coworkers, teachers, family, friends, etc…) the following:
- What would you say are my biggest strengths?
- What would you completely trust me to help you with?
Who do you want to serve?
Once you’ve identified the service you want to provide, it’s time to start thinking about potential target markets you could (and would enjoy) serving with the skills you’ve identified.
It’s really mind-blowing these days when you think of how many “niches” are out there that you might never even think about! People in all professions and with all sorts of businesses need assistance with all kinds of things.
Here are a few questions that will help you uncover potential target markets for your service:
- What products/services do you geek out over or gush about?
- What do you spend your free time doing?
- What causes do you strongly support?
- Is there an industry you’d love to learn more about?
- Who would you totally be lit up about working alongside/supporting?
When you’ve got a small handful of target markets you’d be interested in serving, it’s time to start researching!
- Reach out to anyone you already know in those markets and arrange a call or meeting or at least a chance to send over few questions about what “pain points” they may have and solutions they’ve tried related to the service(s) you want to offer. Do not pitch anything in these conversations. You’ll use these conversations to match your service with a real need in the market and to hear your potential customer describe the problem you want to solve for them in their own words.
- Spend time where the folks in these target markets hang out (online and offline) in Facebook groups, online forums, blogs, and offline meetups if possible. Take notes on what they say about the problems/struggles they are dealing with related to the service(s) you would like to offer.
Don’t forget about checking out the “competition.” I put “competition” in quotes here because your competition is really nothing to worry about. There are so many ways you can stand out from the pack, even if you have the same or very similar offerings. In fact, if in your research you notice a number of similar service providers out there, it could be a sign that you’ve picked a thriving market!
- Reach out to business owners doing what you want to do (or something similar). Ask them what’s working, what’s not working, what they wish they’d known before starting, get some ideas for best practices, market rates for the service(s) you want to provide, etc…
- Research existing businesses like the one you want to start.
Check out their websites, pricing, social media presence and following. Get a sense for the specific solutions they provide for their clients.
Use what you learn in your research to put your side business idea to the test.
Does your idea fit the bill according to what you’ve outlined for yourself in the seven questions above?
Will it help you meet or exceed your income goals? Does it fit into the bigger picture of your life and the lifestyle you want? Do you have the time to get this off the ground and sustain it? Do you have what you need to get started?
Now you can make an informed decision on exactly what you want to offer and to which target market. You can use what you’ve learned in speaking to and studying your target market to generate copy for a very basic portfolio website or any other posting or advertisement.
From here, it’s just a matter of getting the word out that you are open for business. I always advise my clients to start with their own existing network. Put the word out to friends and family first. Let them help! You never know who knows who!