With over 30 million Americans working as independent entrepreneurs, not to mention all the opportunities provided by the endless stream of free social media and e-commerce platforms, there’s never been a better time or bigger audience to launch your own side hustle. Maybe you’ve always had a knack for repainting old thrift store furniture. Or maybe you’re a gifted musician who could coach other young aspiring talent. Maybe you have a specific education, training, experience or skill that you could develop into a freelance business such as financial planning or graphic design. Whatever your “thing” may be, there are plenty of good reasons to get going. First, you can make extra income on the side. Extra money is always a good thing! Second, you can set your own schedule. That way you can build your business around your life versus the other way around. Also a good thing!
Finally, you get to utilize something you’re good at and enjoy. Also a good — and fulfilling — thing! And regardless of where you are professionally now, 2017 can be the year that you get started.
But, of course, getting started is the hardest part. I coach women with side and startup businesses through my Business Boutique events all over the country, and I know how difficult and overwhelming it can seem. So, to make it easy for you, we’ve crafted a step-by-step guide to starting your side hustle.
Here are the first five steps you can take to jumpstart your side business:
1. Find community.
Just because you’re doing it on your own doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Find other people who can help support your dream, provide resources or connections that may help you, or give you advice when you need it.
2. Create the start of a plan.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or fourteen pages long. You can make your own, search for a free template online, or even use my Business Boutique Quick-Start Guide found at ChristyWright.com. It doesn’t matter how you do it; it just matters that you do it! At the very least, get a targeted to-do list started.
3. Be prepared to get scared.
Fear is just a part of the journey, and if you know that going in, you can set yourself up to overcome it. Putting yourself out there can feel vulnerable and scary, but you can’t succeed unless you do it! I write on this topic frequently because I battle fear just like you do.
4. Just take the first step.
Business can be overwhelming with all that you have to do, especially when you’re starting out. But don’t focus on all that you have to do. Just focus on one thing that you have to do. When you take that one baby step, it fuels your focus and gives you the confidence and momentum to take that second baby step.
5. Do it now.
If you wait until you’re ready, until you have more experience, or until all the details are perfect before you go for it, you’ll never do anything. Go for it now—when you’re not ready, you don’t have experience, it’s not perfect, and you’re scared out of your mind. Do it anyway. Do it scared. Ready is a myth.
Notice not one of these first five steps wasn’t “go buy a bunch of equipment and materials” or “pay $10,000 for a professional website.” Those things aren’t a bad investment later down the line when your business revenues justify it. But when you’re starting out, the problem isn’t the design of your website; it’s your fear, doubt, hesitation and feelings of being overwhelmed.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s move onto the next step.
1. For starters — have an honest conversation with yourself.
The worst mistake you can make is underestimating just how much of a lifestyle change starting your own business will be. Do you have the necessary qualities, like being extremely self-motivated, tenacious, and risk taking? How about time — are you willing to let this business dominate your life? A lot of people assume that being your own boss means having all the schedule flexibility you could want, and maybe it will be that way — eventually. But that’s certainly not what to expect for the first few or even several years. Make sure your motivation is coming from the right place, too. Is starting a business something you specifically *want* to do, or is what you’re really after simply the permission to quit a job you hate?
2. Assess if there’s truly a market for your idea.
Is your potential market large and growing, or is the space crowded already? Who will your customers be? Shop your idea around to (trusted) family and friends. Do they see a real need for it? If the service or good you want to provide is already out there, figure out what would set yours apart.
You could also fork out the cash for market analysis data from a research firm. 3. Make a budget, then find investors. It’s a tried-and-true fact of business that before you can make money, you’re going to have to spend it as an initial investment. If at all possible, talk to those already established in your desired field about their expenses, including any hidden costs they’ve encountered, and plan to include in your start-up cost budget an extra 20 percent for incidentals. If you’re intending to seek financial support from an investor or bank, you’ll also need to write a formal business plan (though you should really plan to do that regardless of investment needs).
4. Choose your business structure.
Will you have a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), or Corporation? Your structure will impact several things, including your business name, liability, and taxes. As you test your business’ viability in the beginning, it’s often suggested to go with a Sole Proprietorship. You can always change the structure later on if you determine another would better suit your needs.
5. Register your business name — and secure your social media accounts and website domain while you’re at it.
Small businesses in the U.S. are still lagging behind when it comes to web presence; a 2016 poll found that 46 percent don’t yet have a website, surprisingly. But given that more than 80 percent of consumers do online research before making a purchase, this isn’t an area you can afford to overlook.
If you have your heart set on a certain name for your business, make sure it can be translated to an available web domain and social handles. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for a major headache down the road — and limited marketability.
6. Acquire the necessary permits and licences.
There’s a lot of red tape out there. Rolls and rolls of it, in fact. This may be the least exciting part of laying the groundwork for your new business, but it’s one of the most important. The U.S. Small Business Administration has tons of resources out there for prospective business owners, including information on state and federal permits and licenses.
7. You’ll need insurance, too.
Check out this handy list of types of insurance that every small business owner should have, and plan on getting General Liability Insurance at the very least.
8. Adding a separate bank account for your business is also wise.
Mixing your personal and side/freelance business funds, even in the beginning when your business is young, will likely culminate in a lot of stress on your end, especially when it comes time to file taxes. You should be able to set up a free business account at your local credit union or bank pretty easily.
9. Determine the location for your business — but only if you absolutely need one.
Some businesses — like a restaurant, for example — mandate having a brick-and-mortar location. If your business requires a storefront, you’ll have several factors to consider in choosing the most fitting one, including accessibility, proximity to competing businesses, ordinances, and targeted demographics. If your business doesn’t technically necessitate a storefront or office space, though, then consider circling back to this step once you’re working with some actual revenue. Plenty of people are launching successful, even billion-dollar businesses from their home’s spare bedroom or garage. Don’t take on unnecessary expenses you can’t yet sustain for appearance’s sake. Plus, there may not even be a need to take on this overheard, period. There’s nothing wrong with running a successful home-based business, of course!
10. Finally — make sure you have a stellar support system in place.
Be it friends, family, or professional advisers (like a lawyer or accountant), you should be heading into your new venture fully acknowledging you’ll require a helping hand — or, more likely, several — along the way. If asking for help is something you struggle with, now’s the time to recognize that behavior as counterproductive to your success and therefore part of your pre-entrepreneurial life. You’ll need plenty of guidance during the inevitable trying moments ahead — and people to toast to your successes with, too. You’re going to need to figure out how to make time for your new side venture alongside your full-time job, too. Here’s how:
1. Make your work work for you.
Make your work work for you by finding ways to progress your side hustle. Replace your Spotify workout playlist with a business podcast on entrepreneurship instead (favorites that won’t cramp your running style are How I Built This and Startup). You never know--you might become so inspired you won’t realize you ran that extra mile!
Combine activities you’re already involved in with the business model of your side hustle. For instance, if you’re already a contributing writer for a career site like Fairygodboss, repurpose the articles you write for them for your personal blog. Make your work work for you by incorporating things you’re already doing into the model of the company. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too?
2. Touch it only once.
And not again. Do you often read your emails only to respond to them at a later time? Well, don’t. This only creates a full inbox of I-guess-I-have-to-respond-to-those-now emails. With the touch-it-once motto, you decide to read the emails only when you have the appropriate amount of time to respond to them. No one wants to do something twice, right?
This principle can also transcend into your side hustle. Example? When you’re cleaning your living space, finish that podcast you started when you were perfecting your downward dog and use Google voice notes to jot things down. By the time you’ve finished dusting, you’ve already gathered the content for your next blog post — and your shelves are clean, too!
3. Start having work dates with a like-minded friend or significant other.
And because you’re not officially on the clock (as of yet), bring the wine. Put your gorgeous charcuterie spread on the coffee table, set up camp on the couch, and start talking business. Your Friday night at home doesn’t feel so bad when you’re feasting with a friend — and to boot, you’ll get work some done.
4. Use your fringe hours intentionally.
Fringe hours are those little pockets of time throughout the day that often go underused or are sometimes even wasted altogether. Instead of scrolling through Instagram during your spare time while waiting at the doctor’s office, finally read those pins you saved on email marketing. Instead of perusing Facebook on your lunch hour, read that biz book you’ve had checked out for two months. Make the margins of your day work for you.
When you take advantage of these tips, you’re already using your current work to your advantage. And in no time, your side hustle might just become your day job.
1. Virtual assistant
A virtual assistant (VA) is a freelancer who remotely provides support services to a business. The responsibilities range from routine tasks, like appointment reminders and email management, to bookkeeping and social media engagement. A great VA is highly detail-oriented, loves to learn new skills and is people-oriented.
2. Social media manager
Being a social media manager can be one of the best side hustles if you’re autonomously managing a company’s social media presence. As the voice of the organization, you can manage the strategy and the day-to-day support for their top social platforms. This could include content creation, advertising budget and daily engagement. Having your own thriving social media presence will help you get experience and show your prospective clients your know-how. Social media marketing changes faster than a newborn in a diaper...so be willing to stay on top of the trends.
Are you fluent in multiple languages? Did you kill it on your SATs or are you particularly knowledgeable about a certain topic? Consider being an online tutor! You still get the satisfaction of seeing first-hand the difference you have made in a student’s life… all from the comfort of your home. Tutors are typically part time and are paid hourly, but depending on your expertise and needs of your client(s), you may be able to secure full time — and super lucrative — work.
4. Web developer
Web Developers are among the best-paid remote workers. With some technical training, developers can offer services such as custom website design, coding, hosting and usability testing.
5. Search engine evaluator
Are you looking for a little extra cash? As an independent contractor, a $12-$15 per hour job lets you work around your schedule and at your pace. You will provide feedback on search engine algorithms, which need to be evaluated by humans because they are often full of errors.
6. Brand manager
If you think creatively and excel in the business world, consider a brand manager position. Whether your background is in design, business, or advertising, as long as you have a vision and can write persuasively, you’ll be able to excel in this role -- from the comfort of your own home.
Consulting is a great option for stay-at-home parents because it’s likely something you can do regardless of your career path -- as long as you’re particularly knowledgeable about something. If you’re creative about problem solving and you’re good at seeing the picture -- and if you like offering advice -- consulting may be the way to go. Many professionals who decide they’d like to work from home or enjoy more flexible hours tend to turn their talents to consulting.
8. Part-time executive
If you enjoy making business decisions but you’re ready to quit the 9-to-5, you may want to look into working as a part-time executive. Employers are increasingly embracing more flexible schedules and holding team meetings over Skype -- so there’s a good chance you can find part-time work that still allows you to be well-connected to and influential at a particular business.
E-commerce platforms are all about that “e” — meaning, everything is done online (AKA you can work from anywhere). Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit and a good idea about a product or service you can sell? If you’re open-minded and proactive, it could turn into an awesome (and flexible) career path!
10. Freelance writer/blogger
If you’ve always been passionate about writing and you’re now looking for flexible work, pursuing a career as a freelance writer or blogger is something you should consider. With an infinite number of publishing outlets, it’s easier than ever to develop your portfolio and kickstart the writing career you’ve always dreamed of. And it’s super easy to do it from wherever you please.
11. Email marketer
How many promotional emails do you find in your inbox every morning? Probably a ton -- because a ton of companies use them. If you’ve worked in advertising, marketing, publishing or as a copywriter, chances are you can master the skills to work as an email marketer from home. The very nature of the work depends entirely on the internet, so completing the job remotely makes perfect sense.
12. Promotional video maker
If you have a background in film but you’re ready to stick to freelance work, consider making promotional videos. If you find the right clients, this can be quite a lucrative career.
13. Web/graphic designer
In the age of all things digital, there’s no shortage of work for web and graphic designers. Tons of companies naturally gravitate toward remote workers to fill these roles, as they generally don’t require much in-person communication. If you have a good eye and the right skills, put them to use!
Increasingly, customer service positions (both the full-time job and part-time job varieties) are provided not through centralized, physical call center facility but through home-based employees who have access to a good phone line and high-speed internet connection.
This article was published in collaboration with the following contributors:
Christy Wright is the creator of Business Boutique, a Certified Business Coach and a Ramsey Personality with a passion for equipping women with the knowledge and steps they need to successfully run and grow a business. Since joining Ramsey Solutions in 2009, she has spoken to thousands across the country at women’s conferences, national business conferences, Fortune 500 companies and her own sellout live events. She is the host of the Business Boutique Podcast and her new book, Business Boutique, releases April 2017. You can follow Wright on Twitter and Instagram @ChristyBWright and online at christywright.com or facebook.com/OfficialChristyWright. Allie Hofer, a self-proclaimed career matchmaker and work-life balance enthusiast, is a Professional in Human Resources (PHR), Society of Human Resource Management - Certified Professional (SHRM-CP), and Recruiter Academy Certified Recruiter (RACR). After having her first child, she opted out of the traditional office setting to work from home. Since then, she has been consulting with organizations in the public and private sectors to support the Human Resources function in recruiting, compensation, training and development, and performance management. Elaine McGhee is a Working Mom Support Coach on a mission de-stress maternity leave and propel a nation of thriving working mothers. From her own emotionally traumatic return-to-work after her first daughter (HOT MESS!), ThriveMomma.com was born. She coaches new moms on return-to-work readiness, time management, and mindful living, and she consults for corporations on paternity transition planning and work-life policies to retain and nurture working parents.