Are you sitting in your cubicle daydreaming of escaping the corporate grind to start your own business? Do you play with different ideas, but struggle to find how to turn your passion into one that could actually make you a living?
I’m here to tell you that you are overthinking it. Here are five tips to help you leverage what you love into a new path.
1. Side-launch or side hustle
More often than not, it’s beneficial to keep your day job when you first start out. You don’t want to put everything on the line, because new endeavors are often filled with uncertainty. You should start small by building confidence, knowledge and experience before you go all-in. If you quit your job based on your passion, you may put yourself in a vulnerable position.
Take your time. It’s important to properly vet the market for the product or service you are offering. Be sure your idea solves a problem and/or adds value. You want to offer something that is indispensable. Make sure there are enough people out there who need your product or service and that they are willing to pay for it.
Start by focusing on your potential business at night and on the weekends. See how it grows and develops. When you start small, you have the opportunity to see if this is truly something you enjoy. You don’t want to drain your savings account, only to find out that your business isn’t something you actually like doing.
The main difference between a passion project and a real business is sales and revenue. Give yourself time to test the viability of your potential business.
2. Treat it like a business
When starting your own business, it can be hard to stay motivated and organized. Unlike the typical 9-to-5, entrepreneurs setting off on their own don’t have anyone telling them what to do or when to do it. It’s also easy to lose focus and forget to prioritize your side hustle when it’s not yet making you money.
It’s important to treat your new endeavor as a professional business right from the start. Set yourself a work schedule with weekly goals, just as you would in your day job. When interacting with customers and clients, ensure you act professionally. You can start off on the right foot by using platforms like HoneyBook or 17hats. These programs help users organize their workflow and interact with clients more efficiently.
3. Launch platforms
There was once a time when, in order to launch a business, you had to have a physical brick-and-mortar location (especially for retail operations). But having a physical location often comes with a high price tag that can be daunting for startups. Now, however, there are a number of tools available for entrepreneurs that will allow you to reach consumers without high startup costs.
These online tools can help you do everything from advertising your business inexpensively to connecting with new clients. But one of the greatest benefits of online tools is being able to sell products at minimal cost. Websites like Etsy, Amazon, Shopify and eBay let you sell your products without first having to build your own e-commerce website.
4. Get support
A number of organizations have been created to help startups, entrepreneurs, and other small businesses. Among them is the U.S. Small Business Administration. This governmental organization has set up a number of Small Business Development Centers in states across the country, offering resources like business plan development, manufacturing assistance, financial lending assistance, procurement and contracting aid, market research help and healthcare guidance. Another organization offering assistance is SCORE, a national nonprofit that pairs entrepreneurs with business mentors.
Startups should also take advantage of co-working spaces. In addition to serving as great working environments, many co-working spaces offer resources and learning opportunities for members. Additionally, many are tailored toward specific categories of entrepreneurship and their unique needs. Hera Hub is a co-working space and business accelerator for women, with locations around the country.
5. Tell everyone
Since I recommend you side-launch the business, it’s important for you to find a balance between getting the word out to potential customers and clients and maintaining your job security. You shouldn’t worry about starting to leak information, but to ensure your employers don’t start to question your dedication, it’s important to stress that this is a “side project” when talking about it.
Once you’ve made a point of emphasizing that this is a side hustle, don’t hesitate to share your new endeavor with your co-workers, friends and family. Add it to your email signature, post it to social media and perhaps even consider writing a press release. Tell as many people as you can as fast as you can. You never know where new business is going to come from. The wider you spread your message, the quicker you will grow.
(By Felena Hanson. Hanson is the founder of Hera Hub, a spa-inspired shared workspace and community for female entrepreneurs. She is the author of “Flight Club – Rebel, Reinvent, and Thrive: How to Launch Your Dream Business.”)