So you're thinking about taking your hobby or side gig to the next level by turning it into your main hustle. You're not alone. Currently, there are about 28 million small businesses in the US, so you're in good company.
Unfortunately, the stark reality is that many businesses also fail. According to CB Insights, about 67 percent of startup ventures never quite make it out of the gate and only about one percent of startups will ever reach a level of business success that’s akin to Airbnb or Uber. That can make even the idea of launching your side hustle toward something bigger seem incredibly daunting.
If you're wondering whether your business idea is sustainable and what steps you'll need to take to avoid failure, we have good news. You don't have to be a unicorn to be a successful entrepreneur. If you want to be your own boss and pursue your own life's ambitions rather than someone else's, starting a full-time business is a venture well worth devoting time to. So let's talk about what you'll need to consider before deciding whether or not to turn your side hustle into your sole moneymaker, and how to turn your idea into a reality.
1. Create a Plan
Sometimes success is the result of repeated failure, but we don't want you to have to experience bankruptcy in order to know where you went wrong. That's why a business plan should be at the very foundation of taking your hobby or side job to the next level.
Whether or not you already think you know what you're doing, starting with the basics will be to your great benefit. We've seen many small business ventures topple because the business plan had holes, didn't scale up or was inherently flawed due to a lack of step-by-step planning.
The Time Commitment
Getting your side business off the ground will require more than giving up weekends or spending less time on Facebook. Your business’ success depends on how you decide to pursue your opportunities and choose to manage your time along the way.
Since you'll essentially be taking on a whole second job until you can grow your business into a reliable source of income, this portion of the planning process tends to be one of the most challenging aspects of seeing a business idea actually come to fruition. Keep in mind that the road ahead will be tough; if you're finding it easy, there's a good chance you're not giving it everything it deserves.
Being realistic about how your time will be impacted and breaking down your short- and long-term goals into actionable steps will allow you to anticipate hurdles instead of being surprised by them.
Before you begin taking steps to turn your hobby or part-time gig and turn it into your livelihood, carefully consider how you'll juggle the demands of work and family, and whether or not you can reasonably scale your workload to sell your products or services at higher demand. In addition, think about how it'll feel when you're pursuing your side hustle for financial gain rather than pure personal satisfaction, and if the products or services you'll be selling are actually marketable enough to get you to retirement.
The Cost Commitment
Your costs will vary, however, this will altogether be a time to pare down to the essentials and save money wherever you can. To create an estimate of the savings you'll need before you can get comfortable, first create a list of all of your startup expenses, such as a professional web design or a security deposit for a physical store, and all of your ongoing expenses, such as web hosting or rent, your products, marketing materials and so forth.
Next, see if your list contains any non-essential items that aren't critical to the success of your business. Remove these for now; you won’t miss them and you can always expand on your ideas later.
The Small Business Administration provides a range of valuable tools and advice for small business owners, including this guide on how to calculate your startup costs and estimate when you'll be able to begin turning a profit.
Your Industry & Market
Once you clearly understand the general commitments required for your business venture, it's time to delve deeper by creating a plan that's specific to your industry and the products you'll be selling. An industry and market plan will include:
No matter your industry, the market is always changing. Even if your product rarely evolves, your audience is and that's something every business owner should be aware of. Staying on top of market trends will allow you to successfully navigate an ever-changing competitive landscape for years to come. Start your research with easy and free tools such as Google Tends to help you identify the big picture, then stay up to date with new insights from publications like the Business Insider, Kissmetrics and MOZ. Finally, ensure you listen to your customers' compliments as well as their complaints. Above all, to keep your company evolving, don't be afraid to embrace change.
Not all businesses experience seasonal fluctuations, but many do. Being aware of them will not only help you to properly allocate your financial resources throughout the year, knowing your seasonal trends will also give you the upper hand in your marketing efforts. A well-planned newsletter campaign can help to improve traffic during the slower months, and PPC or social ads can help to highlight upcoming products or those that don’t typically sell well when things are slow.
Knowing your competition inside and out is a major part of understanding your industry and market. Make a competitive analysis a part of your business plan to help you learn what other businesses are doing and why. Your competitive analysis should include statistical information about the company, such as their primary channels for revenue, as well as information about who they market themselves to, their selling points and their current reach online. You'll also greatly benefit from identifying their weaknesses, as this can help you to position your business at the forefront of an untapped market.
The final part of your plan should consider how you'll approach creating a business structure that will make sense and benefit your company now and in the long run. When starting a business, you'll initially be wearing many hats, and until you're able to hire on help, don't be afraid to expand your knowledge with weekend or online courses designed to help layman like yourself understand basic business or accounting concepts.
From registering your business and obtaining licenses to understanding your assets and yearly tax deductions, there's a lot to learn and master. Having an experienced startup attorney by your side or exploring an online option such as Incfile can certainly be in your best interest when starting, creating and finalizing your business plan.
Designing a viable plan for your business will help you to create and execute the steps needed to turn your side hustle into a fruitful career. By acknowledging potential hurdles before they have a chance to creep up, you'll be able to craft a realistic proposal that includes how you'll capitalize on your time, how you'll manage your expenses, how you measure up to your competitors and how you'll be approaching the legal aspects of your business.
2. Set Achievable Goals
There's more to achieving your goals than checking the box next to the to-do. While satisfying in the short run, many new business owners find that the process of going full time actually impacts their mentality and determination negatively. So instead of focusing solely on knocking out the next task on the list, be mindful that you’re also setting yourself up for success. Visualizing the completion of a project, setting goals that are achievable, and celebrating all accomplishments - no matter how big or small - can mean the difference between throwing in the towel or pressing onward when times get tough.
Your goals can be personal or business-related, but it helps if they're measurable and you're able to take action on them daily. Dividing your goals into smaller segments will help keep your tasks realistic and prevent the dreaded burnout, which can ultimately set you back weeks, months or worse.
3. Build an Online Presence
Whether or not your business will be mainly online, your presence on the web is no longer optional in today's digitally dominated marketplace. It doesn’t matter if you're selling services, products or services for products, it's evermore likely that consumers will start their search for you online.
How will you build your online presence?
Fill a Niche
An idea alone, even a good idea, is worth very little if it doesn't solve a specific problem. With over 130 trillion indexed web pages out there, it's more important than ever to make your mark, and in order for that to happen your business needs to be able to fill a unique niche.
A niche doesn't have to fill an entire product gap, but it needs to help set you apart from your competition. Whether that's your engagement with the community, your exceptional prices or your customer service, it's all part of building your presence online.
Market, Market, Market
Marketing not only increases brand awareness, but also helps you to engage with your audience, which in turn helps to build your trust factor online. Expanding across a range of relevant purchasing or social channels will help you to stay at the forefront of consumers' minds while sending positive signals to Google and other search engines.
Be Your Brand
Your brand encompasses your entire business personality, and it's important for you to be consistent with it across all online channels, from the way you design your site and your social media profile, to the wording you use when replying to customer inquiries or sending out newsletters. Integrate your brand into the everyday lives of consumers by defining it and growing it into something that’s relatable.
Find Brand Ambassadors
Getting someone else to vouch for your product will help to boost your visibility, trust and ROI. In fact, over 70 percent of shoppers trust an online review just as much as they'll trust a friend, which means that as long as you can get your reviews in front of people, you're almost guaranteed to boost your sales.
From site reviews to social mentions, don’t ever stop building those meaningful relationships between yourself, your customers, bloggers, influencers and other successful businesses.
In a Nutshell
Turning your side hustle into your main business isn’t easy, but keeping the right tools in your back pocket will be the first step toward success. Begin by creating a careful assessment of your personal, professional and financial needs when setting up your full-time business. Then, being careful to implement a set of goals that support your mental stamina, make building an online presence a business priority. By setting yourself apart from the competition and continually improving your brand’s awareness and trust, you’ll be able to establish lasting relationships within your community to ensure your long term success. If you’re ready to take the next step in your business by opening up an ecommerce store, our partners at Volusion offer an all-in-one shopping cart solution to get you started. Its easy-to-use store builder will help you get an online shop up in just minutes.
Already have an ecommerce store? The Volusion Studio team can help you maximize its potential by developing a marketing plan that can increase traffic and sales on your e-store.
Samantha Rupert is a Marketing Manager at Volusion and has over seven years of experience in creating successful omnichannel marketing campaigns for small and large brands.