So, you read my piece on Five reasons why you need a side hustle and you are now convinced that you want to move forward? Say no more as I have created this post just for you. Below is a list of steps to follow if you want to start your very own side hustle!
1. Define your why.
First off, why do you want to start a side hustle? Is it to earn extra income? Is it to develop skills that you are not currently using in your day job? Is it to share your passion with the world? To be honest, if your “WHY” doesn’t go deeper than earning extra income, you won’t make it to the finish line.
When I started my business The Lunchbox, my long term goal was to become self employed in 5 years and my short term goal was to create an innovative business that could generate income for my sister in law (who was my first employee actually) and few other girls in my community (hence the branding on Facebook: Liberian Girls Lunchbox). That desire to own my time while empowering other Liberian girls drove me to stay in the business even when things were challenging.
Knowing your “Why” creates the purpose and the purpose will drive you to make decisions that will benefit you, your customers and your employees.
2. Identify your interests.
The next thing you need to do is brainstorm side hustle ideas around your interests and skills or see if you can turn a hobby into a business. If the side hustle is something you are passionate about and love doing, then the long hours and endless sacrifices you are going to invest in the hustle will not feel like work.
I picked the food service business because I am a foodie. I love eating and experimenting with new flavors and ingredients. With a business like Lunchbox, I get to share my creativity with the world and earn an income doing it.
3. Do your research.
I can’t over emphasize the need for research. When you’re just starting, you have to research your areas of interest to find good side hustles that you can do while working. You must also research companies doing similar business as you, both local and international. Look at what they are doing well; look for what they are not doing well; then find a way to fill in the gap. As the business grows, you have to continue to research and develop your product or service offering, processes and customer experience.
Because we do not know everything, we have to keep learning new ways to do our business better.
4. Start Small.
Starting small is the best policy for any side hustle. I agree that some businesses may require a huge upfront investment but if you go with that then it’s no longer a side hustle but rather a full business. Starting small means investing the bare minimum into the product or service, focusing on getting customers and then growing as you go. For example, if your goal is to own a pastry shop one day, starting small means buying ingredients and utensils needed to make some cakes that can be used as samples and then marketing that online to get your first customer. As people start to buy your products you will know if its a profitable venture worth pursuing.
This is exactly what I did with Lunchbox. My initial investment in week 1 of the business was USD$120.00. I got my delivery bowls, the ingredients and spices for the menu I created. Then I started posting pictures on social media letting customers know what I was selling and as people bought the food they give me feedback that I used to refine my service.
5. Schedule time for your side hustle.
Once you are up and running, you have to schedule time to work on your side hustle. Do not neglect your day job for a side hustle because your day job is where you get your major source of income – for now. Instead, use the weekend and midnights to plan your activities, work on your financials and create content for your marketing. In the beginning, you are going to wear a lot of hats but if you can afford to get help, delegate some of the business activities to third parties.
For example, I outsourced my entire delivery to a third party service provider because I did not have the time to coordinate the delivery myself. Try not to overlap your day job with your side hustle as that can open doors to a lot of future disasters. It doesn’t send a good signal if you’re always on the phone when you are at work, taking orders, organizing deliveries and openly working on your side business.
6. Name your side hustle.
Once you’ve determined that this hustle is something you want to keep, you have to name and brand your side hustle. Many people make mistakes with this part. A business name is the gateway between the customer and your product or service. The name has to be catchy enough to get potential customers curious about your product or service. Avoid using words that are hard to pronounce or long sentences. To rank in the top three businesses your customer prefers for that product or service, your business name definitely has to be memorable. So take your time to choose a name because if the side hustle grows into a business, you don’t want to have to change the name of the business later on. That will require a lot of energy in getting people to associate your business with the new name and brand.
7. Make a business plan.
As you start to transact business with your clients, you will need a business plan. The plan I am talking about is not that 25 page document with all the elaborate market trends and analysis in it. It’s a simple one or two page document that outlines your vision, mission and big goals and maps out how you will get your customers, how you will keep your customers and how you will provide the maximum satisfaction for your customers. You can download my one pager business plan template here.
At this point, you need a working document that keeps you organized, focused and committed to a few goals. This simple template will help you start and as you grow, you can create a more elaborate business plan. You can also download this SME Toolkit to learn more about starting your very own business.
8. Market your side hustle.
Your side hustle cannot have a lasting impact without strong marketing. When you launch your hustle, people will support you. It’s going to be overwhelming and you will think you have succeeded in life. But let me tell you, after that first week people will either move on to the next new thing or go back to the products and services they were using before. Without proper marketing, your reach is limited and you slowly fade into the background. That’s why you need a marketing plan right from the get go. I included a simple bullet point listing in the Business Plan Template to help you think about your marketing strategy.
9. Leverage free resources.
When you’re just starting out, you will come across so may tools to start and grow your business. Always go for the free versions first. With the number of online business tools being created daily, do not fall into the trap of paying for things that will create absolutely no value for you or your business. Be wise. I’ve fallen for many of these online schemes. There was a time I wanted to create an app for Lunchbox and I found this app service provider online. I spent close to a thousand USD for this service and at the end of the day it was a big scam. I never got the app and the website was deactivated as soon as I refused to continue paying without the app. Do your due diligence before you purchase any online course or program. Yes, there are some really great paid programs available but if you can help it, us the free ones first.
10. Count your pennies.
Lastly, keep track of how much you are investing and what you are earning in return. There is a very thin line between a thriving side hustle or a money trap. At the very beginning you do not need many staff, you don’t need to rent an expensive office, you do not need a flamboyant showroom. Think about the most cost efficient way to do your business and implement that. Pay attention to every dollar that comes in and every dollar that goes out. This attention to details will tell you very early on if the side hustle is worth your time and finances.
Starting a side hustle as romantic as it sounds is not easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to create something valuable that customers will want to pay for. As you consider whether or not this path is for you, my advice is to never leave your day job until your side hustle is providing you with a sustainable, growing cash flow that exceeds what you earn from your day job. Focus on small, achievable goals instead of big unrealistic goals. Take your time, commit to your goals and eventually you will achieve success.