Do you ever find yourself sitting at your regular day job, daydreaming about owning your own company? Maybe it’s time to think about starting a side business. These days, tons of entrepreneurs are using the internet to set up lucrative “side hustles” in addition to their existing careers. This is a great way to try your hand at an exciting new project and (hopefully) move into full-time work as your own boss.
Follow this 8-step guide to make starting a side business manageable and profitable.
Starting a Side Business in 8 Steps
Find your product/service
Create your brand
Set up your social accounts
Build your online store
Launch your store
Gather reviews of your product
Celebrate and keep hustlin’
Step 1: Find your product/service
“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” – Seth Godin
As you’re starting to research the product/service that will form the foundation of your side business, it’s worth taking a look at your passions and the experience you have that connects you to a specific market. From there, you can start narrowing down exactly what you will offer your ideal customers. Keep in mind the things that get you excited and that you know you can generate quality content for- think photos, blogs, and videos. This will help you identify your “niche”.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Is there some sort of industry experience I have that I could provide as a service for my own personal clients or customers?
- Do I have any particular hobbies that I have invested time in and feel knowledgeable about?
- Is there a particular network or community of people that I am a part of that has expressed a certain need within the group?
- Of all my skills, what do I enjoy doing most?
- What kind of competition is there out there for my specific interest?
- What resources do I have access to for producing a product/packaging/shipping etc.?
Don’t worry if the answers to these questions don’t instantly point to something you know how to monetize. We’ve created a massive list of 105 Side Business Ideas for you to pull inspiration from- spend some time going through, and see if any of the options there tie in to your existing passions and skill-set.
What resources do you have available for producing and packaging a product, or offering a service? This can be anything from printing services, access to technology and existing software skills you have, photo/video equipment, space for meeting clients, supplies for physically making your product- the list goes on and on. Think about your financial resources and how you can optimize for your new business.
With all these things in mind, try writing down three different products that you can see demand for in your niche. First, something physical- a tangible product that you can make or source from a manufacturer. Second, a digital product in the form of an eBook, guide, webinar, or some other educational series you can create in video or podcast form. Third, think of a service you can provide that you could offer to customers or clients.
Once you have these three ideas, pick the one that would be easiest for you to get to your customers and that you would most enjoy marketing. In the end, you will spend a ton of time promoting your business, so why not enjoy it?
You don’t necessarily have to sell your own products, either. There are plenty of manufacturers that make and package products you can sell under your brand name. Be sure to explore all options and do your research before settling on your brand.
Step 2: Create your brand
Once you have decided on the product/service that you want to offer, you can start working on your brand. This is an important step, and it’s worth taking the time to develop the exact look and feel you want for your new side business. This step could be as simple as getting a logo created by someone on Fiverr, but we recommend spending a little more time to really nail down your brand.
This is going to be the mark that customers and clients know your brand and product by. Whether you design it yourself or hire someone else to do it, you will need to decide on the color palette and typography. There are usually two parts to a logo- the logo mark, which is the image/symbol; and the logotype, which is the stylized name of your brand.
There are tons of online resources you can use while researching and gathering inspiration for your branding. Check out this article on the role of colors in logo design. There are also plenty of places to buy fonts for your logo type. One of our favorites is CreativeMarket, where you can browse and purchase relatively inexpensive fonts and test with your brand name.
If you want to go as far as creating a brand guide, it will make it easier down the line when you are rolling out marketing materials and need to keep your brand looking consistent throughout your content. Also as you grow and add more people to your budding company, it allows you to stay true to your original brand image.
Find your WHY
This is the most important aspect of the branding process, and has a ripple effect throughout your communications. To remain focused and successful while starting a side business, it’s vital to define your “why”. No matter what problems or victories arise, if you stick to the reason “why” you do what you do, there will be a reason and a sense of purpose in your work. This will remain true long after you move out of the beginning phase.
For example, if you are selling dog costumes and need to lock down your why, maybe it’s “so that no dog gets left out on Halloween.” As you expand your business, you can always return to your “why” and easily figure out what next steps will remain true to your initial intentions. Your next big product might be light-up dog collars or glow-in-the-dark doggie doo bags. Or to help promote your products, you might start a yearly pup meetup on Halloween that is sponsored by your brand- even a puppy trick-or-treating event.
Every decision you make will come back to your “why”, so take some time to think about this and make sure it is clear.
Once you have your company name, logo, and “why”, you can start developing your brand slogan. A good tagline can take your side business idea to the next level by setting the theme for your overall brand voice. You will want this phrase to be catchy, memorable, and to accurately represent your product.
There are free online slogan generators out there, but generally they aren’t great, and are no substitute for workshopping a handful of ideas with friends or people in your network. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you brainstorm options:
- Keep it short and simple.
- Be honest- don’t make empty promises.
- If appropriate for your business, be humorous.
- Focus on what sets you apart.
- Keep your target market in mind and speak directly to them.
Write out a handful of options, then give your ideas some time to simmer. Pick a couple favorites and bounce them off of people whose opinions you trust. When one sticks, spend some time polishing it, then lock it down. For inspiration, here’s 30 of the best brand slogans.
Once you have some sharp branding and a catchy slogan for your side business, then it’s time to get it out there!
Step 3: Set up your Social Accounts
It’s absolutely essential for businesses of just about any size to maintain a presence on social media. It can be a bit overwhelming starting out and setting up your accounts. The best tactic is to research the social network that your target demographics generally interact with most and work to own it. There are plenty of resources for re-posting content, including Zapier, Buffer, and IFTTT, so you can keep most of your focus on one platform.
Social media is now acting as the sort of “word-of-mouth” that small businesses need to thrive and grow. When people can find you on social media, they can tag you and spread the word about your products or services, making it vital to get these accounts set up early on.
Here’s a few reasons why you should get on each network:
- Facebook: This one is a necessity. Setting up a business page here gives you access not only to the larger network of social media, but it also plugs you into their powerful social media advertising tools.
- Instagram: Image-based social networking is great to show off products and promote and grow “word-of-mouth” by tagging photos and cross-promoting.
- Twitter: Because it functions like a live-stream, nothing just sits on Twitter. It facilitates real-time dialogue between a brand and its followers.
Step 4: Build Your Online Store
With the number of online businesses exploding, digital retail is currently experiencing something of a golden age. This means that it’s a prime time to get your side business idea out on the internet. Selz makes eCommerce seriously simple. In this section, we’ll explore the different ways you can put together a killer online store and start selling in no time.
The key to any website’s success is the content. The more high-quality content you have, the better chance you have of driving traffic to your site and keeping the attention of potential customers once they are there. Content can include custom graphics, product images and descriptions, blogs, vlogs, product videos… Really, anything that captures the attention of a potential customer and draws traffic via a search engine.
Decide Where to Sell
With Selz, it’s easy to custom-build a professional online store, even if you are not a web-designer. If you don’t already own digital real-estate, building a standalone online retail space can be a great way to centralize the selling process. On the flip-side, creating product widgets to embed into social media and existing sites is a cinch. Think about where your online traffic already exists and where it will likely go, then make a decision. An existing blog can be a great starting point, as can your personal or business Facebook page. Starting a side business can be complex enough without needing to hire designers and web developers, so do yourself a favor here. Keep it simple.
Step 5: Launch your Store
You’ve figured out an exciting new product, gathered your assets, built your online presence, and now it’s time to make it official. Consider hosting some form of launch party, or partnering with a local business to physically showcase your product. No worries if you are working with digital product like an eBook. Find ways to connect your product to the physical realm of the event. Whether you are selling coaching with a free group session focused around a centralizing theme; promoting a book on entrepreneurship by leading a workshop; or drumming up interest in your nutrition plans with a cooking lesson; there are tons of ways to sell digital products via live events. Consider live-streaming via Facebook- users on this platform watch three times as much live content as regular video.
Focusing on your local area is a great way to start moving product, even though an online store can theoretically sell anywhere in the world. Local news outlets are always looking for new stories relating to their communities, so reach out. The worst response you can get here is a “no.”
Connecting with other entrepreneurs in your area is another great way to build up a support group, and find crossovers between your business and others around you. Some will likely be more experienced than you, some less. Finding others who are also starting a side business can be incredibly helpful- the input and ability to workshop ideas is invaluable. You may even be able to set up some form of quid-pro-quo, advertising for each other, or packaging your goods together.
Step 6: Gather Reviews of Your Product
One of the key hurdles you have to overcome when starting a side business online is the general reticence many people have about buying without being able to physically touch and see a product. Reviews are a key way to give your company word-of-mouth appeal. According to a 2016 study, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Not all reviews have equal impact, however- the same study noted that 77% of consumers see reviews older than 3 months as irrelevant.
Not only are reviews vital to sustaining interest in your store, they are also great feedback as you build your business. Who is responding to your products, what do they have to say, and which specific products come up most consistently?
Asking customers for reviews may seem intimidating at first, but it’s incredibly valuable. Again, worst-case scenario, they say no or don’t respond. Consider offering a coupon code or creating a raffle for customers who leave reviews. Repeat customers are a great market to reach out to, as they have found enough value in your product to buy from you again.
Step 7: Continue Marketing
Yes, we’ve already talked about marketing your product, but the process shifts as you move from starting a side business to establishing more of a presence for your store. Email lists are a great way to expand. Email consistently converts at a higher rate than social. Why? Because on social media you are competing for attention in a bustling marketplace. By giving you their email address, a consumer has already expressed interest in your product, so updates to their inbox have a much better chance of conversion. Along with the high-quality content you’re already creating, send updates on special deals and new products. Not sure where to start? Check out this post on five emails every online store needs to send.
To simplify your marketing process, consider using some automation services. Selz integrates with MailChimp, which makes it a snap to build killer email campaigns. As we mentioned earlier, Buffer streamlines your social media process by letting you simultaneously post to multiple platforms.
Spend some time brainstorming different ways to encourage engagement with your users and build a community around your product. Facebook Groups can be a great way to connect people and build a discussion around similar interests.
Step 8: Celebrate and Keep Hustlin’
“You never lose in business, either you win or you learn.” -Melinda Emerson
Time for a victory dance. You did it! You started a side business. You’re over the hump, now it’s just the daily work of maintaining and growing your fledgling company.
Inspired? Learn a lot? Do it again! With enough determination and work-ethic (not to mention great time management) there’s no limit to the number of side businesses you can start and maintain. The eventual goal here is to turn your passions into your main source of income. It’s absolutely possible, and the journey of starting a side business is incredibly rewarding.
With the rise of the internet, starting a side business is more possible than ever. What’s holding you back? Explore the different resources and support systems in your life. This can be knowledge and skills-based- i.e., what unique aspects of your personality and interests can you bring to an entrepreneurial venture? It can be knowledge centers like FounderU and other blogs. Figure out what tools you have available for producing and packaging a product.
Most importantly, consider the interpersonal relationships you’ll need to navigate the process: friends, family, wolfpack. Starting a side business can be stressful at times, even emotionally exhausting, and it’s the people in your life that will help you make it through.
Ready to take the first step? Selz is a simple-to-use ecommerce platform that makes selling online a breeze. Sign up today and get a free 14-day trial to get your online store set up and ready to run!