We recently surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults in full-time employment and found that more than one quarter (27 percent) have turned a hobby into a side hustle, while more than half (55 percent) of Americans aspire to.
Although many side hustles are born out of hobbies or creative interests and a desire to make money on the side, they don’t have to stay small. If you have a side business and want to turn it into your full-time job, it’s wise to learn from others who have already made the leap. Aside from starting your side business out of something you already enjoy, successful side hustlers advise newbies to:
- Focus on tasks that generate the most revenue
- Build a strong social media presence
- Set long-term goals
- Leverage word-of-mouth marketing
- Network with fellow side hustlers
Identify Growth Opportunities
Begin by identifying your strongest growth opportunities and mapping out what you’ll need to run your business full-time.
You’ll already be piloting a scaled back version of your business and should have a small customer base. Seek feedback to find out how well your current offer solves their problem, and how you might build upon it. Use this feedback to prototype new products, services and business models that take your side hustle to the next level. A freelance personal trainer could offer online coaching as well as in-person training and classes. A caterer could consider opening a food truck or selling at local farmers’ markets to see how well their product sells in-store. The key is to test different opportunities, learn from the impact on your business and determine your long-term focus areas.
The piloting stage also allows for experimentation with price points. Use a trial run of new products and services to discover how much customers will pay, and the expenses you’ll need to account for to turn a profit. This allows you to work out the right model to build a healthy business.
Even if you don’t have the bandwidth to take on additional work, by understanding where your best growth opportunities lie and how much work you’ll need to meet your financial needs, you can set long-term goals to take your side business to its next stage of growth. This could include reducing the hours of your full-time job once you reach a certain level of revenue, hiring a virtual assistant so you can delegate administrative tasks or those outside your skillset and developing a clear and differentiated brand for your side hustle.
Expand Your Network
The successful side business owners we surveyed recommend networking with like-minded people who have already taken the leap and are running their own successful businesses full-time. Their knowledge and experiences could help you realize that your dreams are well within your reach.
Networking can help you to form alliances with other business owners and gain access to partners, suppliers and even customers that you may not have found on your own. As a time-pressed side hustler, you may find it more effective to meet with successful business owners in your field rather than casting the net too wide. Websites like Meetup.com can help you narrow down the right kinds of entrepreneurship events for your industry.
Business organizations like Chambers of Commerce and the SCORE Association can also be a useful resource for more general events where you can meet a wide range of entrepreneurs at various stages of starting or scaling their businesses.
Before going into any networking event, make sure you’ve practiced your business pitch so that you’re prepared to concisely articulate your offerings and seize any opportunities that come your way.
Build a Credible Image
If you’re looking to turn your side hustle into a full-time business, you’ll need to create a professional look across all your marketing to position your company as a credible brand.
A strong brand looks professional, establishes credibility, and is infused with personality that is unique to you. When a side hustle can demonstrate a level of professionalism that is consistent throughout its marketing, it will no doubt create an experience for their customers that is both memorable and distinct from competitors. This will be infectious to prospective buyers and repeat customers, allowing side hustlers to seize the best opportunities to grow into a fully-fledged small business. And, it all starts with your logo.
Designing a logo is an important first step to convey professionalism, your brand promise, values and mission statement. These should feed into any other marketing materials and tactics you use. Similarly, having a professional looking website shows customers that your business is a serious player. It doesn’t need to be overly sophisticated, but relevant and helpful content is necessary to help customers make an educated decision to engage with your company.
Don’t neglect print marketing either. If you create and sell handmade jewelry on Etsy or run an online catering company on the side, you may want to take your business to the next level by selling your products at events such as craft fairs or farmers’ markets. At these events, eye-catching marketing materials can be great conversation starters that lead to business opportunities.
A large banner can get your booth noticed, a poster can entice visitors, flyers can create awareness about your products and services while business cards can help customers keep you in mind. The key is for your materials to create a consistent, cohesive and professional look for your business whenever opportunities comes knocking.
Create Quality Content
Building a strong social media presence lands among the top recommendations from successful side business owners for growing a side hustle. With the average side business owner spending just 16 hours a week on their business, you need to use your time wisely and efficiently. Optimize your resources by focusing on platforms where your target customers are most engaged.
Communication rather than promotion is at the heart of social media and content marketing. Your content should drive two-way conversations. A few simple rules of engagement you should always follow are to adapt content to the audience and platform, use images and media where possible, and create a clear call to action.
Consider starting a blog where you can share useful and practical content that answers customers’ key questions and shows off your brand’s personality. Quality is more important than quantity, so don’t feel pressured to post every day, but enough to keep your readers engaged. This will also provide you with more material for sharing on your social networks.
In addition to creating and posting content, actively listen to and engage with your community on social media. As well as building customer loyalty and third-party endorsement, this will also allow you to gather feedback on your business and discover where additional growth opportunities lie.
By scaling up your side hustle and taking small steps to build your online and offline presence, you can test its long-term viability and ease the transition between employee and full-time entrepreneur.
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