Starting a side venture can offer a sense of professional satisfaction while supplying you with an extra income.
Whether you have a talent for baking or happen to know your way around WordPress, running a side gig, in addition to your full-time work, can provide you with a fulfilling project to invest yourself in. It can also help you hone your skills and possibly lead you to a new career.
Kimberly Palmer wrote the book on starting side ventures—literally. While working as a financial reporter, she embarked on her own entrepreneurial project, developing digital financial guides that she sold through online marketplace Etsy. The experience sparked an interest in the subject of side gigs, and she set off interviewing others who had launched their own schemes. In her book, The Economy of You, she combines personal knowledge with what she learned from her interview subjects to create a guide for launching successful side projects. She shared some of her insights on side hustles with The Venture.
Passion is key
One-third of the people Palmer interviewed for her book have turned their side gigs into full-time jobs. Running a successful side venture requires a lot of time and energy, which is why it’s important to pick a project that you’re passionate about.
“You have to love it because it is hard to do, and if it's just about money then the motivation will probably go away before you're successful,” she says. “It has to be fun!”
It can take time, Palmer admits, to see the results of your hard work. The biggest surprise when she launched her Etsy shop was just how long it took to make the first sale.
“I thought I would open my shop and the customers would just show up, but that didn't happen until I put a lot of effort into marketing my shop,” she says.
Offering a great product or service is, of course, a crucial part of any successful venture. Attracting customers can be equally as important. If you don’t have any experience with marketing, or other aspects of running a business, don’t worry. Enrolling in an online class that focuses on entrepreneurship or reading success stories of other ventures can also help prepare you for what to expect.
Start really small
If you come up with a great idea for a side business, it can be easy to let your excitement get the better of you, but Palmer believes that investing too much in your idea too soon can be counterproductive. After all, one of the goals of any side gig should be to supplement your existing income.
“Keeping costs low in the beginning is definitely smart, because you don't know what will work and not work,” Palmer says.
When she started out, Palmer says she made the mistake of printing and binding her money planners. It was an expensive proposition, and it turned out to be unnecessary. Most customers, she found, preferred the PDF version anyway. In response, she made the shop entirely digital.
Starting small can allow you to revise your idea and make the necessary investments without taking too much of a loss if things don’t work out. It can also be a good way of getting in the habit of working during what’s usually your time off. Many aspiring entrepreneurs have to give up evenings and weekends to make a side gig work.
“If you're coaching, aim to take on just one client,” Palmer says. “See how it goes and what adjustments you need to make before scaling up.”
Setting achievable goals is also a good way to ease into your new role as President and CEO of your own enterprise. Working towards and achieving small goals can give you the sense of satisfaction you need to keep pushing.
Remember the “side” in side gig
It’s an exciting feeling when your side project starts to pick up speed, but it’s not typically what’s paying the bills. Keeping a healthy balance between your day job and your new project is important to keep in mind.
If your side gig requires a lot of client interaction, make sure your clients understand when you’re available and when you’re not. This will help with the tricky proposition of personal clients calling you at your full-time job.
Having a side gig can also benefit you in your full-time career: Palmer believes that the new skills obtained through an independent project and entrepreneurial focus can make you a better and more capable employee as well.
Though balancing two demanding jobs can be a challenge, it can also be a rewarding way to upgrade your vacation or take the edge off your student loan payments. Just be prepared to embody the qualities that Palmer says are crucial to success: “Passion, excitement and energy, because you will be working really hard!”
No endorsement or connection is meant between those featured in this article and Chivas.