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There’s no time like the present to start a side hustle, especially since many of us have extra time on our hands while being stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. A side hustle can expand your skill set, give you room to explore business ideas, and help supplement precarious incomes.
Don’t know where to begin? Here, I’ll share a few insights from my own experience starting a company via a side hustle.
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How a side hustle will help you launch your business
A strategically-chosen side hustle can help you learn how to run a business while you build invaluable skills, experience and relationships. Here’s how.
Gain experience with your target market
In order to position yourself to provide products and services your target audience wants and will pay for, you need a solid understanding of them. It’s important to know your audience’s needs, wants and challenges, as well as the goals they’re trying to reach. This understanding is what will allow you to achieve product market fit, so don’t leave it to guesswork and chance.
Take advantage of the time you have now to make the connection early, well before you build your product or launch your service. Send a survey to people who fit your ideal customer profile. Set up interviews with prospective customers to learn what they would value in a product or service like yours and what constraints they’re working within. Read reviews of competitor’s products to see what people like and don’t like.
Learn to convert prospects to customers
An important skill for any entrepreneur is knowing how to convert potential clients into paying customers. Though you don’t need to be an expert, you do need a general understanding of marketing and sales.
If you’re a novice, there are many free resources available online, including HubSpot’s online courses, marketing and sales blogs, resources from Content Marketing Institute , and podcasts like Social Media Marketing, Copyblogger and Sales Gravy. Use this time wisely to learn essential sales skills (or brush up on your existing knowledge).
Seek a side hustle that will enable you to create marketing strategies, build sales funnels and engage interested prospects to get a hands-on education.
Practice your skills
Starting up a side hustle is a great way to practice and perfect your skills in a lower-stress environment. Now is an ideal time to try out different things to see where your talent lies and what you are most interested in. You’ll make mistakes while you have time to learn from them without the risk of impacting a fully-launched business.
Four-step process to choose your ideal side hustle
You’ll want to give some thought to what you want to do for your side hustle, but don’t get caught up in analysis paralysis.
This basic four-step process covers the essentials for getting started:
- List your talents, skills and experience: Take some time to make a list of the experience you have and what you’re good at. Consider jobs that you have had in the past and the things you do in your free time. Ask friends and family what they see as some of your most valuable skills, since they may see something you didn’t think of.
- Choose what you enjoy: When you first start a side hustle, you’re likely doing it alongside a full-time job. So, it’s best to choose something you actually like doing — or you won’t want to keep up with it. While your choice doesn’t need to be a passion, you should enjoy doing whatever it is.
- Validate your idea: Before you jump right in, determine if your side gig is worth developing. Reach out to some people who are in your target market to see if they have any interest in your project. Ask a few questions to uncover how significant the need is and if they have the means to fund a solution. Get a feel for what products and services already exist that are trying to fill the need and think through how you’ll differentiate.
- Get started: Once you’ve identified an opportunity you feel good about that has a promising market, it’s time to get started. While it’s helpful to go through a business model canvas exercise or sketch out a rough business plan, a side hustle doesn’t need to be perfect for you to get started. Experiment a bit to see what resonates.
Another benefit of getting started now is that you can take advantage of new opportunities appearing as a result of the ongoing changes — new needs are cropping up left and right, and perhaps you’re able to fill one with those skills you’ve identified.
Starting a side hustle in the middle of a pandemic does come with a few additional parameters, however. Here’s what to keep in mind.
The ability to work remotely
You’ll need to think through how viable the idea is with the current limitations in place. Ideally, your concept should work when done remotely. Pursue opportunities that you can do safely from home for now, with the potential down the road for more.
(Future) hire potential
Also, consider something you can start now but that has strong future potential. Will the need for the product or service survive the pandemic? And if you want to build a business, how will you grow your side hustle over the long term?
Starting a side hustle is a great way to make use of extra time while pursuing something you enjoy doing. You may be able to look back on this time as, yes, a time of great challenge, but also as the birthdate of something great.