Not everyone has the luxury of quitting their day job cold turkey in pursuit of entrepreneurship. You have bills to pay, maybe kids (or pets!) to feed. And not everyone wants to deplete their retirement accounts to fund a passion project. Creating and implementing a long-term plan for launching a business could be the smartest way to get where you want to go.
If this describes you, consider a side hustle to get yourself started. A strategically-chosen side hustle can provide insight into your target market, give you an opportunity to learn and practice the skills you’ll need, and teach you how to manage business financials.
Here’s what to look for in a side hustle that will benefit you the most during the time leading up launching your business venture full-time:
Experiment with the audience your business will target
How well you understand (or don’t understand!) your target market will make or break your business. If you know your audience inside out—what they value, what they struggle with, what they fear, what they need most, what they think they need most, and what their goals are—you’ll be in a good position to provide products and services that appeal, in a way that resonates with them.
Guessing isn’t good enough. Entrepreneurs that rely on guesswork when it comes to market research waste scarce resources, and cash sometimes runs out before they can pivot.
If your side hustle gives you the ability to learn about and interact with people in your target market, you’ll be miles ahead of where you would have been if you’d jumped right into launch. And, miles ahead of the competition who chooses to operate that way.
Opportunities to practice your skills
Consider the role you want to play in your new business. Will you take pride in doing top-notch work for clients? Are you more detail-oriented and would enjoy keeping lots of moving parts working together? Do you plan to be the visionary leader who creates a purpose-driven team who carry out a larger mission?
Whatever you want your role to be, chances are you need some practice. A well-chosen side hustle can give you opportunities to practice the skills you’ll need and to hone them. If you can make a lot of your early mistakes (and everyone make mistakes) in a side hustle with less far-reaching consequences, you’ll save yourself the pain of making those mistakes on a larger scale.
Crash-course education in marketing and sales
Even if you plan to hire someone to do your marketing and sales, it’s important that you know how to convert prospects into customers. At a minimum, you need to understand marketing and sales concepts well enough that you know what to look for in team members to fill these roles. There’s no need to become an expert, but if your side hustle allows you to get a hands-on, basic education, you’ll appreciate having this knowledge later on.
Your future business will benefit from a current side hustle that allows you to practice crafting marketing strategies and experimenting with different marketing tactics, building marketing funnels and sales processes, and talking with prospects who are interested in what you have to offer.
The ability to learn business financials
Many founders-to-be focus their side hustles on income-generation because they’re trying to save up capital. They moonlight as a contractor for a single company or take on well-paid part-time freelance work. But these side hustles don’t provide the opportunity to get your hands dirty managing business financials.
Learning how to price your services, how to make a profit after paying your “salary” plus expenses, how to handle billing and invoicing, how to handle late payments, how to track what you’ve got coming in and going out, how to know if you can afford to bring on that virtual assistant to help you with your admin work. . . all of these are valuable business skills that you’ll need to learn when it comes to starting up a business. If your side hustle gives you experience learning these things (and many more) now, you’ll be better prepared to handle your business financials when you launch your company.
Having a side hustle prior to launch will allow you to save capital, but if you choose strategically, it can also provide invaluable knowledge and experience that you can put to use to increase your chance of success. Taking some time to develop an idea for a side hustle that gives you these opportunities will be time well-invested.