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Working on a passion project, earning extra money, becoming your own boss – there are many reasons to start up a side hustle. And 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’ve fallen hard for your part-time gig, here’s what you need to do to turn it into a full-time business.
Plan your big move
Giving up the benefits and security that come with being employed by someone else full-time can be scary, so it’s important to have a plan (and ideally, some savings in place). Consider your start-up costs like more supplies, a retail space, employees, costs for marketing and insurance and whether you’re in a position to ramp up your operations. The good news is your side hustle is likely already contributing to your business nest egg, but it’s important to get a handle of your expenses for the first year, at least, so you can prioritise costs and decisions once your business is in motion.
You might also want to consider some non-financial factors in transitioning to a full-time business. Do you have a vision for where you want to take your business? Yes – that’s great. Your next step might be to get started with a business plan. If your answer is no, then you likely need a little extra time to consider your business proposition before jumping ship to full-time work. Additionally, are there any other major changes happening in your life, like moving to a new house? Perhaps it’s best to wait until the dust settles. The adage goes that there’s no “perfect time” for anything but having your ducks in a row before taking the leap can help ease the stress of starting anew.
Find your point of difference
Taking the plunge and transitioning your side hustle to a full-time gig means you’ll be operating in a bigger pond (or market) – so it might be time to check out the competition. Find out what other small businesses are doing in your space and make sure your offering has a point of difference – what makes your company special. For example, you might specialise in organic cosmetics (which isn’t necessarily unique to the beauty industry anymore), but if you source your ingredients from Aussie farmers – there’s your point of difference. The same goes for your service offering – if you provide a gift with purchase or two for one special, be sure to speak up about it.
You can also talk to your own customers for insights on where to take your brand – you’ll already be piloting a scaled-back version of your business. Ask for 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.
Take care of the fine print
If your side hustle was limited to selling goods on Facebook marketplace or you provided services as a hobby (like swapping services with another business or selling used-items), transitioning to a small business means you’ll need to fill out some forms. Here are some common questions side-hustlers have about how to start a small business:
It’s best to consult your local government bodies or small business chambers for information that’s relevant to setting up your company before you start trading as a small business. Taking care of the legalities and financial set-up from the outset will save you at tax time and put your new business in a stronger financial position moving forward.
Step up your marketing
Becoming a full-time business means you’ll need to stand out and attract a bigger customer-base and the key to getting noticed is in your marketing – print and online.
Amp up your social presence with posts on Facebook and Instagram announcing your expansion. Use your stories to provide a behind the scene look into how you make your products or shout-out the other businesses your partner with. 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 jewellery 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 like 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 come knocking.
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Build a community
While your side-hustle probably started as a solitary venture, it can take a village to get a small business off the ground. Whether it’s drumming up the support in your local community or getting friends and family to help out on the weekends – it’s likely you’ll need a few helping hands along the way.
It’s also important to make connections with other businesses and small business owners – for a variety of reasons. Networking with companies that complement your business is great for building strong, fruitful partnerships. For example, if you create handmade ceramics, you could connect with local interior designers who can recommend you to their clientele or use your products in home styling and staging.
Forming relationships outside your industry is a good idea, too. So many opportunities are born from not what you know but who you know and having a group of likeminded individuals to share stories, commiserations and inspiration with can really help bolster you when times are tough.