Seven key steps to starting your side business

Want to work for yourself but can’t afford to give up work yet? Read seven steps to starting your side business (while earning a 9-5 salary).

You may be trapped in a 9-5 role but, like 10% of the female population, you may be dreaming of running your own business.

And if you are working 9-5 right now, and depending on your 9-5 salary, the chances are that any new venture will start out as a side business, at least in the early weeks or months.

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Seven key steps to starting your side business

Linda Formichelli is the author of How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie.

Years ago, before the internet was a thing, Linda started a successful freelance translation business.Now, she’s sharing seven keys steps to take you’re planning to start a side business while working 9-5.

1) Look inside

What special skill or passion do you have that you wish you could share with the world? Look into your education, training, hobbies, and job experiences. You may be surprised at the skills you have that you never gave a second thought to.

For example, maybe you worked in retail as a teen and were pretty darned good at it, or you’re so funny you could make people pee their pants laughing at a funeral, or you really enjoyed the business class you took in college even though your major was in English literature, or you were brought up in a bilingual home.

Match up your newly-discovered skills or interests with one of the opportunities you read about in the many lists online, and voila! Side gig.

2) Read lists

Not sure what kind of side business you want to start? Google side business ideas, and you’ll be inundated with list after list of potential opportunities.

3) Spread the word

As long as you’re not afraid your employer will find out about your side business and hand you your P45, let everyone know you’re now doing X: Taking family photos, blogging, selling cupcakes, creating book trailers, whatever.

This is one time where Facebook can actually be helpful. You may be able to build a decent customer base among your friends and family, and if you’re ready for more, they can spread the word and introduce you to other potential customers.

4) Don’t get arrested

Check the laws and regulations in your area and your industry. Depending on your side business and where you live, you may need to apply for a business license, earn a certification, and so on.

It’s also important to make sure you’re properly registered for (and setting aside money for) tax. (Find out if you’re accidentally working illegally – and when you need to tell HMRC.)

5) Get expert advice

You may be an amazing painter or gifted life coach, but most self-employed people fall down when it comes to the actual business side of things.

Determining who your market is, marketing, advertising, offering stellar customer service, negotiating, networking, and figuring out finances, certifications, and taxes are critical activities for a business owner.

Try joining your local Chamber of Commerce, asking an entrepreneur friend for advice, attending local meetings for small business owners, or hiring a business coach, so you can blast through the learning curve and start raking it in.

6) Act first, plan later

A common issue I see with the writers I coach is that they won’t start marketing their services until they have the perfect website. And now they finally have a website, but realise they need to brush up on their punctuation skills. And now they’ve done that, but need to learn the art of the pitch.

The need for more skills, equipment, learning… it never ends because obsessing over these needs keeps you from actually starting your business, and possibly making a fool of yourself.

My advice is to start marketing your business even before you’re ready. When you land your first sale, then you can scramble to make it work. “Oh, jeez, now I have to figure out how to write this case study/make these 100 cupcakes/plan this event I just sold to a client!”

7) Develop a thick skin

What if you start a side business and fail? Welcome to the world of just about every business owner on the planet.

Don’t consider failure failure—consider it information gathering. Congratulations! You discovered something that won’t work, so now you can try something else that might.

Case in point: As a freelance writer, I’ve been rejected well over 500 times in my career, and yet here I am, still standing. And you will be, too, if you can persevere through the tough times.

Linda Formichelli is the author of How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie, a book for women whose motto is Life is not a dress rehearsal.

She’s also the co-founder of Renegade Writer Press, which publishes books on careers, personal development, frugality, and erotica (yes, erotica).