Answer These 7 Questions Before Starting Your Side Business
Take stock of the assets you have and create a realistic plan to define your purpose, gather resources and develop market insights.
Are you sure you can build a successful side business? It's smart to start thinking along these lines while you have a full-time job. Your side gig could become a long-term solution to financial needs and an enriching life experience.
But what do you need to start a successful side venture? First, you must begin the discovery process. Answering these seven questions should give you enough information to create a clear path forward and help kickstart your new venture.
1. What will you take out of your 'bag?'
You have a lot of responsibilities and duties. Imagine your life as a bag. Odds are, it's already so full you're barely able to close it. If you add building a business, you won't be able to close the bag -- nevermind trying to pick it up and carry it with you.
The only solution is to let go of something less important in this moment. If you can't leave your job, you'll need to reduce the time you spend elsewhere. Are you willing to cut into the hours you reserve for your own "down time" or stop saying yes to everyone else's requests? What about skipping those binge-watching sessions in front of a screen? You might even need to consider paring down the time you spend with friends.
Everyone gets the same number of hours in a day. Reallocating yours is the only way to build a business while you're still working full-time.
2. Are you passionate about your business?
Starting a business isn't easy, especially when you're adding it to the effort you're already giving in your regular job. Making money can't be your only motive -- it won't be enough to sustain you when you face challenges. You must be truly passionate about your business and its potential in the world. If you want to succeed, you need to love even the process of building that dream from the ground up.
This is a simple but very important question. If you can't imagine yourself working on your business idea -- and loving it -- 10 years from now, you need another idea.
3. What finances and other resources are in hand?
What might you already have that can help advance the groundwork? Many people think immediately of cash or other capital, but relationships can be crucial resources, too. Perhaps you and a business partner could share website or server hosting costs, or maybe you know someone who could act as a mentor to advise you during the startup phase.
Give this question careful thought and write down every asset you can put to work for your new business.
4. What resources do you still need?
After you've made your list of assets, you might find you're 90 percent of the way to getting going with a minimum-overhead business, such as an online storefront or e-commerce company. Now it's time to think about the remaining 10 percent you'll need to start your minimum viable business -- without breaking the bank.
Create a new list. Include everything from the people you'll need on your team to expenses you can't escape (web hosting and solid digital design are two that spring immediately to mind). Then, calculate the financing required to bridge the gap. If you're still falling short and doubt you'd be a good bet for favorable lending terms, take one more thing out of your "bag" so you can create capacity for a part-time job or freelance work.
5. Who is your ideal customer?
Creating a customer persona is an important step to help you communicate your message clearly, stand out from the crowd and connect with people because you already "know" them.
Craft a detailed profile (a fill-in-the-blank tool can help) to describe their demographics, their characteristics and their motivations. What's their age range? Does gender matter? Can you find research to back up your preconceived notions about their psychographics? Do everything you can to discover what they love, what books they read and what wakes them up in the night.
6. Which problem(s) will your business solve?
If you've done your homework on your ideal customer, it shouldn't be difficult to identify your customer's problems and pain points. What are their motives for wanting to resolve these issues, and what might they already have tried?
For example, if your business offers weight-loss strategies for college-aged men, the ideal customer's problem is losing fat without destroying his lifestyle. His motive might be attracting a date.
Establishing a clear problem/solution scenario makes it easier to build a base of raving fans who feel as if you're speaking directly to them.
7. Who else has done it and how did they accomplish their goals?
Find someone who already has attained a few milestones on the way to startup success in your industry or a similar market. It needn't be in the same niche, although that certainly would be preferable. Look for someone who's just a few steps ahead of you -- not necessarily a guru in your space.
The simplest way to locate these people is to tap your network. Ask around in related groups or do a quick Google search to create a list of names and then work to find degrees of connections you might share in common. This step could take some time, especially if you're entering a new market or otherwise are unfamiliar with your niche's online communities.
When you've found a contender, continue your online research. Do all you can to learn what she or he did to turn dreams to reality. Then, reach out on a personal level. Send an email that honestly expresses your admiration and your reasons for wanting to start your own business. Let him or her see that you're clear in your purpose, realistic about the challenges you'll face and determined to make it happen. From there, you can explore whether this individual might be open to give advice or offer mentorship.
Ahmed Safwan is building a freelancing business while studying to be a dentist but still finds time to enjoy with friends.