Starting a Side Business – Why Now is the Time

Unstable employment may be here to stay. 10% of the work force is now unemployed, and millions more are under-employed, working at temporary or part-time jobs. By some indicators the economy is showing signs of recovery, but globalization, advances in technology and rising healthcare costs have been gradually cutting away at employment long before onset of the Great Recession.

In Multiple Income Streams to replace One Man-One Job?, we discussed different options to deal with the increasing unreliability of permanent, full-time, fully benefited jobs. Starting a side business is at the center of that discussion.

Why start a side business?

Even if your job seems secure at the moment there are a number of reasons you should be interested in having your own side business:

  1. Many of the jobs now in jeopardy were once considered “safe” only a few years ago. Banking was one of these, but we all know how that’s playing out now. Could your field be next?
  2. Even in jobs that are relatively safe at the moment, opportunities to advance have diminished. While your job may provide some security, you may need to look elsewhere in order to move ahead in your livelihood.
  3. Having an established second income could cushion the fall in the event of an unexpected layoff, freeing you to accept less than full-time work if necessary.
  4. Retirement. Few investment projections adequately account for the effects of inflation on future portfolio values. Relying exclusively or even primarily on overly optimistic retirement investment projections could leave us far less prepared than most of us assume.
  5. A solid second income could reduce the stress that comes with being dependent on a single source for your livelihood.
  6. Work for a living on your job, but a side business can offer an opportunity to do what you love.
  7. What starts out as a side business could grow into a future full time career.
  8. Any time we step into a new venture, we develop and expand opportunities and skill sets that weren’t available to us before we started. You never know what parallel opportunities could result from having a side business.

Stop waiting for “someday”

Who hasn’t fantasized about striking out on their own to start a business? What keeps us from doing it? A steady paycheck is one reason; a benefits package is another.

You don’t have to give any of that up. In fact, being securely employed and dealing from a position of strength is probably the best launching pad from which to start a business. Keep your regular job and start your business as a side venture.

To use a sports metaphor, think of your regular job as your defense where you fortify your household and don’t take chances. Your side business is your offense—the venture in which you take chances in favor of achieving long term financial independence or even real wealth.

Choose a business that you would like to do—a hobby, a business that really interests you or something for which you have a natural talent. Many people work in careers they don’t particularly like because it pays the bills, or worse, because it’s what they’ve always done. Having a side business should be about preferences—doing what you really like. Think of it as an opportunity to break out and to try something fresh and new.

Part of the reason you’ll want to start now is that it often takes longer than we think for a new business to start generating a positive cash flow. But start now, while you have a cash flow from your regular job, and you’ll have the staying power necessary to make the venture a success. Wait until you lose your job to start and the whole dynamic will shift from strength to desperation.

Side business suggestions

Here are some side business ideas just to get the creative juices flowing:

  • Tutoring. Were you a strong student in school? If so, you can tutor students or adults in a favorite subject. English as a second language is in great demand right now due to the influx of immigrants.
  • Blogging. Like to write? Have some great ideas? There are blogs on virtually every subject. Find one or two you like, visit blogs, leave comments and see how the process works. Get enough visitors to your site and you can earn income through ad programs like Google Adsense as well as affiliate programs. In addition to making additional income, blogging also offers a way to get your ideas out into the world.
  • Repair work. If you have knack for fixing broken things, a side business in repairs could work for you. Cars, houses, computers all need to be repaired and with the current emphasis on college norm careers, there aren’t always a lot of people around who can do that kind of work anymore. Start in your local area, and spread out from there.
  • Home remodeling. Given the weak economy and the even weaker housing market, a lot of homeowners are opting to renovate rather than move. I know a few people in home remodeling and they’re busier than ever.
  • Sell a product. . Most people work in service businesses these days and products often get overlooked. Find a product or product line that you believe in, that you actually use and can endorse without reservation Since most consumer goods are produced overseas, finding an inexpensive product source should be relatively easy.
  • Parlaying your full time job into a profitable sideline. Can you take the work you do on your primary job and turn it into a side business? This can be the easiest way to start earning money quickly and should be the first business type you consider.
  • Converting a hobby into a profitable sideline. Do you have hobby you really enjoy and where you’re really knowledgeable? This can be something you can blog about, earning revenue not only from ad sales on your website, but eventually from product sales related to your hobby.
  • Professional speaking/promoting. Most people have an almost mortal fear of speaking in public, which puts a natural lid on the number of people who do it. If you like speaking before groups, find out if there’s a way you can monetize that skill.
  • Pet care. The dual career household is now a cultural fixture, but who’s minding the family pet when everyone is at work or school? This is a business you can start in your own neighborhood—where you have credibility—then branch out as your referral base builds.
  • Web design/marketing. Websites and web marketing have become major advertising venues, so nearly every business needs help in this area. If you have skills in web design or web marketing your potential market is nearly the entire business community.

You can come up with as many ideas as you have interests and skills, but the important thing is to get started now while time and circumstances are on your side.

If you think that building a side business may be the right path for you, but you don’t know what kind of business to go into, check out my post, The Freelance Blog Writer Side Hustle. Blog writing is one of the most promising side ventures you can enter because it’s growing rapidly and has excellent potential to lead to still more opportunities. This post can help you get started if you think it could be a business for you.

10 Responses to Starting a Side Business – Why Now is the Time

  1. Now more than ever this is the time to be your own boss. No sleepless nights worrying about the next round of lay offs. Work from home doing what you love. Affiliate marketing is a wide open field. If you are technically savvy, SEO is a wide open field. With a few free downloads, you can analyze sites, and easily see where they are lacking in SEO. Having a website constructed is easily outsourced to freelancers. No need to pay thousands for a website. And take the time to learn HTML and CSS and you’ll be updating your own site in no time.

    Nearly every company uses affiliates now, yet few affiliates achieve success.

    You can easily market yourself on contractor for hire sites, where you bid on jobs, be it programming, or baby sitting. Some companies hire straight commission people for any field you are interested in. Salesconx is one that comes to mind. Scared of losing a regular paycheck? Every small business owner lives on straight commissions. Their employees get paid first.

    Beware of unsolicited interviews from job boards. These are invariably companies asking you to put up your own money to represent them exclusively. Insurance companies are notorious for signing up as many agents as they can, and letting them sink or swim. Curious? Just google Allstate or State Farm in your town. You might be amazed at how many agents are in a town, often as many as one per 10,000 citizens.

    Start from home. Keep overhead down. Realtors will NEVER tell you that the location you are looking at has never had a tenant last a year before going under. Know your locale, watch business closings. You’ll soon see a partern of bad locations.

    Form an LLC. Sole propietor is simple to set up, but you expose your personal assets should you fail. Even if you have no employees, you can still form an LLC. Most states will have web sites which tell you every step you need to take to form an LLC. It just takes some legwork. Or you can outsource through places like LegalZoom.

    Manage your cash flow. Cash flow will make or break you. During start up you will have expenses without revenue. It could be 3-6 months (or more) before you reach positive cash flow. Budget for it. There are many areas where you can minimize costs. VoIP, used computers or NIB on E Bay, buying equipment at auctions.

    The net is filled with free (and good) advice on marketing, sales, finance, you name it. Avoid buying anything that you can get for free instead. In time you may need to add professional services.

    Use direct mail. SEO takes time and money. Mail lists cost as little as .07 per lead. If you have the budget, use post cards. At least you know the recipient will see it before they throw it out. Can’t afford printing costs? Use plain envelopes and HAND WRITE the addresses, with no return address. At least your mailer will get opened. Offer a guarantee or free trial.

    Beware of the entrepreneur bug. Once you have a taste of success as your own boss, you’ll never take a regular job again. And make mistakes. If you aren’t making mistakes you are not trying hard enough. Talk to every business owner at every business you use. They love to tell you how they succeed. And if your first business fails, try try again.

    Good luck and I hope you’ll join me and so many others that have the freedom of being our own boss.


  2. Bill – I wish you left some contact info in your comment, because it has enough content to be a post all it’s own!

    Thanks for commenting, and from the points you made I can tell that you’ve done this before. I’ve used the postcard idea for mailers, and you’re absolutely correct, it’s the the most cost-effective way to market by mail.

  3. It’s been fun writing on my site and watching progress.

    Anybody who succeeds in the Samurai Alexa Challenge by July 4 will be able to make $500-$1000/month EASY from their site. Money is a side benefit though. The real benefit is knowledge.

  4. FS – I agree about having fun writing (and developing) the site. I came into this as a complete novice, but the progress is a real thrill to experience.

    I need to look into the Samurai Alexa Challenge. I’ll be in your neighborhood soon!

  5. Thanks for tweeting this post.

    My previous job had a clause in our contract that any funds we made ‘moonlighting’ had to be put back into the company (non-profit). I found that to so ridiculous, because our pay was so low that most of us had to moonlight speaking, writing, or coaching to make it. Side jobs can provide such meaning. I loved coaching so much. Side jobs also help to make easier transitions when you are let go! My wife has a budding photography business that is our fall back plan in case of job loss or sale of the business.

  6. Ted – That was an unfortunate job situation you were in. My first job out of college was like that. They didn’t pay me a living wage an I had to keep side jobs. They confronted me on it, but I told them flat out that they weren’t paying me enough to live on one paycheck.

    Unless you’re doing something that negatively affects your employer I don’t know why this would be an issue, especially in a low pay situation.

  7. I had a lot of people rag me for my sheer refusal to be an employee. I mean.. Even getting the most rudimentary job has been one of the biggest challenges for me. Before the economic recession of 2008 hit, I managed to get a job by just pulling to a temp agency and voila! Employed. I must have handed out hundreds, if not, a good thousand or two resumes since then and nobody, not even the temps, would take me in.

    I figured instead of wasting my time to wait to be fed scooby snacks, I’m trying self employment alternatives. I got fantastic landscaping and computer repair skills under my belt if I never need to sell or barter that skill, and now I’m getting into blogging and social media.

    Between that and investing; I think I may very well thrive during these employee-unfriendly times.

  8. I think starting a business online to create more income is what everyone should be doing these days! Its the berst thing you can consider to build and secure your future. I love your different things to do Please See my blog post on Starting A Small Business Online

  9. If you can cut all the crap in your life and go minimal then start a side hussle, chances are you can get out of the corporate rut quicker than you think. I blog full time now with a little web design on the side and am much happier for it.

  10. Forest – Yes, I think that’s a big key. Before you can even begin to think about turning a side business into a full time venture you first have to clear the decks of unnecessary expenses. It’s easy to accumulate them when you’re on a regular salary, but a business is different.

    Along the same line, removing the clutter will probably help you to think more clearly, and that’s just as important.

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