Unstable employment may be here to stay. “Only” 4.something% of the work force is now officially unemployed. But millions more are under-employed, working at temporary or part-time jobs. The economy has made a weak, but consistent recovery from the Great Recession. But globalization, advances in technology and rising healthcare costs have been gradually cutting away at the job market since at least 2000. Starting a side business may be the only way forward for millions of people.
In many of my articles I promote the idea of adding some form of self-employment to your income mix. This is not only to produce additional income, but also to diversify your income sources. And it should go without saying that the majority of people will be well served by having some kind of hands-on occupation that they can carry into retirement.
Let’s get into the mechanics of starting a side business.
Why Starting a Side Business is so Important
Starting a side business is becoming increasingly necessary on four counts:
- Few people will be able to afford to fully retire, and will need an income supplement.
- Early retirement. This can be either planned or involuntary, due to job eliminations or a bad economy. Income from a side business can be a way to earn a living, either in combination with a part-time job, or early retirement income.
- The job market has become inherently unstable. Even if you feel safe right now, circumstances could change quickly. Starting a side business now could provide a valuable bridge into your next occupation – which might be converting your side business into a full-time venture.
- Giving you a sense of having some control over your destiny. Many jobs feel like traps, offering heaps of boredom, and not much future potential. A side business can open up new horizons.
There may be another reason as well. Starting a business on a full-time basis can be risky. But when you start a side business, that risk is minimized. That also means that the likelihood of the business succeeding will be higher. Launching a side business is an excellent way to start building the foundation for a full-time venture. The side business concept reduces both the risks and the fear associated with becoming self-employed.
Stop Waiting for “Someday”
Who hasn’t fantasized about striking out on their own to start a business? What keeps you from doing it? A steady paycheck is one reason; a benefits package is another.
You don’t have to give any of that up when you start a side business. In fact, being securely employed and dealing from a position of strength is probably the best launching pad from which to start any 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 even worse, they do it 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.
7 Side Business Suggestions
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. Also, don’t worry if you don’t have all the necessary skills. I started blogging and freelance blog writing as a side business, and I can tell you from experience that you will develop any skills that you need as you go forward.
You should also know that no matter what venture you’re going into, you will never be fully prepared from the very beginning. The learning curve associated with any new venture is perfectly normal.
Let’s take a view of some side business ideas from 30,000 feet. These are just suggestions – virtually any hobby, talent, skill or passion can be turned into a side business. It’s simply a matter of taking what you can do, and finding a way to monetize it.
If you like to write, and you have specific passions or knowledge, blogging is a way to earn some money just by putting your opinions out on the Internet. This isn’t as formal a venture as you might think. There’s actually a blogging process that you can follow. You create your blog, begin to build traffic, and then add advertising.
This can be done by adding Google AdSense to your blog, as well as establishing affiliate sales arrangements with related products and services. You start out making a little bit of money, but over time it grows. It can take a year or more before you’re making a few hundred dollars per month. But once you get going, it can grow like an annuity. It’s one of the most interesting ways to make extra money.
If you like to write, but you’re not interested in starting a blog, you can get into freelance blog writing. This started out as a side business for me, but is now my primary income source.
It will also start slow. You start with one client, and then begin adding others. Once you have several, and you can increase your writing fees, the income can grow to be just about as much as your talent and determination can generate. You can also do it from the comfort of your home, and it won’t interfere with your primary job.
2. Sell a Product
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.
Once you identify a product or service, and have lined up a source, create an online store to sell it. You can also set up online stores through Amazon and eBay, as well as other specialized web platforms. If you want to create your own products to sell, you can do so through Etsy.
Tens of thousands of people are doing this successfully, and you can too. It’s just a matter of putting your fears behind you, and taking the plunge.
3. Parlay Your Full-time Job into a Side Business
A lot of full-time jobs involve skills that could be turned into a side business. For example, an accountant can start a side business doing bookkeeping and tax work for private clients. An office worker can work as a virtual assistant, or even develop paid arrangements to do administrative work for small businesses.
There’s almost no job that can’t be converted into a side business, if you use your imagination. It doesn’t have to be a job-related skill either. If you have a personal skill, like computer work, dealing with medical bills, or writing resumes or term papers, that can be turned into a side business as well.
4. Repair Work/Home Remodeling
If you have any kind of hands-on skills along these lines, this can be a real opportunity. I know several people who quit full-time jobs (in IT fields no less) to start doing this work. One of the biggest benefits is that it’s the kind of work that only increases when the economy declines. Since people can’t afford to buy anything new, they’re forced to repair what’s broken.
If you have repair skills, put an ad on Craigslist, contact homeowner’s associations, and spread the word by word of mouth. Once you get a few customers, you start getting referrals. I know one guy who became a handyman, and became so popular that he was able to limit his work to just three neighborhoods.
You may be thinking, I can’t tutor, I’m not a teacher. Put that thinking out of your head. You can be a tutor in any subject where you have above average knowledge. It can be academic related subjects, such as math, science, reading, and writing. But it can also be other topics, such as tutoring people in English or a foreign language you’re familiar with, teaching repairs, coaching for job interviews, teaching basic computer applications, or teaching simple auto mechanics.
Sure, in this day and time there’s YouTube as an information source but some people prefer one-on-one instruction. If you can provide that in just about any tangible subject, you can make money as a tutor. You can advertise on Craigslist, neighborhood newsletters, through local schools, or employment agencies.
6. Create YouTube Videos
YouTube has become a go-to source for information for visual learners. Every day, millions of people go to the site to learn about ideas, skills, and processes that they know little about. This creates an opportunity for you to develop YouTube videos to sell into this niche.
It’s largely an extension of tutoring and even blogging. But rather than teaching someone one-on-one, or writing an article, you instead create an instructional video. Or you can create videos centering on a hobby, a passion, or a business concept, like investing, marketing, selling, or the job hunting process.
You can earn revenue from YouTube videos either by adding Google Adsense to your video in the same way that you do with a blog, or by using the videos to draw viewers to your website or online store. One of the advantages is that the videos become a passive source of income once they have been created.
I’ve created paid videos for clients, and I can tell you that it’s not nearly as hard as you might think. If you have a talent for creating videos you could even make that a side business itself, by preparing them for small businesses
7. Web Design and Web Marketing
If you have IT skills, there’s a ready market for both these skills. People need help creating websites, or upgrading them beyond the basic level. And everybody who has an income generating website needs help with web marketing. That can include social media promotion, SEO techniques, or even setting up affiliate marketing.
The field has become competitive in recent years, but there’s always room for a few more. This is especially true if your fee structure is reasonable.
The above business ideas are just suggestions. Millions of people have side businesses today, in all kinds of fields. It could be pet sitting, housecleaning, house sitting, or selling at flea markets and community/state/county fairs and festivals. The point is, people are doing all kinds of things to make extra money.
You can come up with as many ideas as you have interests and skills. Don’t let your job hold you back – it may not be there one day. The important thing is to get started now while time and circumstances are on your side. And with all of the uncertainty surrounding retirement, starting a side business could be one of the best retirement plans you can have.
Have you ever considered starting a side business? If not, what’s holding you back?