We’ve all dreamt it. Starting up a hustle on the side of your regular 9 to 5. You see a new business thrive and think to yourself: ‘I could do that.’
Many people have great ideas but never take the next step (or steps) of turning those ideas into reality. There are plenty of reasons why those steps are never taken, some real, but mostly imagined.
A few years ago, I took the plunge and started my little bit on the side. It hasn’t been easy, but then again, it has not been as impossible as I once imagined. Here are the top five things I wish I knew before starting my side-hustle.
1. You don’t need as much money as you think
I suspect money — or a lack thereof — is probably one of the major reasons some great ideas never get off the ground. Sure, you need some seed capital but by and large we’re not talking huge amounts.
Today, my side-hustle is being funded by my corporate job. Having an income stream that you can funnel into your side-hustle helps, but having said that, you don’t need a huge injection upfront.
What I have discovered is once you have the right ideas and have actually worked out a solution to a real problem that meets people’s needs, it’s amazing how little seed capital is actually necessary.
Before launching my business and producing anything, I participated in the Sydney Gluten Free Expo. I knew this was my target customer group and it was imperative that I took the opportunity to get in front of them to validate that my first product did in fact meet a need.
I had no product manufactured as yet, only beautiful food samples for people to enjoy, and great materials that represented what we stood for.
I was even contemplating not buying a Square reader for the event. Luckily, I changed my mind!
We walked away with over 250 fully pre-paid sales and over 300 sign-ups! I used these sales to partly fund the manufacturing of my first product line.
There was little investment in the expo, say $2,000, but the returns I gained with sales and learnings helped give me the certainty and confidence I needed to continue investing.
Examples of other companies starting with relatively modest amounts of cash abound — Spotify, Instagram and Group, for example, with the latter two also being side-hustles.
2. Don’t focus on your lack of network — build your own instead
I started my side-hustle in an industry (food) in which I had zero experience and zero contacts. To say that I was apprehensive in starting a food business is a huge understatement.
Nonetheless, once I took the plunge, I soon discovered that people, many of whom were complete strangers, were very keen to help out.
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When I had my idea, I called a food and beverage consultant that I knew from my corporate role and asked them if they could recommend a food technologist to help me work on an innovative new product. Three years later, I am still working with the same food technologist and he has referred me through to his network, including auditors, food scientists, manufacturers and the list goes on!
I found starting with one super helpful and connected contact helped build out my network.
3. Don’t be put off by your perceived lack of expertise
This point is related to the previous one but warrants separate advice.
As mentioned, I had no experience in the food industry. However, what I did have was a knack for working with and managing people possessing diverse skill-sets, and a love of food.
I find that surrounding yourself with the right people, asking the right questions and trusting them to do their thing will invariably yield great results. Focus on what you’re good at, and outsource the rest.
One of my favourite mantras is Richard Branson’s famous adage “delegate and elevate”.
4. The folly of perfectionism
Let go of your perfectionist streak.
When starting up a new venture I learnt to ease up a bit on the obsessive perfectionist aspect of my personality. I found it more productive and rewarding to give things a go even if my plans were a little rough around the edges.
I learnt that the quicker you get something out there the quicker you start learning, especially from customers.
For instance, being able to show the essence of your value proposition is enough. For me, the small investment I made at the Gluten Free Expo yielded the biggest returns — from a $2,000 investment to insight on what products my key customers wanted and funds to trigger my first production run.
5. Confidence is great, grit is better
As I said above, it hasn’t been an easy run.
You’ll face many setbacks. Some of will seem insurmountable at times.
People may not return your calls or emails, but for me, that challenged me to find other ways to get their attention.
I know it’s a cliché, but seriously, don’t give up. You need to be passionate about your mission and just be ready for the ride.