Looking to start a business or turn a side job into a full-time career? You're not alone. The number of new entrepreneurs increases in the U.S. every year, and the last year alone saw over 5 million new business applications. If you’re thinking of going out on your own and turning a side gig into a full time venture, consider 6 things you’ll want to have in place early on to give you the greatest chance of success!
A solid and reliable customer base guarantees revenue during those early months when your full-time business is just getting started. Having existing customers to give referrals, write positive reviews, and provide word-of-mouth marketing to friends and on social media gives you a base to start from and creates reasonable expectation of growth.
Your side gig may not have required much of a dedicated space before, especially if you only spent a few hours a month on it. But if it is to be a full-time commitment, a good working space is essential. If your business involves meeting clients in person or selling products directly, you need to consider location accessibility for clients and consumers as well as yourself.
Transitioning from a small, part-time side job to a full-time business will require some degree of marketing and advertising. Marketing budgets for small businesses vary widely, usually falling somewhere between 2% and 10% of revenue, but they can be higher in businesses or markets where customers are harder to reach. If you’re just starting out, your budget is likely to be small while you pursue low- and no-cost DIY marketing opportunities through word-of-mouth, social media, and online videos and reviews. Having some money on hand to supplement those methods will allow you to optimize and expand your reach and create a plan for how you might increase that budget each year as your business grows.
No matter how well-detailed your business plan or how careful your budget, it is always advisable to have some emergency cash on hand for those times when things don’t go according to plan. You cannot predict every contingency or crisis and you don’t want your business to fall before it’s even gotten started. The next major hurricane or health crisis will be much more easily weathered if you have a few months of emergency cash to rely upon while you reassess.
Working your side job has probably accustomed you to independence and self-reliance. But as you move from a single-person side gig to a full-scale business, you may encounter situations when outside support can really help. Mentors are important in business and can give a budding entrepreneur access to sage advice and cautions, as well as important contacts in the industry. Having people to bounce ideas off of and practice communication builds confidence and better prepares you for dealing with challenging clients and customers. Mentors with years of experience in your field can also alert you to any regulations, permits, or licenses that you may need and can recommend reputable legal and tax professionals with experience in your chosen industry.
Good financial management is the lifeblood of a successful business venture. Research shows that running out of money is the biggest reason startups fail. Generating enough starting capital, tracking expenses, recording revenue, and budgeting realistically are essential for maintaining sufficient cash flow and staying out of debt. While bookkeeping may not be your favorite task, your business cannot survive (long) without it. A plethora of affordable online accounting and bookkeeping services are available to even the smallest of business ventures that take the time, hassle, and guesswork out of balancing the books. Automated programs can send and track invoices for you, as well as record incoming payments and update account totals. Online check printing makes issuing payments streamlined, inexpensive, and secure for those times when a paper check is needed. Checkeeper is the leading provider of online check printing and check mailing, and its services integrate with the most widely-used accounting and payroll software products on the market, saving countless hours of bookkeeping time that can instead be diverted to sales and growth.
Whether you already have enough capital to transition to a full-time business, whether you’ll need to raise funds through investors, or whether you’ll need a business loan are also important considerations up front so that you do not run out of money before you get going. Above all, an honest evaluation of your personal strengths and weaknesses will be crucial in developing a successful new business so that you can use optimize your own talents while delegating more challenging tasks to outside workers, freelancers, or other professionals who have the experience or expertise you lack.