Having a side gig is a great way to pad your income and give yourself some more confidence in the job market. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, as long as it brings in some extra cash and doesn’t interfere with your schedule too much.
Working online opens up a whole range of new opportunities in this area, and if you play your cards right, you may eventually find yourself earning more from your side gig business than your main job.
At that point, you will probably want to think about converting this side gig to something more serious. And if you want to minimize the inherent risk associated with that, there are a few things you need to be careful about.
1. Leverage the Stability Your Day Job Provides
One of the best things about doing this kind of work on the side at first is that it allows you to grow your business and scale up safely, always knowing that you have your regular job as a safety net.
This setup provides you with some significant benefits, going far beyond your compensation. It gives you a sense of stability, which can make you more confident in any negotiations related to your business.
If you are a freelancer, for example, you don’t have to go through the classic beginner grind of working for low-paying clients just to build some reputation. You can safely turn down those offers and focus on better-paying jobs that are more aligned with your skills.
2. Build a Network of Contacts ASAP
No matter what kind of business you are running, you can’t survive without professional contacts. Building your network should be a top priority in the beginning, and you should go out of your way to seek out these opportunities.
Don’t turn down a chance to talk to a client even when you know you have no intention of working with them. This might open some unexpected opportunities. You never know where these kinds of conversations might lead, and where your next lucrative client might be hiding.
3. Keep Studying Your Market
Take every opportunity you can to study the market you operate in and stay up to date about new developments in it. Once you decide to take the leap and go full-time, you will need all the extra information you can get.
Having an in-depth understanding of your market will put you in a very advantageous position compared to some of your competitors, as many of them will likely be relying on their day-to-day experience to guide them through the field.
Those who take the extra time to study their industry separately usually stand to gain a lot in the long term.
4. Are Your Qualifications Sufficient?
Having a good understanding of your market and a solid business plan are both important. But there are some things you can’t really learn yourself, even if you have a strong aptitude for business.
Earning a degree can usually go a long way towards preparing you for what is to come, especially if you are planning to enter a more dynamic business field that requires intricate knowledge of business operations in general.
Many degree paths can prove useful here, and an online Master’s in Marketing Analytics from Emerson College is a good example of something that can give you a reasonable boost to your performance.
Business management and other similar fields can also be very attractive if you want to get on top of your management game. And with the help of online degrees, you can easily balance your studies with your day job and personal life, allowing you to expand your skill set without having to sacrifice any of your own time.
5. Don’t Rush Towards Physical Expansion
One of the great things about an online business is that you can usually get a lot of work done with a minimal physical presence on the market – in some cases, even none. This doesn’t mean that you can go on like this forever though.
At some point, you might need to open an office, rent a warehouse, or do something else that will put you on the map in a more literal sense.
When this happens, you must calculate your moves very carefully and ensure that you are aware of all long-term implications of what you are doing. Handled incorrectly, physical expansion can quickly lead to a disaster that can completely bury your company.
There is no shortage of similar examples in every market. But if you do it right, this can create some attractive gig opportunities and help you grow.
6. Going International – Things to Watch Out for
And if you want to take things one step further, you might find yourself going international at some point. Expanding to other countries usually comes with some significant legal and financial implications though, and as exciting as it might be, you have to tread carefully here.
Make sure you are covering all your bases adequately. Get a good attorney with experience in international business to guide you through your next steps, and make sure that your accountant is aware of your plans as well.
Sometimes you might need to expand your accounting team with additional specialists with specific experience in international tax law. This can get expensive fast, especially if you are engaging in more complicated business relationships that require a lot of research and paperwork.
Preparing your company for this early on is crucial if you want to avoid being burdened by what is going on.
7. Avoiding the Common Problems of a Growing Workforce
Expanding your company usually also means expanding your workforce. And that comes with its own set of problems that you have to be careful to avoid. The biggest mistake you can make is to let your workforce grow uncontrolled without considering where that will put you a few months from now.
Usually, big expansions like these are associated with major developments in your company, and a common problem in this area is hiring more people than you actually need in the long run.
If you just need to overcome a temporary hurdle, bringing a huge number of people on board can put your company in a difficult position after you’ve dealt with those pressing issues. Letting people go on short notice is awkward and unprofessional, but so is keeping them around when you know you don’t have any work for them to do.
8. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Another important point you’ll need to address early on is gig diversification. You can’t afford to progress solely on what you’ve been doing until now.
Even if it is easy and lucrative, you have no guarantee that things are going to stay the same in the future. Some business fields change very rapidly, and especially recently, it is not rare to see businesses that have been thriving for decades going under simply because the market has moved on and doesn’t need them anymore.
These kinds of changes are happening left and right, and there is sometimes no indication that a particular business field is at risk.
The best thing you can do to avoid this kind of situation is to diversify your business operations and try to establish yourself in fields that have good synergy potential with your current line of work. These opportunities will sometimes come from the most surprising places, so try to keep an open mind about this, and keep exploring business fields that could potentially work well for you in this regard.
A professional advisor who can guide you through this would be ideal here. It will not be cheap to get someone experienced who knows how to steer you in the right direction, but it will be well worth it.
9. Know the Main Problems You Can Expect in Your Gig Market
This one is a bit more abstract and vaguer, and it is a combination of some of the points we’ve brought up above to some extent.
Always try to stay aware of the biggest potential problems in your market and know which of them are relevant to your particular business model and current situation. This list will change over time, requiring you to stay on your toes and keep adjusting your operations accordingly.
Sometimes, completely new problems will emerge as market paradigms shift. It can be very difficult to keep yourself covered on all fronts, so at some point, you’ll want to bring some help on board for this. This is one of the positions you should be very picky about filling, as this specialist (or specialists) will play a huge role in the long-term success of your company.
And above all, be patient. This is going to take some time. After all, it probably took you quite a while to get your side business to where it is in the first place.
Sure, a side job comes with the implication that you don’t put that much effort into it, but don’t expect that things are just going to immediately pick up once you’ve started focusing on it full-time. Like all things in the business world, this requires a lot of patience until you see some results.
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I am Adeyemi Adetilewa, a media consultant, entrepreneur, husband, and father. Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Ideas Plus Business Magazine, online business resources for entrepreneurs. I help brands share unique and impactful stories through the use of public relations, advertising, and online marketing. My work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Addicted2Success, Hackernoon, The Good Men Project, and other publications.