Professional hobbies: how to start your little bit on the side
In the uncertain job market, having a side project or business can provide a vital safety net. Dan Schawbel shares his advice on how to set up your new venture
By Dan Schawbel
Having a full-time job isn’t enough for some people, especially those who have entrepreneurial aspirations or who dislike their jobs. Many employees are working at jobs they don’t like to fund projects or businesses they love. Some hope to turn their side project into their full-time job eventually, while others enjoy staying busy or having a second income. In the current economy, no job is secure so it’s wise to diversify your attention just in case you suddenly lose your job.
Rwitwika Bhattacharya is a prime example of someone who has been able to juggle a day job with a side business. She currently works as a labor economist at the World Bank, while running her non-profit, Swaniti, on the side. Her organisation works to improve governance in India by introducing talented youths to the political scene to identify the issues they face. Once these are identified, she uses experts to provide strategy consulting and a problem-solving programme.
Steve Hebert works full-time at GE Capital while running a side business focused on photo scanning, memory DVD-slideshows, and live event streaming. He’s been running his side job for three years and earns a good income, but not enough to leave his day job.
For others out there who think having a side project could be beneficial to their career, here is a three step process to help you get started:
1. Identify your career and business goals
Do you want to start your own business? Are you looking for a side income? Do you want to use your project to learn skills that will help you be more marketable at work? Are you bored and looking to fill a void in your life? These are all important questions to ask yourself before you start a project outside of your full-time job. If you have no real goal in mind, you’re wasting your time. Once you devise your goals, commit to them and create deadlines so you are organised and have direction.
2. Select the right business to get into
Choose the right business or project based on your current skills, strengths and network. Make the business something you’re truly passionate about so you’ll put the effort in. Think about the amount of time you can spend working on your company based on your financial and family situation. If you are just looking for a side income, you might want to start an eBay or Etsy business or do freelance work. You can find freelance opportunities on websites such as oDesk, which has thousands of postings. If you want to start a physical store or internet-based startup, you’ll either need to fund it yourself or pitch to venture capitalists.
3. Turn your side business into your day job
Once you’re able to develop monthly cashflow and can project an annual income that allows you to fund your business and your lifestyle, it might be time to quit your day job. Many entrepreneurs make a big mistake by leaving their jobs too early and run out of cash. It’s critical that you have several profitable months before you make the leap. When you’re ready, leave on good terms with your employer and, if possible, try and sign your company as a client.