Start a Business On a Part-Time Basis.
Following is the first in a two-part series on how you can start a business on a part-time basis.
Today’s blog focuses on the paths that you can pursue to start your own business on a part-time basis. Why focus on how to start a business on a “part-time” basis? Well, there are many significant benefits to starting your own business on a part-time basis such as:
• It allows you to dip your entrepreneurial toe in the shallow end of the new business venture pool without having to commit on a full-time basis.
• You can pursue several opportunities at the same time, as a way of “kicking the tires” to entrepreneurship. This is especially important if you have a number of passions you are considering pursuing in a new business venture.
• Obtain entrepreneurial skills in specific functional areas such as Sales, Marketing, Human Resources, etc. very SLOWLY. It’s NOT a “Sink or Swim” proposition where you have to acquire many skills with the real risk of your full-time business suffering as you move up the learning curve.
• You can build a rolodex of contacts, resources, leads, and clients on a slow and steady basis.
• Grow your savings in advance of formally launching the business. Part-time business pursuits enable you to save up while you determine the start-up costs required to launch your business.
There are many paths to part-time new business ownership that you can explore. The primary ones are:
• Stand Retail: Start out small by running a booth, stand, or a kiosk in a retail center such as a shopping mall.
• Home-based: Conduct sales events in other people’s homes who invite you in to pitch present your products and services to people in their social circles. Some examples include Avon, Pampered Chef, Lia Sophia, certain multilevel marketing/networking pursuits (ex. Acai Juice, anti-oxidant chocolates, etc.) The benefit is you have other people inviting their networks. You have a captive audience predisposed to purchase in an intimate setting. A draw-back is you may experience a VERY finite number of people willing to invite you in to their inner circle and that lead pipeline will dry up fast.
• Consignment: Give your product to stores to sell for you. On the one hand this is ideal to get your creations into existing businesses. The draw-back is they white label your products so there is no way of building your brand. Plus you have little control over how your products are displayed in their store.
• Mail Order: You place the advertising yourself, and make sales on your time by fulfilling orders on your schedule. The challenge with utilizing mail order is finding an advertising channel that provides a steady stream of qualified leads.
• Online: eBay and others. The upside is, there is a VERY large market and ubiquitous 24/7/365 “up” time. The down side is it can be very easy to get lost in the online world. This means that your needle in the haystack may be hard to find if you lack an established brand that people are aware of.
There are quite a few factors that will ultimately determine how successful you are in launching a new business as a part-time endeavor. Some of these include:
• It starts as a passion/hobby COMBINED with your CORE COMPETENCIES. Think of the things that you have always loves to do, and are most passionate about. The point at which those passions overlap with your skills and expertise create a sweet spot of a narrow set of possible new business ideas.
• Balance business and home life. Those entrepreneurs that I find are most successful use part-time business pursuits as a learning tool to manage their 168 hour a week finite resource. They are consummate prioritizers. They know how to delegate and are VERY flexible.
• Time management skills are CRITICAL! Even on a part-time basis running a business combined with a day job and a life of family and friend commitments fills up those 168 hours quickly. It is a constant juggling act.
• Have a To-Do list of To-Do lists. Most of my clients fail in managing time when they let their to-do lists take over by NOT having ANY lists. They are unstructured, hop from crisis to crisis in a reactive fashion so they simply lose sight of any planning we develop together. This happens time and time and time again.
• Delegate and outsourcing. None of us are expects in EVERYTHING. What you can’t do well, or don’t know how to do, find others in your network who CAN and WILL help you. Start by creating a list of people close to you and their skill sets. This is your SECRET weapon in getting everything done.
• Bootstrapping: a term used to define bartering (trading) services you need others to perform for you in lieu of you paying them. You get their help, and instead of paying them you offer services as compensation. It’s an entrepreneur’s win-win.
• Seek advisers like coaches and mentors: This one’s an absolute MUST. There are people in your social and professional networks who can and will help you. Identify a short list of 2-4, then begin having a discussion with them about your plans to go out on your own, on a part-time basis.
You are going to have to aggressively manage all the things you need to get done, to launch this new business start-up on a part-time basis. Here is a short list of essential things you need to begin working on NOW:
• Identify passions and interests. What do you love to do, what are your lifelong hobbies, passions, interests, the things you’ve done as a volunteer or outside of work that fulfill you?
• What are your hobbies? Write these all down.
• Register your business with the state. In order to register your business you will need to know which legal structure you prefer, either solo practitioner, Limited Liability Corporation partnership, S-corporation or C-corporation. Understand the tax, legal, and ownership considerations of each of these. Once you register your business you will receive your federal taxpayer / employer identification number. Then you are OFFICIALLY a new business owner. Congratulations! You can even go out and get yourself a nine digit numeric D&B DUNS number.
• Talk to everyone in your social & professional networks about this new side business. Spreads the word. Build a market for your products and services by going viral! Leverage social media. Start a blog. Build your brand as a subject matter expert. Get published, reach out to bloggers who cover your industry.
• Pick their collective “GREY” matter. Ask the people in your network who are most like your ideal customer as many questions as you can about how they use such products and services, what they like most/least, discuss their shopping experiences. You AREN’T selling your offerings. Rather, you ARE asking them about themselves, so you can fine tune how you will sell and market your goods.
• Set pricing guidelines. Have a complete set of pricing to reflect special discounts, offers, pricing for company clients, non-profits, academic institutions, Government agencies, one time versus repeat purchases, referral and client reward offerings…everything!
• Develop collateral: your sales flyers, brochures, product specifications, your professional bio, business cards, print advertisements. You’ll need a complete set of professional looking sales aides to sell your business.
• Build Your Personal Brand. Branding is all about making a promise to your clients that you will consistently deliver value to them by being unique, memorable, and invaluable. That is the single most important point to understand when you start out as a new business owner. Following are a few strategies to build a compelling brand:
– Develop your success stories
– Become a subject matter expert
– Get published
– Create a Linked In Profile
– Join Linked In Groups, start discussions
– Become active in the industries you will target
– Participate on panels
– Give lectures anywhere & everywhere
Avoid the many traps and pitfalls that come from trying to start a new business on a part-time basis:
• Moonlighting: Working on the side which adversely affects your ability to serve your current employer in the way they need from you.
• Conflicts of Interest: you may not be able to represent competitors or serve a client on your side business that you serve through your employer.
• Cannibalizing: taking business away from your employer and funneling it to your own business. Just flat-out unethical.
• Maintain highest ethical standards
• Aggrandizing: making yourself seem bigger than you are. It’s the deceptive practice of false advertising of your skills, background, experiences or the size of your business.
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach