Starting your business on the side of your day job—rather than quitting your full-time gig and jumping in head-first—makes sense for a lot of reasons: you’ll bring in additional income, broaden your network and learn new skills without losing the financial stability of that regular paycheck.
But if you don’t have that last day at the day job as a concrete starting point, sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how (and when) to get started. Here are eight tips that will help you make that side biz a success from the beginning:
1. Tell your network what you offer
If your friends and professional contacts understand the type of work you’re looking for, they’ll be able to send potential clients your way. Even if they don’t have anyone in mind for you initially, if they know what you offer, they’ll think of you when the right opportunity lands in their inbox.
And make sure you’re crystal clear about your value. Don’t say you’re a social media strategist; explain what you actually do and who you do it for. The more specific you can be, the more your network will be able to help you. (Bonus tip: this applies to your job search, too!)
2. Add “consultant” to your services
As Chris Guillebeau points out, it’s easier than ever to become a consultant. You have skills people want, so why not use those skills to make some money?
The challenging part, of course, is figuring out what you have to offer that’s valuable and unique. Ask yourself: What do people often ask for my help with? What do people tell me I’m good at? Then work on turning that knowledge into an offer or solution.
3. Expect to spend some weekends working
There are only so many hours in a day, and if you’re spending most of those weekday hours at your day job, you’ll simply have to put in time on weekends and evenings to get the ball rolling.
In fact, working on what would otherwise be your day off is a smart way to get ahead. And if you’re young enough to not have a spouse or family yet, now’s the time to put in those weekend hours.
4. Be willing to work for free at first
But only at first! Once you’ve got the skills and experience you need, transition swiftly to the land of paying work. Remember: getting your first project, client or investor is the most difficult part; after that, things begin to snowball.
5. Get your day job boss on board
If possible, let the manager at your full-time job know what you’re up to on evenings and weekends—and that it won’t interfere with your regular work. This doesn’t have to be a full-blown, big-deal conversation, but do make an effort to keep your boss in the loop, only so your side biz isn’t a secret. If you do keep it secret and she finds out about it later, she might feel like you were hiding something. And why bother hiding it if you can launch your side hustle while still doing a fabulous job at the office?
Some bosses, of course, won’t be cool with you working on money-making projects outside the office. If that’s the case, you’re working either at an old-school company or for an old-school manager, and neither of those is good for your career in the long run. Before putting a lot of effort into your side biz, you might try finding a new day job that will truly support your professional development.
6. Look for ways to help your day job and your side hustle feed off one another
This isn’t always possible—either because your two gigs have nothing in common or because your day job has strict rules—but when it is, there’s a lot of benefit to go around. If you have a training opportunity for the day job, try to learn a skill that will help your side biz, too. If you’re promoting your side hustle and notice a chance to plug your full-time employer, go for it.
For example, I have my own business, and Brazen is one of my clients. (I manage and edit this blog.) Whenever I’m a guest for a webinar or Twitter chat, I look for ways to mention Brazen Life, too, to bring more eyes to this blog. And often when I do appearances on behalf of Brazen, it simultaneously raises the profile of my personal brand. Taking advantage of these opportunities helps both me and my client reach our goals, which makes us both happy.
7. Spotlight where you’re going, not where you’ve been
If your main goal is to get your side biz off the ground, talk about that at your next networking event, rather than chatting about your day job. Even if you’re struggling to launch, talk about that side project with confidence, and soon your results will match your goals. Don’t emphasize what you’d like to be doing or what you wish you were learning; even if you’re doing those things in a small capacity, you’re doing them.
And if you don’t have that confidence yet? Keep taking action in the form of baby steps so you DO feel confident enough to market yourself and your skills.
8. Surround yourself with people who also have side gigs
Why? Because that will make things seem normal. If you spend all your time with people who don’t understand why you’d possibly work more than you have to, you’ll never move ahead at a fast pace. As Scott Dinsmore said in a recent TED talk, surrounding yourself with people who are already where you want to be is one of the biggest life and career hacks around.
And look: you’re already amongst go-getters by participating in the Brazen community! That means you’ve only got seven more tips to work on.
Alexis Grant, managing editor of Brazen Life, is offering a free webinar about how to launch your side hustle like a rock star. Grab your spot to join in!