The other day, I launched a greeting card line. I drew some digital illustrations, uploaded them to a website, and ordered a fistful of each design in 5X7″ card format with matching envelopes. A few days later, the cards arrived. I carted them down to a local card store, met with the manager (we’re friends, I should divulge), and she took the whole lot to see what she could do with them.
I don’t know if it could be any easier.
Starting your own side business is easier these days than ever before. Technology has become abundant and relatively inexpensive (you can buy a web server for $500). Software is cheap or free (you’d have to work really hard to stump me on a free equivalent of most mainstream software you’re using). Distribution methods are more and more abundant. Even the difficulties in processing payment have been mostly solved by companies like PayPal.
Time is probably the most expensive investment of all. You’ve still got the day job, the family, and whatever else you’ve chosen to fill the hours between waking and sleeping. To that, I say, make sure whatever it is you’re thinking of doing is something you’re passionate about, and something you can pick up and put down when you need to shift priorities.
I tend to like the idea of small side businesses instead of quitting the day job and putting it to The Man. I think it’s a safer option, and I think it relieves some of the pressures you’d face if you went full time right out of the gate. Read E-Myth Mastery by Michael Gerber (skip the bits about Sarah). It will give you a sense of what you’re NOT considering when you think of running a business for yourself full time. It’s very helpful in reminding you of all the other stuff you’ve got to do to maintain a business.
Start slow, but consider scale. Whatever business you’re considering, see if it’s something where you can start it at one point and scale it up as you go along. With my card business, I did it super small, so small I could buy single cards if I want. But obviously, there’s not a lot of profit in that method, as the production cost goes up. When I’m ready to do more (if I want to bother), I’ll source through a printer that offers me a much reduced cost if I print in bulk. If I want to go even bigger than that, I’ll just find an agent or card company and sell the designs to them. That way, THEY can do all the parts of the business that I’m not interested in doing.
Bootstrap. See if you can do your idea for the least money possible. Are there inexpensive of free means to get what you need to launch on a small scale? Do you REALLY need business cards? Are you paying to host a website when you can get one for free? It cost me $22.90 to see if my cards will be of interest to anyone. That’s cheaper than dining out once.
Measure your time closely. One early idea I had for making money seemed foolproof. I could use about six cents worth of materials and make a $5 product. I knew there was a market. I could sell them easy-cheesy. And then I realized how much TIME it would take me to make these things. It turned my labor cost into something like $3.00 an hour. Unless I could find slaves to do it for me, it was clearly not a good business.
The best businesses are those where you don’t have to be there to make money. Residual incomes come from things like selling products, renting space, collecting licensing fees, and things where it’s not 1:1 with your time. Think about that.
Have you started your own small business? What did you do? What did you come up against that you didn’t expect?