(This post originally appeared on Philly.com)
Thinking of starting up a side business? You’re certainly not alone.
According to a recent survey of 2,000 adults from customer marketing firm Vistaprint, more than a quarter of them have turned their hobby into a “side-hustle” to supplement their wages from a full-time job. And the money they’re earning is pretty impressive. Fourteen percent of the survey’s respondents say their side business brings in more than $22,000 a year, with the average being about $15,000.
There seem to be opportunities everywhere.
“Our study identified that beauty, health, and wellness is the most popular category for side hustles,” said Erin Shea, Vistaprint’s North America market director. “Other top categories included art, music, and entertainment, retail and sales, and finance. Many of the jobs in these top side hustle categories can be carried out at home, which may explain their popularity.”
Most people, of course, do this for the extra cash. But running a side business isn’t always about the money. In fact, 37 percent of the survey’s respondents started a side business to pursue a passion, and 41 percent said they did so to spend more time doing what they enjoy. But that’s not all. Having a side business can – for some – improve their performance at their day jobs, too.
Just ask Nicole DuCoin. By day, she’s an art director at a Philadelphia-based branding and web design firm. But after work, DuCoin has another life: She’s the owner of Frankadelphia, a side business she started in 2012 that sells quirky T-shirts, coasters and greeting cards featuring Philadelphia personalities and historical figures both online and to small boutiques around the city. Her side business serves as a creative outlet and a reason for her to get away from the computer screen and client issues. She’s also finding that it helps her do her job better.
“It’s a great way to express my creativity and learn about business outside of my job,” she says. “It’s taught me a bit more about the client perspective, how to manage my time, and keep organized. I’ve learned a lot about talking to people and selling my product, which helps me to communicate my ideas to clients at work.”
The most successful side-hustlers I know treat their businesses with as much respect as their full-time jobs. They seek out accounting and legal advice to make sure their business is set up properly, paperwork is filed, and taxes are paid. They keep their businesses separate from their day jobs and make sure they’re not taking time away from their employers. They also make a serious effort to market and develop the brands for their businesses because … well, who knows? It could turn into something bigger.
That’s what happened to Stephanie Harvey. Her Conshohocken-based company, Exit343design, was at first a side business. But her products – a variety of custom-designed greeting cards, booze bags and can coolies – soon expanded to the point where Harvey found herself quitting her full-time job to become a full-time entrepreneur.
“When I first started selling my artwork, I didn’t realize that what I was doing was or could be a business,” she says. “As time [a couple of years] wore on and I honed my craft, it became apparent that it could be a legitimate career option and I began to put more weight behind it.”
Respondents to the Vistaprint survey had plenty of good advice for their fellow would-be side-hustlers, such as building a strong social media presence, setting long-term goals, leveraging word-of-mouth marketing, and networking with other side-hustlers both online and at local events. They also share the same challenges, such as having to work crazy and oftentimes unorthodox hours and dealing with the pressures of maintaining a full-time job while growing a part-time business. The stress and uncertainties of leaving the security of employment to venture out on your own are also significant. For many, it’s all about balance and making the most productive user of their time.
DuCoin, for example, has a deeper appreciation for the value of surrounding herself with people who are able to support her business and lend a helping hand when orders get busy. Harvey has learned to wean down her once massive to-do lists to the items that are priority and not let all the things that are not getting done upset her. They’ve both seen the value of focusing on the tasks will generate the most revenue because – as any side-hustler will tell you – it’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re working for yourself and time is limited when you’ve already got a full-time job.
To run a successful side business, it’s important to prioritize tasks based on when can bring in money, especially when you’re just getting started.
In the end, however, a side-hustle is all about doing something you really enjoy. It could be artistic or creative or merely an activity that’s relaxing and a pleasant distraction from your day job. But just remember: It doesn’t always have to be small.
“The beauty of starting a side business is being able to test your venture’s long-term viability, growth, and marketing opportunities in a safer setting,” Vistaprint’s Shea says. “For many side hustlers, this helps to ease the transition into full-time entrepreneurship while being able to spend more time doing what they love – not to mention making money doing it.”