4 Ways To Make Your ‘Gig’ Job A Real Small Business

If you’re doing freelance work or have a side job that you are passionate about, you may have wondered whether the “gig” could become your full-time business.   

Here are 4 ideas that will help you turn your gig work into a successful company.

1. Research and evaluate.

Just like any entrepreneur, what you need to know before you commit full time is whether you have a viable business in the making – whether it can produce enough income to square with your financial needs.

“The main difference between a passion project and a real business is sales and revenue,” says Felena Hanson, author of the book “Flight Club - Rebel, Reinvent, and Thrive: How to Launch Your Dream Business.” 

“It’s important to properly vet the market for the product or service you are offering,” writes Hanson in an article for Ellevate Network, a membership community for professional women.

So start researching the market demand for your product or services – look to see how your product or service stands apart from the others you’ll be competing with. Consider drafting a business plan – going through the steps will help you better assess the facets of your company’s operation, including potential income.

2. Start an online presence.

If you’re a creative type and your product will be sold online, such as artwork, jewelry, clothing, etc., take advantage of online tools that let entrepreneurs reach potential buyers without high startup coasts. 

“These online tools can help you do everything from advertising your business inexpensively to connecting with new clients,” says Hanson, founder of Hera Hub, a shared workspace and community for female entrepreneurs.

“But one of the greatest benefits of online tools is being able to sell products at minimal cost. Websites like Etsy, Amazon, Shopify, and eBay let you sell your products without first having to build your own ecommerce website,” writes Hanson in an article for Ellevate Network, a membership community for professional women.

You’ll be able to get a feel for how your products fare in the general marketplace and see what’s selling, what’s not, and gain some initial insight into demand as well as potential customers and competitors. 

3. Treat it like a business.

Once you start thinking this gig is becoming a full-time business, treat it like one. Find out what you need to do to operate as a business.  

Look into forming a legal entity, i.e., sole proprietor, LLC, etc., and whether your business will require any permits or zone approvals under your local rules and state laws. 

Also, put together a list of costs to operate. Do you have enough reserves in the bank to cover your expenses while your business is in startup mode? Do you need to buy additional materials and/or equipment to get set up? Will you need to borrow from friends and family or apply for a loan or other startup financing?

4. Act like a business owner.

Treat your endeavor as a professional business right from the start, advises Hanson in the Ellevate Network article. 

“Set yourself a work schedule with weekly goals, just as you would in your day job,” she writes.  “When interacting with customers and clients, ensure you act professionally.”

Consider joining local business groups and communities so you can network and learn from other entrepreneurs.

Besides the Chamber of Commerce, see if the SBA has a small business development center in your area -- they offer resources like business plan development, manufacturing assistance, financial lending assistance, market research help and healthcare guidance. You can also contact SCORE, a national nonprofit that pairs new entrepreneurs with business mentors.

Making it Work

Artist William Lloyd said he was traveling the country selling his wares at Renaissance-themed festivals when he decided to make it his “real” business. He and his wife formed a company and now sell the jewelry and blades he makes from steel, ivory and gemstones as their business.

From marketing and work schedules to health benefits and retirement plans, they work meticulously on the details of operating a business, according to a story by Alexander Tuerk and Robin Young on NPR’s Here & Now program.

Lloyd advises other would-be entrepreneurs that it takes passion and commitment to make it work but it can be done.

“No matter what you love to do, whatever it is, if you want to do something for a living, if you decide to spend eight hours a day, five days a week doing it … I’ve told people, I don’t care if what you’re interested in is dog poop, if you spend eight hours a day, five days a week doing something with dog poop, you’ll make a living about it,” he said in the NPR story.

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