Has there ever been a better time to start a side business? Probably not.
There’s relentless economic uncertainty, automation driving traditional career paths into obsolescence, mainstream acceptance of flexible working (allowing you to do more with your free time), and a vast digital landscape rich in opportunity and practical convenience.
So if you’re currently putting hours every week into some type of side hustle, that’s a smart move, and you should keep at it — but what are your aspirations?
You might be happy with treating it as a hobby, but maybe not. Maybe you want to scale it up, possibly to the extent that it becomes your sole business and finally gives you professional freedom.
- Goal: keep growing your side business.
- Obstacles: limited time, cash, and energy.
- Solution: make optimization the core of your operation.
Here are 7 side business tips you can do to scale without needing full-time hours or a huge budget:
1. Set Specific Goals
And by “specific”, I mean something involving measurable metrics. Your ultimate goal may be to make your side business your only business, but that’s far too broad.
Consider something like “Win 10 new clients within 3 months” — having a goal like this will allow you to focus in a way that you otherwise couldn’t.
Why is this?
Well, a side business is typically a solo operation, meaning you’ll spend a lot of time working on it in isolation.
That approach is great for coming through in a crunch, but it can easily lead to unproductive tangents such as obsessing over a company logo or spending hours picking out the perfect font.
Keep asking yourself this: “Will this help me win 10 new clients within 3 months?” — it will help you cut through the noise, because you’ll remember that your logo isn’t going to have that kind of power, and your effort should be going to something else.
2. Run Targeted PPC Advertising
Done well, today’s PPC is extremely cost-effective, particularly on Facebook where you can get extremely granular with your targeting: narrowing by location, interests, career, pages viewed, and many more elements.
If you really know your target audience, you can achieve fantastic CPC performance with supreme ROI.
That’s not all, though. Google Ads and other such platforms might not have access to the type of rich user data Facebook brings to the table, but just about every mainstream PPC avenue today offers automated optimization driven by machine learning.
You need only set up the basics and leave the campaign to run: over time, the system will adjust the parameters to achieve incremental improvements. WordStream for PPC is a good analytical tool to add to your business arsenal — the investment will massively pay off when your campaigns start to run more efficiently.
3. Polish Your Website
As noted, PPC is a great way to go, but you should also be thinking about SEO — after all, search rankings stick with you and produce traffic, while PPC campaigns lose all impact once you stop funding them.
What you must do, then, is make your website as appealing as possible: both to search crawlers and to prospective customers/clients.
Firstly, cover your bases as far as technical SEO goes. Your website should load quickly, every page should have a logical title, and you should cover topics that people in your target audience are interested in and searching for.
Beyond that, make sure your content is impressive: it should be up-to-date, rich with imagery and expertise, and entirely professional.
Make your website look great, and your brand will look great too, giving you a huge advantage before people have even reached out to you.
4. Use Relevant Online Tools
The internet doesn’t just provide opportunities: it also provides resources. Incredible, comprehensive resources that can suit whatever budget you’re working with.
If you’re not taking full advantage of them, you’re giving your business a severe handicap for no reason.
At a minimum, ensure that you’re doing each of the following:
Tracking Your Time
Get lost in a task, and you can miss the hours flying by. Your time is precious: you’re the head of the operation, and it can’t grow without you. Track your time using the tool of your choice, and look for ways to be more efficient.
Optimizing Your Social Media
Social media promotion is great for growing a brand, but creating and sharing countless posts sucks up a lot of time. Use social media promo tools to speed things along: here are some to consider.
Keeping Your Finances In Order
Cash flow is vitally important for a small business, and you’ll need balanced books to invest in the future, so look for accounting software. Key tip: make sure you get invoices out in a timely fashion, because clients can easily drag their feet (use an online invoice maker to save time — Wave’s is reliable).
Learning From Guides & Communities
There’s always more to learn about business, so find blogs on topics that interest you and follow them to stay apprised of industry developments. Additionally, why not find a community (perhaps on something like Reddit) to join?
It’s easier to grow a side business with people to give you advice.
5. Introduce Tiered Options
Tiered pricing is extremely common in the SaaS world, but it can be applied to almost any type of business in some fashion — and it’s a great option because it can bring in more money for less effort without leaving anyone feeling aggrieved.
In essence, it largely allows the people who like your business the most to increase their financial support.
If you’re offering a service, think about what else you could provide for which you could charge markedly more. Premium support is usually a good option.
Those who pay for it likely won’t use it very often, and when they do use it, you’ll have the opportunity to make your business look even better through smartly resolving whatever the issue is.
If you’re offering a product (or products), then think about a premium version you could sell — or maybe just a premium product package with something added. The possibilities are extensive.
6. Offer Free Trials & Samples
Sometimes you just need some attention from the right people to get your business moving. One mention from a popular influencer in your niche can make all the difference, but regular influencer marketing — “I’ll give you this amount of money if you advertise my product” — can be quite expensive, and produce unclear ROI.
However, you don’t need to take that approach. Instead, you can offer free trials or samples with no specific demands: just send them out to people you think might want to try them, and leave them to react however they prefer.
Unless your product is extremely expensive, or you’re aiming to contact hundreds of people, this shouldn’t be too costly.
Sure, there’s no guarantee that it’ll pay off, but people like free things, and influencers always need content.
Also, any coverage you do get will seem more organic, because you’ll have left people to form natural opinions without trying to directly buy them off.
7. Look For Investment
If you’re really ambitious, then perhaps you shouldn’t just accept that you have limited cash: perhaps you should take steps to bring in the kind of money that could prove transformative.
It really depends on your confidence in the potential of your business.
Does it have what it takes to become a huge success?
If so, then start looking for investment.
You could look for a business partner to share the load (you might know someone who’d be willing to get involved), seek an angel investor to fund and guide you, or even use crowdfunding (great for building up hype and leaving you with enough creative freedom to choose whichever direction you prefer).
In the end, the key to growing your side business is having enough belief in its future to stay utterly committed to delivering on its potential.
As long as you don’t give up, you’ll always be in with a chance of hitting it big — and if you follow these 7 side hustle tips, you’ll boost that chance hugely.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of the blog series Grow Your Business brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners.