It’s exciting to think about casting the corporate chains aside and going out on your own.
But should you?
There’s (rightfully) a lot of buzz around making your side project into your only project, but the going gets tough.
Up until now, it’s been a labor of love, but as things get more serious, it’s not only important to ask questions, but to come up with definitive answers. Otherwise, you might find yourself in troubling debt with a business you’re not sure you want.
If you’re thinking about boosting your side project, here are 5 questions you need to answer:
1. Is My Project Really Viable?
Unfortunately, the Angel of Entrepreneurship isn’t going to come down from Heaven, sound his trumpet, and declare you Officially Ready to Go Full-Time.
This is something you need to figure out yourself.
If you pay attention, there are copious signs and familiar “symptoms” that might suggest your side project may (or may not) be ready for primetime.
If Your Side Project Really is Viable…
…You’ll have some success with word-of-mouth marketing. Word-of-mouth success is a sign that you’ve identified a need in the marketplace.
…It takes on a life of its own—even if it’s a small one.
…It’s already profitable. With low overhead, no office, and customers, you should have no problem turning a profit in your efforts.
If Your Side Project Isn't Viable…
…You find yourself saying things like “once I quit my day job, I’ll have enough time and resources to make this successful.”
…It cuts into your time away from your day job—without producing adequate results.
…You tend to create emotional reasons for doing it rather than researched, logical reasons.
2. Do I Have Enough Seed Money? Can I Actually Make Enough Money?
Every entrepreneur knows that more money is always better. But how much money do you actually need? That’s a horse of a different color.
The math to figure this number out is not calculus. It’s simple addition. Estimate the following variables:
- Your salary
- Employee headcount and salaries
- Office rent
- Equipment needs (Internet, printing machines, etc.)
- Advertising/marketing budgets
If you figure out your estimated monthly costs, you now have a generalized idea of what “seed money” means to your business. If your business requires x dollars per month, then y dollars will get you through z months.
Writing a business plan is a must-- it will help you determine expectations. Don't skip this step!
Even if you’re not sure about the money, be honest with yourself, and be ready to learn.
“I had no clue if I would be able to make money,” says Tessa Magnuson of Align Graphic Design, noting that with her boyfriend’s support, she was comfortable enough to focus on learning on the fly. “This has been an ongoing learning experience.”
3. What's My Back Up Plan?
If it doesn’t work out, what will you do?
When making your side project into your only gig, you need to carefully consider a back up plan. What happens if all the nuts and bolts of business bog you down? What if you can’t get customers? What if you go into debt?
Before making your side gig your only project, answer these questions:
- How long am I willing to work on this without making a profit?
- If it doesn’t succeed, what will I do instead? Am I willing to go back to my old industry?
- Will it be easy for me to get another job?
As Richard Branson so wisely says, 'It’s true that entrepreneurs have to take a leap of faith at some point. While it may seem daunting, [pullquote]the key is to make sure you’ve got a parachute[/pullquote].'
Remember that failure is totally ok. Many (if not most) entrepreneurs have built businesses that didn’t survive. You’ll be fine if things don’t work out, as long as you have a solid back up plan.
4. Is This My True Love or Am I Just Bored?
Building a business is a labor of love. You’re on all the time and it can be exhausting. If your side project isn’t your true love, then you need to be careful.
Quitting your job to start your own business means a 24/7 dedication to what you’re doing. If you’re already feeling lazy about your side project and are bored with what you’re doing in your day job, you might need a fresh challenge.
There’s never a good time to start a business, but there’s a difference between starting a side project for the sake of it and nurturing your baby.
5. Am I Prepared to Get Uncomfortable?
Too many clients, too much work on your plate, lots of opportunities, people to say “no” to, too much money…
They may be high-quality, but they’re still problems.
When working for a company, jobs are relatively straightforward. Owning a business is not—there’s so much to take care of, and a lot of it will be totally new and scary. Challenges are great, as long as you’re willing to get uncomfortable.
If you hate attending events and talking to new people, you’ll simply have to get over it (or find someone to do that sort of networking for you). As a business owner, you don’t get as much leeway when it comes to picking and choosing what you like.
Make It Into Your Main Gig...Or Not
Perhaps your side project is ready to take on a life of its own, or perhaps it's not ready to bloom. Either way, we support you!
Your Turn: Have you made a side gig into a full-time business? Are you about to? What're the most important questions to consider?