Tools and Tips Needed to Get Your Side Business Started
You’ve done it: you’ve taken the big leap from full-time employment to full-time self-employment. Even though there are hundreds, thousands—even millions—of people who have taken the same general path of entrepreneurship, it’s easy to feel alone and directionless, fearing that you’ll never have the know-how to get your (now full-time) gig off the ground for good.
Stop thinking that way!
In this chapter, you’ll receive real, practical tips for getting your business off the ground once you’ve made the transition to full-time entrepreneur. We’ll deal with accounting, insurance, loans, and even self-doubt as we prepare you for the next stages in your journey.
Learn The Essentials As You Go
First things first: it’s good if you expect to succeed. But don’t expect to be perfect.
Entrepreneurship involves a lot of problem-solving and improvisation. As soon as you’ve branched out on your own, you’ll discover that there will be ample opportunities to improve these skills.
Tessa Magnuson, the entrepreneur we mentioned in the previous chapter, says that she moved to full-time self-employment without taking the time to prepare herself in the ways we recommended in Chapter One.
“I’ve certainly made plenty on my own,” she notes, “and I’ve learned from them.” Soon she had plans in place for handling all of the nuts and bolts from accountings and taxes to income tracking and invoicing.
If you get over your fear of mistakes, your mastery of the “nuts and bolts” of entrepreneurship will be sure to follow.
Tools for Ad Hoc Entrepreneurship
The good news about entrepreneurship in the 21st century is that there are plenty of tools that make handling complex tasks as easy as a few clicks of a mouse:
Now that you’re off on your own, you’ll need business cards to network and spread the word. You don’t need to hire a designer—you can easily make stunning cards yourself. Check out:
There is a wealth of accounting programs out there that won’t only help you keep tabs on your money, but will do it with the entrepreneur in mind:
- QuickBooks for Small Business and FreshBooks Cloud Accounting -- All in one accounting tools that thousands trust.
- Wave – All in one payroll, invoicing, and accounting tool (Get a deal at the end of this resource!).
- Expensify – Easy expense reports.
There is no shortage of features when it comes to any of the tools listed above. Their prices are reasonable and their functionality is simple and easy to use.
Customer Relationship Management
Don’t get turned off by the overly professional “customer relationship management” wording – these tools are simply built to help you manage your customers.
As an entrepreneur, nothing is more important to you than your relationships with your customers. That’s why tracking everything from client contact information to account information is essential.
Here are some CRM tools that will handle most of the work for you:
If you sell your product or service online, then eCommerce is the way to go. Luckily, there are plenty of tools for setting up shop online no matter what you want to sell.
- Open Cart is a shopping cart designed for people who want to host their own sites and carts
- Shopify is an example of a web-hosted commerce site, which means you don’t have to self-host
- WooCommerce allows you to host shopping on your already-established WordPress site
Online Marketing Software
Of course, you won’t have much to sell unless you can get your message heard—and that’s where marketing software comes in with tools like SEO, leads management, and email marketing all wrapped into one source. Some of these tools also double as CRM. They’re pricy though, so they won’t be the first thing you buy.
There are tons of online marketing tools that can help you with specific needs (such as social media scheduling, blog/editorial calendars, and SEO keyword tools), but these three are a good starting point.
Small Business Tools
The U.S. Small Business Administration lends a hand by offering a number of “nuts and bolts” tools for those who want to start out on their own. Check out SBA.gov for everything from online training and business plans to finding local small business events.
A Note on Freelance and Small Business Owner Chapters
One of the best ways to get started out in small business is to connect, in person, with those who have already done it. The link at SBA.gov provides some help for finding local small business chapters that can help you. Additionally, check out the “Find a Chapter” tool at Score.org to enter in your location and find other business owners.
These people can also make great connections. Tessa Magnuson noted, “I am fortunate to know a lot of folks who run their own small businesses. I have done a lot of discounted work for these clients, but they have also spread my name around considerably.” There are resources everywhere if you’re simply willing to look!
Health Insurance Tips
Josh Lee, a 38-year-old who worked sales for a technology firm, had a side gig with an app he developed—but stayed with his full-time job because he was afraid of losing his health insurance. Eventually, when he was let go from the company, he had to face his fear head-on.
Many people feel like Josh—they have an idea for taking their side gig to a full-time job, but they’re afraid of providing their own health insurance, or afraid of losing a great policy. With the Affordable Care Act in place, you now face fines if you don’t carry health insurance.
What’s an aspiring entrepreneur to do?
Plenty. As it turns out, you have real options:
- Find an insurance broker. These brokers do much of the work for you, seeking out insurance plans that fit your needs without taking a fee from your end. NAHU.org lists brokers available in your area.
- Find insurance made with you in mind. A site like Startup Insurance sells its policies to people like you.
- Find health insurance through the government. Go to the “Small Business” section of Healthcare.gov for help in enrolling in health insurance.
- Check out this comprehensive health insurance guide for small businesses from LessAccounting.
Equity and Small Business Loans
There’s nothing more “nuts and bolts” to a startup business than dollars and cents.
Securing a loan requires more than just a vision—it requires a solid plan. If you want to convince a bank to grant you a small business loan, you’ll likely need:
- A business plan, including cash flow projections and market analysis.
- Equity, or some personal stake in the company’s success.
- Information like personal and business credit history and education history.
Business loans range in size; some microloans are as small as $5,000 or less while others can exceed one million dollars. Typically a small business loan is anywhere from five to six figures.
If you plan on starting a business that requires start-up capital, there may be no way getting around the fact that you need a business loan yourself. Luckily, there are resources that aim to help you accomplish exactly that, including SBA District Offices, SCORE Chapters, and Small Business Development Centers.
Another option is equity, which can come in the form of a startup incubator or accelerator, angel investor, or venture capitalist. If you’re looking for more information about equity (how to get it and what it means) read ourEquity for Entrepreneurs guide.