Having a “side hustle” can be a great way to test the waters of entrepreneurship. Aside from providing a creative outlet and a chance to develop new skills, a side hustle can also turn into a reliable income stream.
There may even come a point where you begin to wonder whether your side hustle can become your full-time gig. But how can you test whether your side hustle is actually a worthwhile business idea without risking it all?
To help you answer this question, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council offered some steps you can take to determine if you can turn your side hustle into a successful business venture.
1. Gauge The Interest Of Your Local Community
This could be in person or virtually (think local Facebook groups). Your trajectory will be different depending on what you’re selling. For example, if your side hustle is artistic, then sign up to exhibit and sell at a local craft fair. You can engage with the public, get feedback on what you’re creating and see if you can actually generate sales. If your side hustle is something online, follow the same principles. Find local people in your area who could benefit from your product or service and pitch it to them. If they’re interested—or better yet, they buy what you’re selling—then you can see firsthand whether your side hustle does indeed have merit. In starting with a boots-on-the-ground approach first, you can test the market without risking everything. – Emily Stallings, Casely, Inc.
2. Look At Your Growth Over Time
Is your side hustle expanding? In your earliest stages, you may have needed to put time and effort into your business in order to generate more leads, more customers, more orders, etc. But over time, you may find that the work is steadily coming in and, if anything, you could use a break from your day job so you can keep up with the demand. This is a great sign that your business is viable as a primary career path. But give it time—say, six months or more—to ensure that the growth you’re currently seeing is sustainable long term. If it fluctuates with the seasons, this may indicate that you need more time before your business becomes viable. But sustained, steady growth indicates that you’ve struck oil, so to speak, and can invest more into your business without risking everything. – Brian Greenberg, Insurist
3. Imagine Yourself As The Customer
An easy way to test your side hustle idea without having to do too much is to imagine yourself as the customer. Would you buy the product you want to sell? Does it have enough features and special qualities about it that would encourage you to purchase? Does it provide a solution? If you answer no to these questions, it’s probably best not to move forward. In a saturated market, you need to stand out, so if you already feel like it’ll flop before launch, it’s better to stop and create something you’re proud of. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
4. Test Your Brand’s Success On A Low- Or No-Cost Platform
There are now numerous platforms and systems for testing business models with minimal investment. You can build your brand on social media, YouTube, a blog or podcasts. Physical products can be sold on Amazon, Shopify, Etsy and so on. You can offer services from a website or on freelancer platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork. The advantage of these low-cost solutions is that you can start slowly while keeping your job or current business. You can scale up and make changes as needed. If you find that your original idea didn’t work out as planned, you can pivot in a new direction with minimal losses. – Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting
5. Run An Inexpensive Ad
Consider running a low-budget ad with the best mockup you can make. Even if you have to pay for a render, it would be cheaper in most cases than having a batch manufactured. See what the response is like and tailor your decision making to that. – Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts
6. Research Your Competition
Testing your side hustle before jumping head first into entrepreneurship is incredibly important, and a great way to do this is by doing some in-depth research into the market. Find companies similar to your idea, and even reach out to talk to them about their experience, what they would have done differently or any advice they have on getting started. Doing this kind of research and talking to people who are already doing what you want to do can take off a huge chunk of the learning curve that comes with starting a new business. You’ll know what to expect when getting started and you’ll be able to prepare ahead of time, which gives you a huge leg up on the competition. – Codie Sanchez, Contrarian Thinking
7. Try To Impress A Small Client Base
Make a list of things that you can do to a degree that people are willing to pay for, then focus on looking for opportunities in that field. Test the waters by accepting small clients first and make spectacular results. Once you have a few great reviews, this then becomes your proof of concept to future customers. At the same time, it proves how much of a great idea your business is. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
8. Look At Your Current Customer Support Capabilities
You’ll know that your side hustle has potential when your customers start asking you for specific features. That’s what happened in my and my colleague’s businesses. I began by creating a product that just wasn’t available in the market at the time. I found that my customers kept needing more customizations and that more people were asking me for help. I then gave my “side hustle” my full attention and it is my main business today. Check if you’re struggling to manage customer support, product feature requests or other customer issues. Chances are that you have a good product and it’s time you gave it your full attention. – Blair Williams, MemberPress
9. Consider Whether You Have The Passion
If you’ve got a side hustle or a side passion, that means you have something you care enough about to want to make it profitable. Putting passion into something will always yield results if you work hard enough for it. I love nature, traveling, animals and yoga. Those are my passions. So I took one of those passions—yoga—and made it part of my career. I figured out a way to monetize that passion coupled with my love for and knowledge of events. If you are already into something, you should have a general idea of how viable it is as a career. Just do your research, trust yourself and go for it. It’s not “risking everything” if you go in with the necessary tools for success. Research and passion are the most important of those tools. – Kyle Michaud, Experience Expositions