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Starting a Business on the Side—What Lessons Have You Learned?

Have you created a side business that is replacing the income from your job?

If so, what is one thing you've learned that can help the rest of us do the same?

Please share a link to your side business website (if you have one) and share a little of what you're doing on the side.

Your example will encourage others to follow your example.

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My side business, which is getting bigger and bigger, is that several friends and I make websites for businesses in our area (and some in other areas, referred to us by satisfied local customers).  This one for a roofer in Hamilton, OH, is just one example of a site we have made.  My role is usually writing content for sites (my content isn't on that particular site) and writing emails, because out of all of us, I am the one who enjoys writing the most.

As for what I've learned, well, I'm still learning.  I think the most important thing I have learned is that everyone hates different tasks, and if you are OK doing a task that other people hate, someone out there needs that task done badly enough and dreads it enough that they will pay for your services.  If you are the guy (or gal) who can tolerate public speaking, bookkeeping, cleaning, driving, standing out in the hot sun all day, babysitting, troubleshooting smartphones, or anything else that lots of people dread doing, you have the makings of a business.

Great insight Plasticine. Just because you or I love to do something doesn't mean others do. They are often willing to pay us well to do what we love.

Great looking site, Plasticine. A friend and I are exploring doing something similar in our city of Everett, WA. Building websites for local businesses.

We're possibly even considering offering businesses the option to retain us to do on-going content creation and marketing that would extend beyond the original website design. Services such as photo/video, blogging, etc. 

We're working through our business plan right now. Do you have a website for your services? I am curious how you price your packages and deal with change orders and the like. Thanks for any insight :)

Thanks, Garret.  Making a website for our services is a great idea, but so far, we don't have one.  We're not quite that organized.  All of us also have either a full time job or lots of other projects (our parents think it's crazy but it's just normal in the world of entrepreneurship).  It seems like everything in life is always in transit. Elkhart, IN is hardly a huge metropolis; I can't imagine what it is like trying to start a website business in a true boomtown.

I guess we're still figuring out the business plan ourselves.  I will let you know when we figure it out.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, word of mouth has been a huge factor.  We usually charge people a flat fee (by word count) if they just want us to rewrite the content on certain sections of their site.  We're starting to get customers who pays us a monthly fee to keep the sites up and running.  Honestly, we could probably charge more than we do for our sites; there is always an element of wanting to give customers a good price because they are a friend of a friend.

All your ideas about blogging, content creation, and video marketing are good.  You can do business with all of them.  There are lots of people out there who hate to write, and plenty of others who get easily stressed out by cameras and similar equipment, but advertising is important for every business, so they could definitely use your services.  Sorry I don't have more specific advice.  We're just figuring things out ourselves, too.  Please keep me posted on how your website business goes.

My once side business that started around 4 kids and a full time j.o.b. with a two hour commute is now my full time career - my website is at www.TheIronJen.com.

Best advice would be to constantly be looking at the ROI of your time, money, and energies so that you can stay FOCUSED on working on what really is bringing in income versus just staying busy. 

Jen I am so glad you dedicated that time to help us all out!  You are amazing!!!

Oh gosh thanks for your kind note Allan!!! 

Thank you Jen. This is excellent advice. It's so easy to get off track. That's why I try to plan every day in advance.

Another lesson I learned is to never underestimate word of mouth.  I mentioned in my previous posts that my friends/business partners make websites for businesses, and the idea was to be local and digital (therefore not geographically limited) at the same time.  Our dream was to make websites for lots of businesses in Michiana, putting a geeky spin on supporting local business.  We expected business owners in our area to refer us to more clients in our area, but to our surprise, the word of mouth referrals we have gotten have also come from other cities, and since the Internet is everywhere, we even have a client that is in the business of phone repair in Anaheim, CA, which is about as far from the Midwest as you can get.  Thanks to word of mouth, that client hired us in the Midwest instead of someone local to their area.

Great discussion!

My biggest lesson was biblical. I listened to a podcast by Andy Stanley on pride.

I took a step back and realized I had a huge pride problem and it ABOUNDED on my website.

I should've named it myself.com!

I felt so inadequate when I started that I felt like I had to justify who I was for people to trust me. So I explained, over and over, who I was instead of explaining how I could help.

Since Allan Dubon helped me change my whole site, and there is not a single bit of copy that starts with I or me, things have catapulted.

So for me, pride was holding me back in a huge way!!

Awesome lesson John! It is so easy to slip into pride, especially when we feel insecure. I share your struggle.

That is a great insight, John.  Building a reputation is part of building a business, but the product should speak for itself, and the website should definitely focus on what the product offers the customer.  For example, if you sell garage door parts, your site should have informative content about the parts and how they fix or prevent garage door problems.  I totally agree with you that humility helps you become a better entrepreneur.  I know it bears repeating, because there is so much entrepreneurship advice out there that makes it sound like bluster and bravado are the key to a successful business, and a lot of people try to build a business that way, when actually a little humility would help a lot.

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