Last week, we looked out how you can start to map out your skills, passions and experience as a first step to coming up with a business idea. Now that you have an inventory of your strengths and interests, you can begin to look for patterns, connecting the dots and packaging some of these up into viable business ideas. This week we’ll look at how you can monetise those ideas, and start a business using your existing skills.
Freelancing is really the easiest and quickest way to start earning some extra money alongside your full-time job. More than any other option, it can be as simple as taking the skills you already have and pitching those to clients. There are more businesses than ever today looking for talented part-time contractors.
As a freelancer, you can choose the clients you work with and the projects you take on, and you’ll be exposed to all sorts of different companies and organisations, learning new skills and expanding your capabilities. You can work from home as and when it works for you. You’ll still largely be trading your time for money, but it’s a step in the direction of more freedom and flexibility.
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Do you fantasise about a world in which you love your job to the point that you jump out of bed in the morning with excitement at the thought of what you’re going to do today? Do you long for more freedom and flexibility in your daily schedule? Do you wish that you were creating something really meaningful, that could make a difference to something that matters?
Take a look at your skills and see how you might be able to package these up into a freelancing service. Are you a talented writer? You might consider writing blog posts, copywriting or providing an editing service. Are you a web developer, software engineer or programmer? IT skills are very much in demand, so what service could you provide in a niche where you have experience? What about marketing, social media management, or photography? Whatever your skill, you’ll be able to translate this into a freelancing service.
2. Coaching and consulting
Another ‘easy’ business that you can deliver right off the bat is coaching or consulting. As a consultant, you’ll be paid to provide expert advice in a particular field or speciality, and the project scope will probably be more extensive than that of a freelancer. The label ‘coach’ is used to cover a broad range of roles from the ‘pure’ coaching approach through to something that more closely resembles a consultant or mentor (check out my article: So you want to be a coach? Here’s my advice to you… for more on what ‘coaching’ means).
Like freelancing, consulting and coaching means that you can choose your clients and projects, work with different companies or individuals, and be exposed to new industries and settings. To make it work as a side hustle, you’ll need to make sure that you can work from home, as consultants and even coaches may travel to the client’s location at least for important face-to-face meetings and will sometimes spend a lot of time in the office during the week.
Again, you’ll want to take a look at your skills and see how you can pinpoint an area of expertise where you can really solve a problem for a client or fill a gap in their expertise. As with freelancing, the ‘easiest’ will be to focus on an existing skill and industry in which you have experience, but you may be able to find a creative way to apply this in a new context. Both coaching and consulting can also potentially be packaged up into a group programme or online course to make it more scalable (see below).
3. Teaching what you know
The issue with freelancing, consulting and coaching is that you’re still very much limited by the time you have available. Working on a one-on-one basis, there will be a maximum threshold for how many clients you can take on (and therefore how much money you make). Because of this, you may want to also – or instead – consider more of a ‘leveraged’ model that allows you greater scalability.
One option here is to package your knowledge up into a course and offer it for sale online. If people are constantly asking you for help on something, and you find yourself repeating yourself, then try creating a resource that you can point people to instead. You don’t have to build a complex membership site or create lots of sophisticated animations – it can be a downloadable pdf, or you can use a platform like Udemy or Teachable that provides the framework that you need for video-based learning.
Another option is to create an eBook. You’re unlikely to make a living from book sales alone (at least not in the beginning) but you can certainly bring in a small amount of passive income, especially if you write a series of books. It’s easier than ever to self-publish a book, for example on Amazon, and you can even start by creating a simple pdf version and giving it away for free in exchange for emails to build your email list. A book can also give you credibility and help you launch a speaking career, if that’s something you’re interested in.
4. Solving a problem
The best businesses are the ones that solve an urgent and important need, and that’s the case whether you’re freelancing or consulting or coaching, or you’re creating a physical product. If you can find such a need, and offer an effective solution to that problem, then you’ll never be wanting for clients!
Is there a problem that you’ve experienced in your own life that you have solved, or you believe you could solve, using your existing skills? What really annoys you? What’s a pain point in your life, and what would be a solution that you would be willing to pay for? It could be a question of using your expertise to advise others on how to address a problem or perhaps creating a product or service that addresses the gap in the market.
Product businesses do tend to be more time consuming and riskier to set up – in terms of developing the product itself as well as creating inventory and so on – but if it’s something very simple then it may well be a viable option. Just make sure you’re thinking ‘lean’: you don’t want to be investing huge sums of money into a complex product that may or may not actually be something that people will pay for. Start simple, with a mock-up or ‘minimum viable product’, and test it in the market before you decide whether or not to proceed.
5. Turning your hobby into a business
We talked last week about the benefit of building a business around a hobby: you’re going to be spending a lot of time on this business, so you might as well build it around something that you enjoy! Just as it’s ‘easy’ to take an existing skill from your work history and package that up into a freelancing or consulting service, it’s also relatively simple to take an existing hobby and find a way to monetise it.
Of course, the way you do that will depend on your hobby, and you may consider the different options above. If you’re an avid photographer, for example, you might consider offering a photography service such as wedding or portrait photography but you might also consider creating an eBook or online course to help people take better photos themselves. Likewise, if you love creating jewellery, you might sell that jewellery online on a site like Etsy and/or you might offer courses to help people create their own. If you’re an avid baker, you can start a catering service or offer cupcake decorating courses!
For inspiration along with practical guidance as to the opportunities to create a business outside of your corporate 9 to 5, check out my book, Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5: Stories from people who’ve done it (and how you can too), launching on 3rd October 2018. Join the waiting list at leavingthecorporate9to5.com.