It’s almost Christmas – which makes this the prime time of year when everyone starts fantasizing about next year. What you’ll change in your life, what new opportunities you’ll explore. It might be a new home, new cars/toys, new jobs – or maybe starting a new business.

These days the internet has made it possible to start a business in less time, with less start-up capital, from any location, servicing – well, the world really, than any other period since the world of business started – several millennia ago.

But leaving the relative safety of receiving a salaried income to start a business can be a daunting thing – especially if you’ve got commitments. So I thought it might be worth exploring the concept of building a business on the side – and keeping your day job (at least until it pays you enough to support you).

Where to start?

Now some of you will know exactly what kind of business you’d build if given half a chance, but there are some who just know they’d like to run a business – but are not sure what kind of business. If that’s you, there are four options to explore;

  • doing something that you know (and have working experience in) possibly the easier choice
  • scaling up something that you love – maybe a hobby that you’ve had for a while and have dreamed about doing something with
  • purchasing a business – be careful and make sure you do your due diligence first. And make sure you have some kind of affinity with the business first – or better still go and work in it or a similar business – even if it’s only for a short time to make sure it’s really for you before parting with your money. Or
  • filling a marketplace need where your business provides the solution to a problem few or no other businesses are currently filling.

Servicing what kind of customers?

Once you’ve got your business choice sorted – your next task will be to think about getting some customers. Before you go chasing anyone with a wallet, remember you’ve still got a day job and to be doing everything for anyone who asks could end up being hard to manage. And remember think long and hard about what sort of customers you’d like to work with. Keep refining that until you’ve got a very concrete image of who they are, what they look like, what they do for a living, what they drive, what they eat, where they live, what’s important to them and where they hang out (either in real life or virtually).

What would this business do?

What kind of products and services would these perfect customers need? Think about outcomes and feelings – not just features. Almost no-one buys a shoe for foot protection – we buy them because they’re comfortable, make us run faster (or at all), keep your feet warm (or cooler in Summer) and if you’re a woman well, my wife tells me her shoes make her feel great.

Take the time to create a product or service offering that matches their needs and wants – keeping your customer’s needs and desires top of mind.

Then ‘go’ places where you can meet your ideal customer. If you know some, great. If not, you might try networking, webinars, seminars, LinkedIn (feel free to connect to me by the way), or the local chamber.

Ask people who look like your ideal client for their help in reviewing what you’ve put together. As long as they’re not feeling pressured to buy something, people will often step up to help. And you’ll find their advice invaluable. If you’re feeling really cheeky, you might ask if they know anyone who would be able to use your product or service. Cheeky yes, necessary – absolutely. Anyone who runs a business has to sell something at some point or another.

How do you juggle building your business and your job?

Before you begin, do be careful that you don’t have an employment contract that states the intellectual property of anything you create during your employment term belongs to the employer. If you are subject to a clause like that, you might want to seek legal advice.

Make sure that your business doesn’t interfere with getting your job done. That could have disastrous consequences and you could be ‘jumping ship’ well before you’re ready to support yourself.

If you have to ‘work’ during business hours, schedule that time, say for returning client calls or emails, during your lunch hour. Go for a walk, chat from the corner cafe or sit in your car if necessary – just keep it quite separate. And wherever possible, work after hours or on weekends.

If you’re thinking of setting up a business in 2013 or you’ve just begun one – the best piece of advice we can offer is to get advice as soon as you can. Every business owner will tell you there are a myriad of little things they just never thought of or they didn’t realise were important along the way, especially at the beginning. If you get some of your critical systems sorted early (structures, billing systems, accounting, etc), it can save you much time and heartache down the track.

Of course, if we can help, we’d be happy to talk to you.

You can call either Kerry or I on 6023 1700. We’d love it if you joined us on Facebook or LinkedIn – connect with Kerry

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