October 15, 2022

My 2 Favorite Ways to Start a Side Business

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In this week’s issue, I want to share my 2 favorite ways to start a side business that can turn into a full-time business.

While there is no “right way” to do things, I have found that these models are easy to set up with free (or low-cost) technology, need very little automation, and require zero additional employees.

By following this short guide, I hope that you can get started and reduce the amount of complexity that I see with first-time solopreneurs and entrepreneurs.

Let’s dive in.

Business Model #1: A Service Business

A service business is where you provide a service in exchange for money. It’s generally the easiest way to start a side business or to go out on your own as a solopreneur.

Service businesses are great for people who have a very specific skill that other people or companies need.

For example, you could be great at running Facebook ads, helping companies onboard employees, or writing search-engine-optimized blog posts.

How to brainstorm ideas:

There are 2 excellent questions you can ask yourself to uncover ideas for a service business.

Question 1: What is something my family and friends ask me for help with often, that I enjoy doing?

Question 2: What is something my colleagues come to me for, or projects at work that my boss often puts on my plate?

By answering these simple questions, you’ll likely come across a few viable ideas.

Tools to get started:

My favorite combination of cheap, useful tools is Carrd for a simple landing page to show off your service and Stripe for collecting payments.

Then you can easily redirect the Stripe post-purchase flow to a Calendly calendar to let people book the time they paid for.

How to get attention for your business:

The best way to get attention for a service business is a combination of showing off your expertise through content and leveraging testimonials from happy customers.

I’d recommend doing both simultaneously.

Share a piece of content each day on your favorite social channel and also reach out to your network to offer your service at a low cost to people you think might need it.

Once you provide the service and do a good job, you can ask for testimonials for your landing page to improve conversion rates.

How to grow your business:

Once you’ve accumulated several testimonials, raise your rates, and turn those early customers into case studies.

Start a newsletter where people can receive the case studies each week or month, and use part of your content creation strategy to move people from LinkedIn/Twitter to your email list.

The flow becomes attention (content) → trust (newsletter) → purchase (landing page).

Business Model #2: An Online Course

An online course is an opportunity for you to package up the knowledge or skills that you have and effectively transfer that knowledge via teaching.

Online courses are great for teaching people how to achieve very tactical outcomes.

For example, my two courses show people how to grow their LinkedIn accounts, and how to create a content strategy that is efficient and effective.

Much more tactical than strategic.

How to brainstorm ideas:

There are many ways to brainstorm ideas for an online course.

Here are some of them:

  • Check your DMs and email: Look for questions that people ask you on a regular basis. Are there any that come up continuously? These are great topics for a course.
  • Talk to prospective customers in your field: What is something they wish they could figure out or understand more deeply? Would they be willing to pay to learn it?
  • Offer a lighter-weight version of your service business above: If people can’t afford your “done for you” service business, then create a lower-cost online course that teaches people how to do it themselves.

Tools to get started:

If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend leveraging Carrd for your landing page and using Gumroad to facilitate payments and host your course.

How to get attention for your business:

I love using a blended strategy for getting attention:

  • Talk about your course topic on social media
  • Write a Twitter thread and offer your course at the end
  • Mention it on podcasts you’re featured on and ask for a backlink
  • Put a link on your social profiles, including your LinkedIn featured section
  • Leverage newsletter sponsorships to get your course in front of your target audience
  • Use a “super signature” at the end of any email or newsletter your send out. (See my example at the end of this email)

How to grow your business:

Working off of our service business above, an online course presents an opportunity to begin creating a “value ladder”.

A value ladder defines the order in which people will likely purchase products and services from your business. A simple customer journey.

The typical value ladder begins with low-cost products that show people how to do something. This is our online course.

Many of the customers who purchase your course will decide that they would rather have the work done for them.

So make sure you position your service business at the intermission and end of your course!

Remember - once someone spends money with you on a course, they are significantly more likely to spend money with you again at some point. Especially for your service.

This is why I consider online courses to be a "trojan horse" for other service offerings.

If you can set up a simple value ladder, this is how most side hustles turn into full-time solopreneurship.

For example:

  • 3 courses sold daily X $50 = $150
  • 10% of people opt into your service at $450
  • Weekly results: 21 courses sold and 2 services sold = $1,950 per week or $101,400 per year.

A 6-figure side business?

Mission accomplished.

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