The Internet has made it very easy to earn some extra money on the side through various means, and people keep coming up with new ways to utilize this constantly evolving field. Running a side business to supplement your income takes minimal effort if you pick the right niche and have a little starting capital, and it has the potential to grow into something even more substantial at a later point. There are, however, some things that people commonly get wrong when attempting to get started in a venture like that, and it’s important to keep them in mind. While you can’t prevent every single type of problem with your online side business, there’s still a lot you can do to avoid most of the common issues that will come up along your way. Being prepared is half of your success!
Lacking a Sensible Marketing Strategy
Many people seem to misunderstand the definition of “marketing”. It’s not just about advertising your product; though promotion is part of marketing, it’s not all there is to it. Proper marketing needs to start before you’ve even laid down any plans for the product itself. Research your market, know what kinds of problems people have and figure out a way to solve them efficiently. Don’t just jump at a random idea that came into your head with the “I’ll figure out how to promote this later” mentality. That almost never ends well.
Promoting in the Wrong Places
On the topic of promotion, there are many channels to utilize these days, but not all of them will be useful to you. Different types of businesses can benefit from different types of promotional campaigns, and you should take the time to study your own area to know what your audience will expect.
Promoting music through Facebook is not a good idea, for example – and neither is trying to start a grassroots campaign about your digital product on a site like reddit, which would typically see right through your attempt. Remember, one wrong move with your marketing can effectively halt your entire progress, as people are definitely going to remember.
Spending Too Much Time on Menial Tasks
A lot of work typically goes into the initial development of a side business, and you need to be prepared to organize your time in an appropriate way if you want to eventually make it to a point where things run without any significant input from you. Look into automating every aspect of the job that you can – for example, don’t spend time sending out promotional e-mails yourself. Send newsletters and other similar materials with the help of automation software instead, and focus on the parts of your business that require more critical thinking.
Not Evaluating Feedback Properly
You will usually have access to many different ways of getting feedback from your customers, and it’s a huge mistake to underutilize their potential. You should make it an early priority to set up a system which can track how customers respond to your campaigns and what kind of feedback they’re leaving, and actually go through that feedback on a regular basis and act on it. You’d be surprised how many people fail at this simple task even today, despite having such convenient access to a wide range of tools for surveys, comments, social media integration, and more.
And in the end, remember – this is supposed to be a side thing and not your main priority for now. While it’s possible to develop a side venture into a major business (one that may even turn into your main income source!), it will take some time before you get there, and it’s not a guaranteed thing for every business that you start. You should be patient and remain focused on your goal at all times. Know what kind of problems you’re trying to address, know who might be interested in your solutions, and always look into ways to develop the business sensibly.
But don’t put too much effort or resources into it too early, because this might not only burn you out financially – you can recover from that eventually – but it will also take away your desire to push forward and experiment even further. Failing occasionally is inevitable in the business world, but failing after you’ve put a lot of time and effort into a project can be devastating to some people.
As long as you’re sensible about all of this though, it should be perfectly possible to build not one, but several side ventures over time with the help of the Internet and technology in general. Don’t be afraid to explore new grounds, and don’t ignore important feedback. The rest comes down to common sense and a bit of business savviness, which are both skills you can work on if you feel you have issues with them.
Ian Dixon is a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), founder of TheDigitalLifestyle.com tech site and producer of the weekly The Digital Lifestyle Show podcast. Ian has been writing and talking about Windows for over 10 years and has over 20 years in IT as an IT Manager. Ian has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook and over 4 million views on his YouTube channel.