If you think lack of time is stopping you from launching your own business, think again. In this guide, we look at how you can realistically start your own small business by working in the evenings.
Thanks to modern technology, it is easier than ever to launch your own business while still working full-time. It means you can breathe a little sigh of relief and avoid the terrifying prospect of plunging into an uncertain world without the safety net of a regular salary.
Recent research suggests that up to 5 million people are running businesses from home, after returning from their day jobs.
Setting up a business in the evenings is all about getting the balance right. You need to be able to turn the few useful hours you have before bed into profitable work. And whatever business you are in must be able to tick along during the day more or less without you.
The internet, email and mobile phones makes it entirely possible to keep an eye on calls and messages coming in from potential clients while you are on your lunch break, but you’ll never match the service levels offered by people running their business full-time.
That fact should influence what type of venture you go with in the first place. When launching a new enterprise in your spare time, you basically have two choices;
1. Set up a business in the evening that you hope will grow into your full-time occupation, or
2. Start up something that is designed specifically to give you a boost in income and will remain a part-time venture.
You’ll need to take a different approach to the business, depending on which option you go for. Here are some of the main issues you need to consider:
What kind of business should you set up?
Think about your skills and how much time you want to devote to the business. If you have a hobby you enjoy, could you make money out of it? Will you have time to do it properly? And if it is a hobby, is there a danger you could fall out of love with it as commercial pressures affect it?
Don’t worry too much about trying to come up with an idea that’s never been done before… starting a successful business is often more about excellent execution than having a ground-breaking idea.
Find out if people really want it
Once you have your idea all ready to go, do your research. Who are you trying to sell your product to? Whether your target market is office workers or busy mums, go out and speak to them. Would they buy your product? Do they need it? How much are they willing to spend on it?
If nobody is interested in what you are trying to sell before you have even started, it is probably time to think again before you waste more time and effort on it.
Create some space for your business
Successfully running your business from home normally means having an area set aside for your work. The TV can prove to be a major distraction – if you’ve switched it off, your family might switch it back on! And as much as you love them, attention from your other half or children can make you lose your focus.
If you don’t have the luxury of a spare room to convert into your workspace, find an area in another room but make it clear to everyone that when you are there, you are there to work.
If you need total isolation, perhaps a friend or relative has some spare space you can use.
Also, think about your existing commitments in the evenings. If you have to collect one of your children from football practice on a Wednesday and another from swimming on Thursdays then that’s going to affect how much time you have in the evenings to start your business.
Managing business time and personal time
It’s easy when focusing on an evening business to neglect family and friends. Agree in advance when you are going to spend time together and stick to it.
It is very easy to pop to the pub with colleagues for a drink on the way home rather than putting in some hours on your new venture so avoid temptation and plan in advance.
Market market market
The key to success in any business is simple. Find something people want and then work really hard to make sure they know about it. Your product or service could be exactly what people are crying out for but, if you don’t do enough marketing, your potential customers are going to carry on struggling through life without it.
A website is essential to any business these days, so get yourself online. You also need to find out what your potential audience reads and where they are browsing, as these websites are often the ideal places to start getting your message across.
When you are running a part-time business, it’s unlikely you will have a big budget for marketing, so you’ll need to use as many low-cost or zero-cost marketing tactics as possible.
Running a part-time business can give the impression you aren’t taking it seriously. Remind yourself that this isn’t a hobby, it is a business and people expect to be treated with the efficiency they would if dealing with a large organisation.
For example, sending a stroppy email because you’re tired and have had a few drinks is exactly the kind of behaviour that will quickly give the game away. To compete with larger companies, you have to act in a professional manner in order to be taken seriously as a smaller company.