Friday, January 13, 2017

The art of becoming self-employed - start a 'side hustle'

When I was 30 years old I had set up my first business - and promptly wrote a book about it. Scanning the internet many years later, I am pleased to see that a lot of the advice offered is very much like what I told myself (and wrote about) - the American even coining their own word for it - a 'side hustle' or 'side venture' which describes something which you can start with little or no capital and while continuring to work in your current job (if you have one).

I recall my golden rules from all those years ago and they are still valid today if I was starting out all over again - which is fact something you continue to do as I found that the nature of you business can change over time, due to the vagaries of the market or simply your own wish to try something new. Here are my personal golden rules:

- Ask yourself what you want or are qualified to do. If you are a skilled plumber or born fashion designer, then you already have something you can offere the market. In my own case, the only skill could offer was writing and passing on knowledge (I was good at school, passed my exams etc but totally hopeless at sports or manual skills).

- Research the market? Not always possible and you may have to work in a sector that is already crowded or is difficult to investigate.

- No capital? No problem. There is no logical reason why banks, let alone your family and friends should 'invest' in your business, particularly if you have no capital yourself. You are asking them to take a risk which you are not sharing - though they may pursue you should you fail. Your only option is to start something that needs no or minimal capital.

- Already working? Many jobs are more secure today (due to employment legislation and the protection of a trade union) but if you are hankering for a change, best think of a venture that can be started part-time. Or put the other way round, run your venture fulltime but continue to work in a part-time job or one offering shifts, weekends, evening or night work (call centres, night receptionist, restaurant or bar work etc).

- No office, premises etc? No problem. Start something you can run from home (disceetly if necessary). As a consultant/expert in whatever sphere you choose, you can workd from home and meet clients at their offices or over a coffee or lunch. If you need a meeting room, display area etc these can be hired by hour or day as required. If you are selling by mail order or via the internet, stock can be kept in your garage or storage space rented as and when necessary.

- No money to buy special equipment? My first ventures involved my trusty portable typewriter and my parents' telephone. Not a lot has changed today, as we moved to fax machine, telephone answering machine, voicemail, internet, computer, smart phone etc

- Portfolio working - a description invented by Professor Charles Handy, to describe working in a mix of roles - full or part-time exployment, short/long term contracts, changing roles or even your profession several times over a working lifetime.

- Be prepared to change - I have stayed more or less in the role of consultant, writer, university professor; but a friend and colleague gave up his role as a university lecturer in London and California to open a small organic BandB hotel in the south of France, and writing about wine, and advising on wine marketing for local producers.

- Working in retirement - entirely possible in many professions (consultants in almost any sector, writers, artists, photographers etc) that do not involve heavy manual skills that may become difficult with age.

- Contiue to expand your skills base through study (part time, online), attending seminars and conferences, part-time degree courses etc.

- Make your business portable - By offering your professional skills described above, in theory you can enjoy working from anywhere, from your home or country cottage, or any beach in in the world from Corfu to California.'Have laptop, can travel' should be your motto.

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