With two new business ventures in the works, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection about my first forays into the trenches of entrepreneurship. First was launching a local tutoring service in August 2014, followed by the working to establish myself as a freelance graphic and web designer in September 2016. I’ve been thinking about what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and I constantly find myself having ideas for new ways to build on what I have, connecting services with clients, and identifying gaps to be filled within the current ecosystem.
My first two endeavours have largely been independent initiatives, driven and sustained entirely by myself. Occasionally, I offer some work to people I know when time is tight, and I have prospective tutoring students who I just can’t feasibly accommodate – or when I’m tasked with a design job that could also use some coding assistance, I often look to two of my close friends for support with those responsibilities. Even though I haven’t outsourced growth with either of these endeavours, it’s something I am comfortable with and intend to do with both of my next two ideas.
Admittedly, I’m quite a shy person and not the best at outreach, which resulted in entrepreneurship being a never-ending learning curve for me in an area that always seemed to be on the periphery of my comfort zone. Here are some tips I have for others, especially introverts, who want to launch a side-hustle of their own. (Side note: not the biggest fan of the word side-hustle, it’s such a millennial hot-word that’s often tossed around to describe minimally lucrative endeavours like being a survey-answerer).
1. Know your worth.
If what you’re providing is actually valuable, charge competitively and competently. For instance, I can write poetry, but I know that my poetry is not of immense monetary value as it is not a need. High grades, however, are needs by many high school students. Having taken courses focused on language acquisition, English grammar, and some weekend certificate courses for tutoring, I feel that I am of value to the average high school student. All of this enhanced by the fact that I myself maintain high grades, and am able to transfer my skills and strategies to others, make me a competitive tutor. As high school grades are not only more competitive than elementary school grades, but also serve as a numerical metric, I can charge a higher rate here than I would for elementary school. From talking to locals and scoping the internet for local tutoring service feeds, I was able to verify that my rates are not too high, but still reflect my skill set.
2. Preparation is key.
Let your clients know what they are getting with your service. Have a portfolio, testimonials from past clients, and a schedule or itinerary available to prospective clients. Being well-prepared and having a defined self-image enables you to establish more trust between yourself and a client in a short period of time. Don’t disrespect a prospective client’s time, be prepared to show them exactly how you intend to meet and exceed their expectations.
3. Focus on building a long-term reputation.
While you may only intend your side-hustle to last a short period of time, you never know where it may take you or if it could potentially grow larger. For instance, I’ve had clients from my side businesses offer me full-time employment when I finished my short-term work with them. When beginning a business, your clients are both your customers and your referents. Word of mouth and validation from previous clients has been integral to building my image as a tutor and designer. Beyond the first 8 months in both ventures, I’ve had to do considerably less outreach as I worked hard to impress clients – which allowed them to refer me to their friends, colleagues, classmates, and even family members. A credible reputation for success can be just as impactful as a well-constructed portfolio or outreach campaign.
Now that I’m starting two ambitious and separate ventures in two separate industries from the ground-up, I’ve been thinking about the importance of those three components incessantly. I need to understand their values within the current climate, prepare to articulate and demonstrate their significance, and build up a reputation from nothing. Each of these present their own unique array of challenges and difficulties, but I think the most important takeaway from having ventures in the past, is to understand that good preparation early on mitigates future stresses, and once I overcome the hurdle of acquiring the inaugural clientele I’m going to have a lot of work to do – which is exactly why I do what I do.