A staggering 55 million people — more than 35% of the U.S. workforce — are now freelancers or contractors, and that number is projected to rise to 43% by 2020. About 44 million people report having some kind of side hustle, and of those who do, 36% say they earn more than $500 a month from it. Entrepreneurship, even in the form of part-time work to complement a traditional day job, can provide a useful hedge against economic uncertainty and a way to develop new skills.
But the sticking point for many is figuring out what your side venture should be. This is especially true if you have a variety of interests or consider yourself a generalist. How do you know what to focus on? How do you assess your expertise? And what are the first steps you should take once you think you’ve found the right idea? Here are five strategies to keep in mind.
Don’t fall in love with your first idea. Bozi Dar, a life sciences executive I profile in my new book Entrepreneurial You, had what he thought was a brilliant idea for a side project: an app that helped people change their mood by looking at their personal photos paired with music. Unfortunately, it never took off. The reason it failed, he’s convinced, is that he “started my app not really testing whether there is a problem [that customers wanted solved], not testing what is my audience, not testing whether anyone was even searching for a solution. I just fell in love with my idea, starting putting money and time into it, and it never worked.” Don’t just come up with a clever notion; make sure people actually want it before you spend a lot of money developing it.
Understand what you’re uniquely qualified to share. After his initial failure, Dar was hesitant to try again. But he realized he could dramatically improve his outcome if, instead of imagining what his audience wanted, he listened to what they were already asking for. At his day job, things were going very well, and he was getting promoted frequently. His friends and colleagues noticed, and he found himself “being invited for these coffee/mentoring sessions nonstop.” Dar realized others found his perspective valuable, and perhaps an audience might pay for it. He was right: His online course about how to win promotions earned him an extra $106,000 — on top of his day job salary — in its first full year.
Read More at Harvard Business Review