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How to start your own business or side job from home (USA)

side job

Starting a business is something that many of us have considered. Whether you are looking to start a business from home as a part of an entirely new career path or a “side job” to top up your monthly income, the difference between success and failure is often in the preparation.

The British military has a saying regarding poor preparation and poor performance, and it’s the same in the world of business and making money.

This article will look at some of the essential preparation that we think should be undertaken before starting a business or side job from home in the US. Please be aware that the article is for informational purposes only, and you should always look to get professional business advice when possible.

After reading this article, we suggest that you visit the US government website here to run through all the legalities related to forming a new company.

 

What Business?

The best way to decide what type of business or side-job you want to start is to assess your skills and passions.

For example, you might be a writer interested in cryptocurrency or a graphic designer who enjoys cooking. In some instances (although not all), you may be able to combine your skills and passions to come up with business ideas. For example, you could create a food website that uses step-by-step infographics to add visual content to the blog posts and recipes.

It can be okay just to have an idea of the topic and niche that you want to work within at this stage. You can pin down your idea by researching online, asking on relevant forums and social media groups.

It can also help to have some ideas or a shortlist of what your business name might be. You might want to keep the name simple and easy to spell. You should also check if the domain is available – your desired website address. You can do this by searching for your business name on a website such as 123-reg.

Next you will need to do a registered company name search for the state you live in – to make sure it is not already taken. Legalzoom and SBA.gov have some further advice on this process.

 

Identify Your Target Market

Chances are, if you fail to identify your target market, all of your marketing efforts will fail too. Identifying your target market is the foundation on which all of your other marketing efforts and, to a certain extent, your business itself relies upon.

To begin, create your ideal customer persona or avatar. The ideal customer persona is usually a fictional representation of your perfect customer or client – the type of client you want more of – because they are highly profitable and relatively low in ‘maintenance’.

First, identify demographic details – age, gender, job title, income, disposable income.

Geographical details – where they live

Psychographic details – interest, attitudes, affiliations

It is essential to identify all of their aspirations and ambitions as well as their problems and pain points.

To help create your ideal target market and discover their pain points and ambitions, find out where they hang out online. Are they on Reddit? If so, which forums? Do they use Facebook Groups? If so, which ones? What are their pain points? What do they talk about on Reddit or Twitter?

Knowing your target market is important before starting your market research.

You may have identified several personas, and that’s great. Still, you’ll need to work out which one is the most profitable and what value you can provide to each. This is so that you can eventually identify which persona represents your ideal, most profitable, and best-matched customer that you can give value to.

 

Market Research

Once you have your idea, you must perform some market research, especially if you are thinking of investing a significant amount of money.

You could hire a market research company that will compile an intricate and detailed report for you to evaluate whether or not there is a substantial market for your product or service. The report will typically include data and statistics regarding the market size, growth rate, the demographics of the consumers, and industry leaders.

However, a report from a market research company is likely to set you back at least a few thousand pounds. If you are not afraid of some Googling and virtual elbow grease, you can often find a lot of information yourself.

Start off by googling for reports and statistics regarding the industry that relates to your business idea. For example, if you have an idea related to the fitness industry, try searching for “reports on USA fitness industry”, “USA fitness industry trends”, and “fitness industry growth”. Look out for data related to year-on-year growth, the demographics of each specific market, and the amount of money spent on related products and services.

Websites such as Google Trends and explodingtopics.com will show you what related search terms are growing and in which areas. For example, this search on Google Trends indicates that searches regarding “home workouts” peaked in March 2020, and at the time of writing, this search on explodingtopics.com suggests that searches for “plant-based” are continuing to grow in 2021. Be sure to check out the “related topics” and queries at the bottom of the Google Trends results too. These sections can help inform ideas and product offerings.

 

Competitor Analysis

A significant part of market research is competitor analysis. It’s important to know who your competitors are, how much their service or product costs, and their unique propositions and selling points. In some instances, you can also request credit reports on your competitors.

If you are thinking of starting a local business, you can search on Google Maps to find the existing competition. For example, if you were thinking about starting an accountancy firm in New Jersey, search for “accountants in NJ” on Google and then check out the competitors on Google Maps.

Read their reviews and see if you can offer something that they currently can’t. Reading reviews can also provide valuable information if you are thinking of selling a product too. For example, if you were thinking of manufacturing a protein supplement, search for “protein powder” on Amazon, and read all of the reviews for the existing products. If there is a recurring issue or theme regarding existing products, you may well have found your unique selling point.

 

Primary Market Research

Primary market research means collecting data on your own. To do this original research, you may need to use a survey on your existing social media accounts or pay a survey company to collect data from your target audience for you.

There are also several online tools and websites that will help with your market research. For example, you can install the “Moz bar” to check out the “domain authority” of your competitor’s websites. The higher the domain authority, the harder it will be to outrank them on Google. You can also use the Google Keyword Planner tool or Ubersuggest to see how many searches there are for specific terms each month on Google.

Finally, if you provide an online service, you can visit a website such as PeoplePerHour and check out the going rate for freelancers in your country for certain services. In other instances, you can check out a job website and note the number of local vacancies and the salaries. The more job vacancies there are, and the higher the pay – the more demand there will tend to be for a freelance or agency service.

 

Get Professional Business Advice

There are a number of government and charitable schemes available across the US that may help advise you on your business and its formation. The USChamber.com website can be an excellent place to start when looking for funding. Searching on Google for “free business advice near me” may also result in some local organizations or schemes that can help. In Portland, for example, the Portland SCORE organization provides free mentoring and low-cost training to small businesses and non-profit businesses.

 

Business Tools

It can be wise to consider which business tools you will take advantage of. For example – will you use an accounting app to help with your bookkeeping?

Another excellent tool for remote businesses and side jobs is a phone answering service. If you are running a business from home, it can help create a professional image if you have a dedicated receptionist answering your phone calls. With an award-winning service from Moneypenny, for all intents and purposes, as far as the caller is concerned, your virtual receptionist will be an in-house full-time member of your team.

Other tools to think about might include:

– Project management software

– Inventory management apps

– Point of sale tools

– Video conferencing software

You will also want to think about any hardware that you might need to invest in. For example, if you are working from home, will you need new office furniture, a printer, or a scanner?

 

Complete a Business Plan

A business plan is not usually fascinating or exciting to complete, but it can be crucial to help frame and visualize your business. Moreover, many organizations and companies that may offer funding and other help for your business will want to see a business plan first. This may seem unnecessary for a side job, however if you don’t have time to invest in a business plan, you are unlikely to be successful with a side job or side-hustle either.

It can be an excellent exercise to complete to get your ideas down on paper in an organized manner. It should be a step-by-step plan for your business and its execution and should be a working document – not something that you file away straight after you complete it.

Whether you are looking to attract investment or create a plan to follow for your business venture, get it down on paper. Aim to have several versions of the plan. One for you, for example, and one for potential individual investors. Banks and other potential investors may need a slightly different business plan than the one formatted to suit personal use or for an individual private investor.

Treat your business plan in a similar way to a university assignment. That is – you must back up and reference everything that you say. You cannot claim that you have a unique selling point without outlining the weakness in your competition, for example.

Be aware that potential investors will ask many questions regarding your business plan, so make sure you know it down to the finest detail. Investors will see through inflated financial projections too, so it is generally best to be cautious when calculating future income.

 

Marketing Strategy

You will also need to include your marketing strategy in the business plan. Before you complete this section of the business post, it might help familiarise yourself with social media marketing, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and Google ads. You can quickly get an overview of these marketing channels by watching several YouTube tutorials or doing an online course on a website such as Udemy.com.

An essential element of the plan is analyzing your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. If you are going to show your business plan to potential investors, then use professional language when highlighting your competitors’ weaknesses. It may suggest that you lack integrity if you heavily criticize your competitors. Deal with facts, not emotions.

Examine and analyze your competitor’s marketing strategies if possible. Are they using social media ads, Google ads, and where do they rank on Google for important search terms? Use a tool like UberSuggest to see how competitive search terms are and how much they “cost per click” (also called “CPC”) when a user clicks on a relevant Google Ad.

One final thing to be aware of is although your executive summary is at the start of the business plan, you will usually fill in this after everything else is planned out and complete. The order of the business plan does not necessarily represent the order that it should be filled in.

For US-based businesses, you can find business plan templates on the sba.gov website.

 

Branding Your Business

Whether you are building a full-time career or a project for a side-job, your business needs a brand. People use the term “brand” and “branding” interchangeably with logo design. A logo is a tool and a symbol of the brand, but it is not the brand itself.

Marty Neumeier describes a brand as a result – a customer’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. They take the raw materials that you throw at them, and they create something out of it. When you create a brand, in a sense, it’s not just one single brand; it is an entity or concept that resides within every single customer or client that you have. It’s a reputation.

Marty Neumeier recommends starting with the feeling. It can be tempting to have a checklist – the logo, the tagline, the ads, and the website design. But Marty states that it is best to think about the messaging, the look and feel of products, the culture, how employees behave – these all tie into a company reputation.

It can help if a brand represents you and your personality, as this will make everything more authentic for you and the customers. Think about what you stand for and what you ideally want a brand to be.

Market research can also help inform your brand design and concept. What is your target audience looking for, and what is something that would have meaning to them? Competitor research may also be an essential element of brand design – how can you stand out from your competitors and shake up the industry?

When you have decided on the idea and concepts behind your brand, you may wish to hire a graphic designer to create your logo and social media banners. You may also want to hire a web designer to create your company website. You can find an agency or freelancer locally with a quick Google search, or you can use a freelancer website such as UpWork or PeoplePerHour. There are also apps like Canva, which may help you draft some ideas or even some final artwork yourself.

 

Register Your Domain and Social Media Accounts

When you have decided on your company name and all the elements of your brand, it’s a good time to register your website domain and social media accounts.

Your domain name can be very important. It can also help people remember your domain name if it is short, and obviously, keep it either the same or related to your brand name if possible. WPbeginner.com has some more tips on choosing a domain name here.

Social media marketing is a vital route to market for many small businesses. Right now, in 2021 – Linkedin is a great place for “organic reach” – i.e., free exposure, rather than paid advertising. If you work in the business to business sector, and in some instances, even if you don’t, it can be wise to have a personal profile and a business page on the platform.

It is a good idea to register your business with Google MyBusiness too. This is especially true if you are a local business and wish to appear on Google Maps when someone is searching for a service or product that you offer.

 

Register Your Business

To make your business official, you will need to register it. The process involved in registering your business is specific to each state. If you perform a Google search for “how to register a business in [city state],” for example – “how to register a business in Portland Oregon,” the first .gov result will usually take you through, step by step how to do this.  If you have a mentor or a local organization that helps with company formations, they can normally help with the process too.

 

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to rethink the way that we work. Although the pandemic has certainly had tragic consequences, it has opened the door to the possibilities available now that the remote work and distributed-teams infrastructure is tried and tested.

Running a business is never easy, however, and a side-job can be challenging to manage on top of a full-time career.

Whatever business you are looking to start, a telephone answering service may be a valuable asset if working from home. With a dedicated receptionist service and the ability to use a local or a toll-free number, you can turn your mobile phone into a business phone system.

 

To find out more about our Phone Answering Service, please click here.

 

 

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