During these times of uncertainty, there are so many people who have either loss their job or still at risk of potentially losing their job. What happens if this is the case? Do we hope the government is going to provide us with a couple grand to keep us happy? Does this really help? One of the most fundamental principles of finances is to diversify. Diversifying allows you to mitigate risk. You often hear about this rule of thumb when you listen to someone talking about a healthy stock portfolio. However, diversification can and should also be applied to income in general. Most people have one stream of income. Their day job is the only thing that is putting food on their table and keeping the lights on. In a quarantine like this, it shows us that even having a steady paying job puts you at risk. Since this quarantine is out of our control, you may have been a great employee, yet you still could get laid off due to the necessary moves your company has to make to stay afloat during a crisis time like this. This quarantine is a good example of why multiple streams of income is important. Let’s say you had that same steady paying job, but also had a side ecommerce business that you put in a few hours a week. If your day job goes down, you still would have your side business to run. Even so, you would be able to ramp up that side business with new ideas, new products, or general site improvements perhaps.
Entrepreneurship is a concept I always come back to and there’s no secret why. The idea of having a small side ecommerce business is very attractive to me. Starting small and ramping up slowly over time to the point where I could transition to full time to is the dream. That would be such a sign of relief during a crisis where my employment status remains in the hands of my boss’s boss’s boss, someone who probably isn’t even aware of my existence. Having a side gig is growing in popularity. It’s not only a smart decision by adding another stream of income, it is a huge step of taking your life into your own hands. If you had a side business and you get laid off from your day job, you wouldn’t nearly feel as bad. You may even be happy to be able to give your business your full attention. This concept boils down to having options. When you have multiple streams of income, you provide yourself with more options than most people and you won’t worry so much about losing one of those options, because you know you have backups to live off.
What is the best way to start this side business? For people like me, who aren’t genius coders or inventors, a lot of time you will start by selling something that already exists. And there’s no problem with that. It will be difficult to differentiate yourself from competitors, but if that’s the starting point you decide to go with, then go for it. For most people, we aren’t going to invent something brand spanking new that becomes the next talk of the century. The best way to start for an average Joe like myself is to find a product you like, modify it to make it better, brand it, and sell it. Start with one product so you can give it your full attention. Then add more products to your line. The next few products to your line could have less differentiation. As long as one product really makes you stand out, you will have more wiggle room with the other products on your line looking like its competitors.
The first goal, find a supplier that makes something you have used before and really like. Think of a way to improve its functionality. Then, ask the manufacturer if they can change it to fit your specs. The change shouldn’t be a complete remodeling, but it should be obvious enough where you can easily see the change and understand why that would be better. Plus, the more you want to change the product’s specs, the more frustrated the manufacturer may get with you and ask for more money. So, look for the smallest change that will have the greatest impact. Viola. You just created a new product. Now it’s time to order the product. If your manufacturer doesn’t let you brand your product or charges you too much to do so, then that is totally fine. If that’s the case, order it without the branding, then brand it yourself. You can either find a print shop to take your products to and get them branded, or you can purchase high quality stickers or labels to physically put on yourself. The second option is a little cheaper, cost wise and not as professional, but if that’s what has to happen to have your brand on the product then that’s what has to happen. You just created a new product and it’s important to have your brand on it so customers recognize that unique product as part of your brand. Advertise and sell!
Marketing a product requires a whole series books in itself, but I’ll boil down as much as I can. First off is to have the best website you can. This means it looks cool and is functional. If you can’t do this on your own then pay someone to do it. This is worth the investment. Your website is basically your salesman and for most people will be the first impression of your brand and product. You don’t want to mess up that first impression. After that, blog. Blog and have high quality videos and pictures. Invest in a high quality camera if you want to do it yourself. It will make a big difference. Or pay someone to do this part. It’s crucial that the aesthetics of your site are second to none. Once you have product and your website, then you can advertise. Advertising results can vary from really good to a complete waste of money. Think carefully about what channels you want to go down and always look at free advertising as an option. In other words, giving your product away is advertising. For example if you have a small new exercise product, give your product to a personal trainer, or give it to someone who has a small fitness following on social media, or you could even (and I like this one the most) just leave a few of your products at the gym you use. I can’t imagine the gym getting annoyed by giving them free equipment. If they are annoyed, just say you forgot them there and take your product and move on. At that point, you lost nothing and get your product back to give away to the next person. The more people to get their hands on your product will only benefit you.
This compact example of a side business shows you the importance of having multiple streams of income. You may not realize it when you’re putting in a few hard hours, but I’m sure you would definitely appreciate it, especially if you get laid off which is not unusual for times like this. Don’t worry about not knowing what to do. You will grow as your business grows. You will start off as a “nobody”. Over time after putting in the hours, you will get more knowledgeable about your brand, the products, the space, the competition, and the people. As a result, you will gain confidence naturally and it will be easier to make informed decisions. You will grow your bank account and grow as a person achieving a new goal. Start small and grow small consistently. You will give yourself more options and mitigate any risk to your finances and overall wellbeing.