One of the big sub-conversations in the work-at-home conversation revolves around the idea of the “side hustle.” This is something you’d start doing part-time, “on the side,” while you work your full-time job.
Some people start side hustles to supplement their income and/or give themselves something to do, while others go into it with the idea that it might replace their full-time jobs one day. Whatever your goal is, the side hustle is a fabulous way to start making money from home.
How to Know If Your Idea Is a Winner
Before you jump head-first into a new business idea, the best thing you can do is go through a process called “validation.” You want to validate your idea — to see if there really are people who will pay for your product or service (and how much they’d be willing to pay). When you’re able to see that there really is a desire for what you want to offer, you can proceed with confidence.
Many people skip the validation step because they think their idea is fantastic and of course people are going to buy it. This is a potential disaster for your business. Never, ever assume that people want what you’re offering! Countless entrepreneurs have wasted enormous amounts of time, energy, and money trying to sell something that people simply don’t want to buy. Don’t let that be you!
Tips for Validating Your Side Hustle Idea
The validation process can seem pretty intimidating, and also a little bit boring. Most people, when they’re excited about a business idea, want to jump in immediately, start making it happen, and get going. Market research isn’t very glamorous or exciting on the surface, so they hit the ground running with this “big idea” and then, frequently but not always, they stall out somewhere along the way when the money just isn’t coming in.
Validation takes some time and some effort, but it can save you a lot of heartache. If you give it a try, you’ll probably find it more exciting than you expected, because you’re getting into the minds of your potential clients/customers and figuring out how you can really help them. These are some of the best ways you can validate your idea:
1. Talk to People You Think Might Be Interested
The single greatest thing you can do to start validating your side hustle idea is to have conversations with the people you think your idea will help. Those people are called your “target market,” and they are the one whose feedback will be extremely helpful as your idea takes shape. Find some and schedule 30-minute phone calls to see if they’d be interested in what you’re offering, why or why not, and what they think is good or bad about the idea.
For example, maybe you want to write a course that teaches moms how to sew heirloom quilts. The first step is to find groups of crafty moms. As you have conversations with these moms, you may learn that there is a lot of interest in sewing heirloom quilts. You may hear some of the same questions and worries over and over (How do I pick the right fabrics? What if it takes too much time? What materials do I use?). But you might also find out that these moms like the idea of sewing heirloom quilts in theory but what they really want help with is sewing costumes for their kids. If you also know how to come up with basic costume patterns and can teach that, you’ve got a hot new idea for a course to sell.
Here’s another example. You want to develop a series of workshops to help gardeners choose the right plants for DIY landscaping. Once you start finding people who are interested in improving their yards, though, you might find that the real challenge isn’t coming up with landscaping ideas, it’s that they don’t know how to evaluate and then fix their soil. Now you have an even more specific, and more valuable, idea for your workshops.
2. Offer an Initial Low-Price Offer
Once you’ve had a few conversations with “real people” who you think would be interested in your idea (aim for 8-10 at least), you’ve got a much more solid picture of how to market your business. You know the questions people have and you know the real solutions they want, so what you need to do next is come up with a very small offer that you can sell.
Some business experts call this an MVP, or a “minimum viable product.” You don’t want to give something away for free, but you do want to offer something that’s easy to put together and easy for someone buy.
If you’ve decided to sell essential oils, this offer might be a one-hour “make and take” that introduces people to some of the benefits of essential oils in a fun, no-risk event that lets them walk out with something they can use or give as a gift.
If you want to start a cleaning business, offer a “mini cleaning” in which you tackle the kitchen and the main bathroom. This gives your new clients the chance to “test it out” before committing to a 2-4 hour cleaning job.
If your idea has to do with creating a product of some sort, see if you can put together a prototype and have other people test it for you at a discount (maybe the people you spoke with in your market research).
3. Keep Refining
As you make more sales and talk to more people, you’ll get a good idea about what people actually want and will pay for. The more confident you are that you understand your customers’ needs, the better you’ll be at “rolling out” your idea.
Always keep asking people for their feedback. Be willing to listen to what they say and make changes accordingly.
Further Thoughts on Validating Your Side Hustle Ideas
Some people think that competition is a bad thing. If you have an idea and then find that someone else was already doing pretty much the same thing, it’s not necessarily time to quit and find another idea.
Take a look at the existing business. Do you see any areas where your idea is actually an improvement on that one? If so, keep moving forward. Do you get the impression that there’s a ton of interest in the idea? If so, keep going. Generally speaking, an already-existing business for your idea is more of a good thing than a bad thing, because the idea has already been validated. Your mission now is to become the best in the market.