These days, it’s more common than ever for budding entrepreneurs to juggle one or more gigs on the side of a 9-to-5 job or while pursuing a university degree. Whether it’s freelance graphic design, podcasting or food blogging, people are happily taking on side hustles for a little extra cash, or to simply spend more time doing what they’re passionate about. The challenge can be making your hustle look less like a hobby and more like a professional business. If you want to get paid (and who doesn’t?), potential clients must see that you are serious about your work to convince them to take a chance on your skills. Here are some tips to help your side hustle look more legit.
When you’re starting out, the hardest thing is to demonstrate experience without having any experience. The single most important factor in looking legit, is believing that you are. You should have faith that the service you are offering is worth more than you’re charging for it. Having the confidence in your ideas and work is empowering, and will go a long way in showing clients that you’re the real deal.
The key is to never stop learning. Knowledge is power, and power is confidence. Stay on top of everything that’s happening in your industry. Subscribe to newsletters, podcasts, and social media outlets that relate to the work you’re doing. Chances are, you’ll be able to find tons of how-to articles, videos and even online courses that won’t cost a fortune and will keep you sharp in your field. Get started with how-to videos on YouTube and Howcast.
Still using your personal email account from high school for your side hustle? It’s become incredibly easy to claim your own domain and to set up your own business email address, such as Sarah@yourcompanyname.com.
Some email services are better for a professional look than others. Gmail by Google & Office 365 by Microsoft have clean templates that allow you to add your business signature (e.g. a logo and contact info) to every email. Both services work well on mobile devices and include other communication tools such as instant messaging, social networking and video conferencing. Integrated calendars are great for keeping your clients updated with your schedule. To get your custom email domain, you’ll need to upgrade to the business level account, but both are very affordable at less than $10 per month. That investment alone could be enough to increase your sales when clients see the professional look of your communication.
This may sound like an obvious one, but it’s always surprising how many people don’t do it. In today’s world, it’s vital to have a website for potential clients to access. And not just any website. A great looking website. It’s the face of your business, and it will make a big difference in establishing a credible brand. The good news is, building a website doesn’t have to be daunting or expensive. Thanks to simple online tools, literally anyone can create a professional, simple and beautiful website that won’t break the bank or create too much extra work.
Seek out a website builder such as Wix, Weebly or Squarespace. Drag and drop interfaces, and a wide range of templates allow you to easily customize your website so it fits your brand and vision. Skip the free user plans and upgrade to a business plan so you can have your very own domain name without ads on your website and the website builder’s name attached to your URL. Example: yourbusiness.com vs. yourbusiness.wixsite.com.
Every piece of communication that you send out to clients should reflect your branding—from your emails and social media, all the way to getting paid. You may not realize it, but even the humble invoice that you send when the job is done can be a great tool to make your hobby look legit.
With mobile apps like Invoice2go, you can say goodbye to scrappy DIY invoice templates. The app allows you to create a customized invoice template to match your branding color and even make your own logo to attach to your invoices. The biggest benefit of using an invoice app is that you can send it electronically straight to the client as soon as the job is done. You can even accept payments via debit, credit and Paypal. The easier the payment process, the more likely you are to get paid on time. With branded invoices and a digital payment method, you’re guaranteed to portray professionalism and be taken seriously by your client.
Whatever your future plans are with your side hustle, you have to take it seriously from the start if you want to succeed. None of these ideas are difficult or overly expensive, which is perfect for a budding entrepreneur. Once you’ve implemented them, you’ll be on your way to transforming your side hustle from a hobby to a legitimate business.