Taking Notes

Bit on the side: How to set up a successful side business

Fancy dipping your toe into the water of enterprise without chucking in the day job? Here’s how you can enjoy the freedom of starting a side project while staying tied to the safety of your full-time gig.

There comes a point during many a working life when enough is enough. Maybe the boss is really grinding your gears, customers are testing your resolve or that commute can just go and ‘do one’. In these kinds of scenarios, you might want to leave it all behind and become your own boss with that neat little business idea you had the other week.

Of course, walking away from a secure job is a huge risk. So why not compromise? Setting up a small side project whilst still in work, just to test the water, is completely do-able. But where do you begin? With the tips we’re about to give you, of course.

  • Do your sums

Before anything else, you need to know how much your side project costs, how much time you have and whether or not you can actually afford it. Do you need to rent premises or buy stock? If it is web based you’ll need a site, a domain and server space – how much do you want to fork out for that?

All this might involve spending more time than is healthy on Excel or Google Sheets, but it’ll be totally worth it in the end. If everything adds up, go for it!

  • Get tooled up

Apple Mac

You’ll also need to consider the necessary tools. Of course there are physical tools, which will depend on what you’re doing. If you’re making luxury jam, for example, you’ll need jars and ingredients. If you’re screen printing T-shirts you’ll need to rent or buy a screen printer, and get hold of T-shirts and ink.

The basic digital tools – a productivity suite like Google Docs or Microsoft Office, a website/blog powered by a content management system (CMS) and an email account – are almost always necessary. Yola.com is a good, free, business-focused example of a CMS that can help create professional-looking websites that show you’re ready for business.

They’re not vital at the start of a business, but what about social media marketing and time management platforms? Free visual-planner-meets-scrapbook Trello.com is a good example of the latter. You’ll also need something to help with the painstaking process of running the accounts; this can be done on software such as Excel or Google Sheets.

Be sure to bear in mind costs too, as you don’t want to find yourself in the red; that can see your sweet dream turn sour.

  • Find skilled collaborators

Running a one-man band does sound tempting, but having a friend or two with a skillset, such as web design, sales or marketing, can help your bit on the side to blossom into something far greater.

Depending on the size of the organisation you want to develop into, it might even be worth getting a team of around four or five people together, just so that you’re not carrying the load on your own.

  • Get gabbing

Start Up Meeting

Once you have everything in line, the next step is to network as if your life depended on it! Hit relevant forums and social-meets-business sites such as LinkedIn. Equally, don’t forget there was once a time when humans spoke face-to-face. Why not be retro and go to a “networking event” in your area?

  • Keep it internal

Of course, we’re talking like your second gig is going to be a secret you hide from your work colleagues – like that Kardashians fixation you’ve been meaning to get looked at. But your employers might be able to offer support with days off, money or expertise.

Consider your boss’s personality and interest in small business. You know them better than we do, so take the time to assess how you think they could react to the news. If you think they’d like to be involved, it could be the step that helps your dream turn into a real business.


Now that you know how to take the first few baby steps onto the entrepreneurial ladder, you’re ready to get selling. And don’t forget that Twitter and Scotch tape both started off as side projects, founded by people who already had full-time jobs – and they’re both wildly successful. Good luck!