Before the rise in popularity of the gig economy, becoming an entrepreneur typically required a big investment of time and money. Now, as the gig economy becomes a normal part of how we do business, there are more opportunities to take the leap into entrepreneurship with freelance or short-term work. Launching a side business is easier than ever, with lower startup costs and less time involved than a traditional business. However, don’t let the lower barrier to entry fool you. In order to be successful, you have to treat your “side hustle” like a true business and learn the skills necessary to work from home.

#1  Find Your Fit

The biggest mistake you can make in starting a side business is jumping into something without thinking through whether it’s the right fit for you. If you aren’t sure where to start or simply want to make sure you’re on the right track, this infographic from Entrepreneur can help you focus in on what type of gig suits your interests. Maybe you have a creative hobby making something you can sell online, or maybe you love animals and could see yourself as a dog walker or pet sitter. When you start a side gig, you are solely responsible for staying motivated, so your success depends on choosing something you will enjoy spending your time doing.

Others choose to start a side business based on an original idea. If this is you, be sure to put your idea through a few key tests. Does your proposed product or service meet a need? The best business ideas are ones that create a solution for a problem that people are willing to pay for. Is your idea simple and focused? It’s easy to get carried away in the excitement of bringing your business to life, but you may run into problems if your plans balloon into something that is overly complicated. Forbes recommends starting small and focused, and then you can add as your business grows. 

#2  Build Your Knowledge Base

When you’re ready to get your gig off the ground, use this time during the preparation and early stages to learn all you can about your field and entrepreneurship in general. It takes a little investment in yourself to learn the skills required to run your own business. Learning these skills will also help shift your mindset from being an employee to being an entrepreneur. Do this alongside your regular job so that you still have money coming in while you build the skills to work on your own. 

This is also the time to start developing key relationships with potential business partners and clients. Start with people you already know, like family members, friends, and colleagues -- past and present. Then expand your contacts by attending local networking events. While you may not have a website or storefront to show potential clients and investors at this stage, you should have updated business materials. As old fashioned as it sounds, business cards and an updated resume listing your new venture will give you and your new gig more credibility. The good news is, online tools make it easier than ever to design professional-looking pieces for print and digital use… with perks! For example, online resume builders not only give you access to proven templates, they also provide writing tips from experts and a tool that allows you to track who’s actually downloading and reading the resumes you send. 

#3  Set Up Your Office and Operations

Even though you plan to work this business on the side, your workspace and daily operations should be just as organized as if this was your main source of income. Many people who start home-based businesses make the mistake of blurring the lines between work and home life. To avoid falling into this trap, set up a home workspace that is in a designated spot. Using a separate room as a home office is ideal, but even a corner of a room that you set aside will work. Set up your daily operations by getting the necessary tools you’ll need and organizing all files and supplies from the start.

Successfully running your business from home also requires setting regular “office hours.” Flexibility is one of the greatest benefits of working from home, but don’t be too flexible with yourself. Take a look at your schedule and determine when you can carve out time to work on your business, and then make this time a nonnegotiable part of your routine.

Whether your goal is to simply make a little money on the side or replace your full-time job, starting a side gig can be as unique as you are. Whatever your goals are, planning, learning, and setting up your business correctly are all essential steps to success. Don’t skip these steps because they are what separate a hobby from a hustle!