Matthew Griffin of Indianapolis, it also helped him make better brownies.
In 2004 Griffin created a side company for his idea of a new brownie-baking pan that yields more than four corner brownies, hoping the invention might add to his income. Without quitting his day job, he perfected the design with his wife, Emily, for several years. The success of their company, Baker's Edge, grew steadily, and Griffin became full-time CEO and president in 2008.
Griffin's advice to others who start a side business: "Keep your day job and your side job separate. Mixing the two will cause serious issues, and can quickly cause you to lose the stability of your full-time job."
Simple Side-Business Ideas
Whether the struggling economy or an inventive idea is prodding your inner entrepreneur, here are five categories of side businesses that are easy to start (Note: Possible hourly salary data from PayScale.com included, where possible, but rates may vary by location and experience):
Social sales. Companies like Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Tupperware, and Stella & Dot rely on thousands of independent sales people who work very flexible schedules, often while networking at house parties. Startup kits can cost more than $100, but training time is short. The earnings potential attracts many, often leading to a career change. Stella & Dot stylists, for example, can earn more than $75 per hour, according to the company's website.
Freelancing. Turn one of your marketable skills into a moneymaker to pursue at your convenience. The options are wide for needs you can fill in the marketplace, such as writing/editing, animal care, cutting hair ($22 to $44/hr), being a DJ at weddings, organizing closets, translation (up to $40/hr), and mowing lawns.
Or try a freelance activity that meets one of your needs, too. Tom and Melissa Dowler of Boston started their video production company, Long Haul Films, as a creative outlet they could pursue as a couple.
Online stores. One person's junk is another resourceful person's goldmine, as many eBay store owners have shown us. Or you can set up shop using your own unique domain name and sell items you make or collect. (Yahoo Small Business tools can help with buying a domain name and setting up an online e-commerce store.)
Think broadly -- maybe your customers would rather rent than buy. New Yorker Brittany Haas started her boutique, Something Borrowed NY, to rent designer bridal accessories.
Consulting. Use your expertise to fill a need. For example, you can prepare taxes ($22/hr) for people who find the process too confusing. Other skills that lend themselves well to consulting include personal finance advising (up to $63/hr), wedding preparations, Internet marketing, computer troubleshooting, public speaking, and interior design (up to $40/hr with 5 years of experience). One simple way to get started: become a registered expert on JustAnswer.
Teaching. You may need a certain level of training or certification for some side businesses in this category, such as yoga instructors (up to $47/hr) or fitness trainers (up to $29/hr). Ask yourself: What am I good at? The many options in this field can include musical instruments, foreign languages, academic tutoring, dance, and various forms of art.
Jason Fitzgerald of Washington, D.C., turned his skills as an elite marathoner into a Strength Running program in 2010 that has helped many runners get stronger and prevent overuse injuries.
Startup Tips from the Experts
The work of starting and maintaining a side business will be much easier if you heed the following advice.
- Map out the details. Video producer Melissa Dowler says, "Put together a business and marketing plan; get business cards printed; make sure you have an up-to-date website and social media; and set achievable goals that you can work towards. All of these things will help you keep focused and stick with it during stressful or busy times."
- Make time for your side job. "If you really want to develop it as an income source, you need to be consistent and dedicate the time to it," Griffin says. "Be prepared to give up your free time. If you are doing it right, it should feel like you have two full-time jobs."
- Guard against burnout. "Give yourself at least one night a week to relax," says boutique owner Haas. "Without that needed break, you won't be able to give 110% to each job."
- Put your heart in it. Marathon runner Fitzgerald says, "Make sure that you are deeply passionate about your business; that will keep you going during times of low revenue when you're not seeing a lot of return on your time investment."
For more resources on how to start a business, see Susan Schreter's Startup Incubator and check out these additional articles on Yahoo! Small Business Advisor:
How We Built a Business Around a Single Item
How I Started a Dry-Flower Business With No Money
How to Estimate Startup Costs