The past few months have been very complicated for Chattanooga professionals who wanted to start their own business. Faced with the economic consequences of the pandemic, people not only had to rethink their family budgets, but also postpone any business ventures. In Tennessee, businesses are slowly starting to reopen after lockdown, and unemployment levels are improving. According to the latest data from the Department of Economic & Community Development, things are getting better, but the unemployment rate is still double than pre-pandemic levels, and experts estimate that it might take up to two years until the economy goes back to normal.
Chattanooga is still dealing with a lot of economic uncertainty, and preliminary data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the unemployment rate in July 2020 was 7.9%, which is certainly an improvement after April’s 13.2% but still huge compared to 3.3% in March. Considering that so many people lost their jobs in the past six months, those who are still employed consider themselves lucky, and the general sentiment is for them to avoid adventurous financial decisions. Quitting their job and starting their own business is one of these adventurous decisions. But, despite the economic climate, starting your own venture isn’t necessarily a bad idea. If you keep your day job and manage your new businesses on the side, not only can you add something extra to your monthly paycheck, but also reduce the risks associated with startups and see if the CEO life is right for you.
But first, not all business ideas make lucrative side hustles, which is why you should start by assessing the “new normal” for the Chattanooga business scene and what customers need most right now.
Small, family-owned businesses such as guest houses and restaurants are a big deal for Chattanooga’s economy, but if you had this kind of side gig in mind, perhaps now is not the right time to invest. Even if lockdown has been lifted, consumers are still skeptical of returning to the old way of life, and the future of restaurants and hospitality businesses looks uncertain. Allocating a considerable chunk of your family savings to paying rent and decorating a space that might not make it is a risk you should think twice about making.
If you’re looking for safer side hustle ideas that still have the potential of taking off in the current economy, look at the sectors that have been thriving in this time of crisis. The biggest winner here is e-commerce, whose growth was accelerated by five years due to COVID-19.
With many stores temporarily closed to reduce the spread of the novel Coronavirus, businesses turned to the Internet. According to IBM’s Retail Index, e-commerce is projected to grow by 20% in 2020, while department stores are expected to decline by 60%.
So, if you’re looking for a side hustle idea that has lucrative potential, doesn’t require a massive initial investment, and it’s not time-consuming, starting an online store is a great idea.
The smoother your side gig runs without your help, the easier it will be for you to divide your time and continue to be productive at your day job. The idea that a new business is complicated to set up and requires many back-and-forths doesn’t apply to online stories, which are quick and easy to set up. Enterprise ecommerce software makes it easy to customize the shopping experience and can be scaled quickly if your store expands, so you don’t have to worry about administrative complexities. To promote your new business without wasting time, you can set up ad campaigns on social media and Google AdWords. Basically, with these modern tools, everything is self-sustained and runs smoothly in the background, so that you can focus on big picture decisions, not small tasks that eat up your time. On average, filling in the paperwork, building an online store, and starting your first ad campaign takes less than a month even when you already work full time.
One of the trickiest things about running a business on the side without quitting your job is time management. You still need to focus for eight hours a day to get your paycheck, but then when you get home, your brainchild needs attention too. The good news about e-commerce businesses is that success stories start exactly like that: side hustles that don’t require more than one hour a day and grow into big online stores. So, even if you had a full day at work, take at least 30 minutes to look at the big picture and do managerial duties, such as negotiating terms with suppliers or planning your goals. As for the small, repetitive tasks that don’t necessarily need your personal attention, or the tasks you’re not very good at, learn to delegate: ask friends and family members if they want to help, or use platforms like Upwork and Fiverr to hire freelancers at affordable rates for tasks such as content writing, marketing, or data entry.
Few things feel as intoxicatingly rewarding as seeing your business venture take off. But when the ads are starting to work and you get your first wave of satisfied clients, try and resist the urge of quitting your job, at least for a while. New businesses usually go through life cycles, and a peak in revenue this month isn’t a guarantee for year-round success. Before walking away from your main source of income, multitask. Work in the evenings and at the weekends, and wait until your side-business is fully sustainable and has enough prospects. This will require more effort on your part, but it’s the safest way to reduce risks and ensure that your side gig is going somewhere.