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Fast Start: Start that side line

Kimberly Palmer, senior editor at US News & World Report, writes about personal finances. Her new book, “The Economy of You,” shows how launching a side business can help establish financial security and provide a creative outlet.

What’s driving this increased interest in ‘a business of my own’?

I think it is a combination of factors: First, with the uncertainty in the economy, people want to make sure they have a “backup” income in case their primary one suddenly disappears. Second, there’s much more acceptance of launching something on the side, so you can be proud of it instead of embarrassed by it, even among your co-workers. And third, it’s easier than ever—you can launch a side business in one weekend through one of the many e-commerce sites, like Etsy, Fiverr, Elance or Freelancer. It’s so easy to market using social media, collect payments over PayPal and get your business off the ground quickly with minimal startup costs.

When it comes to getting word out about your business, you can make a Facebook post, write a blog post or send a Tweet and start reaching your target audience without having a marketing budget.

How are millennials particularly well suited to do it?

Millennials grew up thinking it was normal to run side businesses alongside full-time jobs. They’re surrounded by a pop culture that idealizes entrepreneurship on shows like “Cake Boss” and “Shark Tank.” They’re also comfortable living their life online, connecting with strangers who turn into paying customers.

Could you share your own story as an example?

Sure! As the recession hit in 2009, I knew I would feel much more secure financially if I was earning money on the side, to supplement our household income. At the time, I had also just become a mom, so felt even more financial pressure. After browsing Etsy one day, I got the idea to launch a line of money planners to help people meet big financial goals and budget. I teamed up with an Etsy illustrator to create money planners—basically illustrated workbooks—and then marketed them using my website, newsletter list and social media.

Soon, I started making $50 a month and then climbed to $200 a month and beyond. It was also incredibly satisfying creatively—I love making things that other people find useful. If I’m having a bad day, I just scroll through the comments people have left on my Etsy shop page.

Do you have tips for making the mindset shift from 9-to-5er to entrepreneur-on-the-side?

Be willing to get uncomfortable and even fail. No one hits on the perfect idea right away. At first, I thought I would sell pricey spiral-bound planners, and most of them are still sitting in my closet at home. So I switched to digital PDF planners, and that’s when sales picked up. You have to be flexible and pivot to what your customers seem to be asking for.

Free worksheets from Palmer’s book and a link to her Etsy shop are available at her website, bykimberlypalmer.com.

3/27/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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