Did you know small businesses make up 99.9 percent of the total businesses in the U.S.? What’s more, they employ 47.5 percent of the total working population, according to the Small Business Association.

Being a business owner offers a lot of freedoms, but it’s also stressful. With your entire income in your hands, you have to not only build a business but make money from it too. If you’re thinking about starting a small business but aren’t ready to take the plunge just yet, consider these five ways to test the waters first.


Sell Your Crafts to Family and Friends

Taking orders from members of your family or friend group allows you to get a feel for what it’s like to manage the process of selling products. This is a great first step because chances are high that your friends and family aren’t going to be hounding you to get the order quickly, and you may not even need to ship anything if they live nearby.

If you want to eventually sell your crafts online, this is also a great opportunity to improve and tweak your products. Ask your new customers:

  • What would make this item better?
  • Were you expecting something different?
  • Does the item work the way you expected?

You can even use this as a chance to practice your customer service skills. Set up a feedback email template that you send out after an order is placed. No need to set up an automated email flow just yet or purchase any expensive software. Keep it casual and use this as a chance to develop your product while deciding if you want to be a business owner.


Start Your Online Store

If you’re ready to take it one step up from selling to family and friends, start your online store. This requires more time for setting up and learning how to manage a digital store and also forces you to consider whether your items are ready to be sold to the mass market. Will they do well in an online marketplace? Are they competitive? If you’re not sure or are open to developing new products, consider the products that eCommerce experts at Selz suggest making and selling online:

  • Pillows
  • Coasters
  • Candles
  • Picture Frames
  • Bath Bombs
  • T-Shirts
  • Jewelry
  • Sweets (think dessert baskets)
  • Art
  • Photos

Note that what you make or produce may dictate where you sell the product. For example, if you’re a photographer, you can simply upload your images to a stock photo site and make passive income as they’re downloaded by users.

If you don’t already have a product you know how to make, consider taking a course or class to learn the basics. Apply your new knowledge and put your unique spin on the products to drive interest in your niche.


Start Freelancing

Moonlighting—making money in addition to maintaining a full-time job—is on the rise. In fact, 4 in 10 Americans having a side hustle, according to 2018 data from Bankrate. On average, these side hustlers are making $686 each month—allowing them to reap the benefits of learning how to be a business owner and extra income.

One of the most popular side hustle options is freelancing, which, in most cases, allows you to work remotely, and on your own schedule, on a per-project basis. There are many skills that are great for freelancing, from technical to creative, and TechRepublic reported that some of the most in-demand skills of 2018 include:

  • Google’s Tensorflow
  • Voice Over
  • Art Direction
  • Content Strategy
  • Chatbot Development
  • Information Security

Consider how your skills can translate into remote freelancing work. If you’re not sure, just head to a site like UpWork and create your profile. Once on the platform, you can be invited to projects and apply for ones that interest you, just like you do with a regular job. As you gain clients, you’ll get a very clear picture of what it’s like to be a business owner.


Become a Virtual Assistant

If you’ve always been known as the office ninja, staying organized and taking care of every task given to you, you may be the perfect virtual assistant. A virtual assistant is exactly what it sounds like: someone who assists a business owner with various tasks, depending on their skill set. Some virtual assistants manage only admin needs while others help with lead management, travel arrangements, social media marketing, and even customer care.

If you’re not sure whether you’re a good fit for this type of gig, consider the skills of a great VA, according to FlexJobs:

“Great virtual assistant job candidates possess skills like phenomenal written and verbal communication and open and transparent communication practices where they are viewed as a reliable, reachable partner by their clients. Time management and organizational skills are a must, as is a natural ability to take charge of a situation and organize it for the benefit of a client.”

You can find virtual assistant gigs on most sites that you’d normally look for a regular part- or full-time job, along with specialized sites for VA listings only. When you’re looking for your first VA client, keep this pricing in mind, as suggested by FlexJobs:

“The range is $15,387 to $65,379 per year, with the median annual rate at $36,272. Hourly, virtual assistant pay ranges from $10.16 to $29.84, with a median hourly rate of about $16.” Make sure your rates are competitive but also match your skillset.

Start a Networking Group

Being a business owner requires you to be organized, rally a group of people around a cause, and honor your commitments. One way to learn how to do that—or see if you like it—is to start a local networking group focused on your area of interest.

Not only does this allow you to take another step toward your passion, but you’ll also start creating a network of people who would likely support your business if you decide to take that step. Finally, starting a networking group is very low risk. If you try it for one or two months and don’t like it, you can stop at any time.

If you’re ready to give it a go, keep these tips in mind from Eventbrite:

  • Define your purpose
  • Decide on your format—speed networking versus a mixer versus featured speakers, etc.
  • Define your budget
  • Find a venue—if the group is small, your home or apartment may even be a good place to start.

Don’t forget to keep people talking if they seem hesitant at the event and follow up. If this is something you want to do again, you need to keep your members engaged.


Test the Waters as a Business Owner

Use these ideas to see if you like being a business owner. At each step of the way you can pull back or take it to the next level.  If anything, you can make a little money on the side, which is always a great bonus.

Learn more about the steps to take before launching a business in our virtual workshop, Turning Your Passion into A Profession.

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Photo by Remy Baudouin on Unsplash