By Greg Waldorf, CEO of Invoice2go
Running a side gig on top of a degree, or a 9-to-5 job, may not be an easy path, but it’s a smart one for those determined to pursue a passion and someday be their own boss. From tutoring to graphic design, and pet care to bookkeeping, there’s no shortage of interesting ways to earn extra income, and to forge out a future where you have ultimate flexibility and control.
Getting people to consistently hire (and pay) you, however, requires that they take you, and your gig seriously. Here are some simple ways to make your side gig look less like a hobby and more like a professional business:
1. Draw a divide between you and your business on social media.
Social media is both a blessing and curse for anyone starting a business. It may be a phenomenal way to connect with your customers, but on the flip side it’s near impossible to keep your personal and business lives separate in the public arena. Beyond the obvious pitfalls of sharing too much personal information, mixing the two can make your brand look amateur. Turn on the most strict privacy settings for your personal accounts, and clean them up as if they were public. Open new social media accounts for your business, and be consistent about sharing on-brand content. A stale business account will hurt you more than not having a social media presence at all. If you start it, commit to keeping it active. Be hyper sensitive about what you share, avoiding anything too personal, political, or controversial.
2. Create a polished website that shows off your services.
It’s far too easy to create a beautiful website these days for you to miss out on this essential step. There are many low cost options out there for people who don’t know the first thing about creating a website. Wix.com is a great example. This DIY website builder makes design simple with a huge selection of drag & drop customizable options. They have both free and paid plans, depending on your needs. Other excellent options include Squarespace, Weebly, and WordPress.
3. Send professional quotes & invoices.
Every piece of communication you send to customers should look professional, especially the one that allows you to get paid. A hacked together, DIY invoice template can damage your credibility. Use a mobile invoicing app like Invoice2go for a simple way to send customized, branded estimates and invoices from your phone. Use your quote as a way to build trust, breaking out separate line items so your customer has real visibility into your costs, and can see that you’re experienced enough to know exactly what it will take to get the job done.
4. Offer your customers the latest ways to pay.
As one of the last stages of the transaction, how you ask for payment can often leave a lasting impression with regards to how professional (and how easy) you were to work with. In bygone days, only big companies could have offered to take credit card payments. Now, new technology like mobile payments and card readers make it so easy and affordable for anyone, that your customers will expect this of you no matter how small your business. There’s also significant benefits for you, as giving people a way to pay on the spot means faster payments, less time chasing late payers, and the potential to do more business overall.
5. Master the art of the follow up.
Once you complete a job, make a note in your calendar to check in with your customer 1-3 weeks down the road. Ask how things are going, prompt them to provide feedback, or simply send through a piece of information or an idea you think they’d find useful. Following up goes a long way to show you’re a true professional, and you have your customers’ best interests in mind, long after they’ve paid you. It’s also an important step in developing longer term relationships with your customers, which can set you up for real success in the future.
Whether you are running a side gig for extra spending cash, or you’re building yourself up to be a full time entrepreneur down the road, it makes sense to put your best foot forward from the very beginning. If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing right. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to looking more professional, and inevitable, far more successful.
Greg Waldorf is CEO of Invoice2go and is responsible for driving global expansion of the business. He has a long history of involvement with leading technology businesses. Prior to joining Invoice2go, Greg was affiliated with Accel Partners as CEO-in-residence. Greg also served as CEO of eHarmony from 2006-2010 where he drove significant global growth through an expansion to 15 countries worldwide.