Call it freelancing, a side hustle or a paid hobby: “Secondary self-employment” is a seriously growing trend, made trendier and more serious by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent financial and job insecurity has driven many to pursue supplementary streams of income, with roughly 2 million Americans taking on additional freelance work over the course of last year.
This growing trend may very well be the future of the job market as we know it. But as more and more people try and make this shift, it can be hard to know where to begin. Am I fit to be a full-time business owner? Which business should I start? What business model should I adopt?
Going the B2B route may be just the path to follow. B2B is one of the fastest-growing segments for new and established companies today, with B2B e-commerce predicted to become an $1.8 trillion vertical and account for 17% of all B2B sales in the U.S. by 2023.
Here are some basic tips for how to start your own B2B business and kickstart the switch to self-employment.
When to Take Your LLC or B2B Side-Gig to the Next Level
When should someone quit that nine-to-five and turn a side hustle into a career? Whenever possible, it’s best to take it slow, weigh all the options and test the waters for viability while the life raft of employment is still deployed.
People looking towards starting a full B2B business often tell themselves, “if I leave my job first, I’ll have more time, focus and energy to commit to this new business and my chances of success will rise.” But in practice, counterintuitive as it may seem, the opposite tends to be true. Independent businesses that are initially started while the founder is still employed and only later become that person’s full-time focus are actually one-third less likely to fail than those that are started as full-time ventures.
Particularly in the case of starting a B2B business, where connections must be established on both personal and organizational levels in order to succeed, this buffer period can be crucial. Take that time to get advice from people who’ve made a similar switch, to allow the new business to get necessary traction, and most importantly, to see if it is actually something you enjoy doing.
Open the Valves and Business Will Flow: Sales Pipeline and Online Presence
Most often, when people set out in pursuit of a new business endeavor, they play to the strengths, skills and connections they’ve built in a former or current nine-to-five. A fledgling B2B business may start out with a few supportive customers in the form of network connections, friends, family or colleagues—enough to get operations off the ground. But eventually, word-of-mouth customers may run out, and even if the initial pool remains consistent and loyal, what then when a new business is ready to take the next step towards growth?
Thoroughly developing a sales pipeline is a vital early step. Fortunately, there are numerous widely available tools that can turn sales pipeline development into a time and cost efficient process. Marketing assistant tools like LinkedIn InMails can help B2B merchants generate leads, drive web traffic, and build brand awareness with 5% response rate, while free prospecting tools allow businesses to find and reach relevant contacts faster than ever before.
As business begins to flow through your sales pipeline, it can pay off to create an online presence in tandem with this starting strategy. 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before conducting both on and offline purchases. Additionally, 91% of B2B customers use mobile devices to search for a product, and 25% use them to make a transaction. Developing a strong digital presence—through Linkedin, social media, a personal website, or a store on an e-commerce platform—is an important way to draw more attention and add more incoming streams to your ongoing sales flow.
Get Off the Ground but Don’t Get Grounded: Look into Local Laws
So you’ve decided to take the next step toward pursuing your dream and start that business. But turning an idea into a reality is where due diligence must be done. Cutting corners to fast track a launch can be a recipe for disaster.
Founders should always investigate the laws and regulations relevant to starting a business in their area. Just because an e-commerce B2B business may have no need for brick-and-mortar facilities and can dodge property regulations or licenses, doesn’t mean they can get up and running without clearing a few bureaucratic hurdles.
Register your company online as an LLC or local equivalent and explore what other legal processes might come into play down the line as the business grows. Legal troubles can also come about by way of shoddy bookkeeping or untracked expenses. The earlier a business starts tracking operations with downloadable software such as QuickBooks or online accounting services like Lancet, the less likely they are to run into financial troubles down the line.
This early stage is also prime time for a founder to decide whether to go it alone or to seek help from the jump. Can they handle all these moving pieces without letting things fall through the cracks? Or is it worth it to hire a VC to help with administrative tasks and overflow? Asking these questions early and sourcing the answers thoroughly can stand to clear the potential hurdles to success, be they legal or internal, before they even arise.
The Full-Time Future Awaits
The COVID-19 pandemic has made us rethink the very core of how we relate to work and employment, and while times are still uncertain, the changing times are fertile ground for bold new beginnings. For those setting off in pursuit of self-employment—by way of a B2B company or otherwise—no two paths to success will be entirely identical. But by taking time to ask the right questions, crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s from the get-go, those who are ready for a change will be well on their way to an endeavor they can enjoy and feel proud of.
Daniel Reynolds is the Senior Account Executive at Lusha.