Creating a steady income stream on the side is a smart way to ease into running a full-blown business. But even if your side hustle is “micro,” treating it like an established brand will help you grow your business much faster.
Wondering if it’s worthwhile to sink time, effort, and money into marketing an informal business? When you think about it, a side hustle is just a small business that isn’t getting your full attention yet.
And if your part-time career consistently brings in more than $600 a year, the Internal Revenue Service might already consider it a business. Why not go all in and build a brand identity that attracts more customers?
Small business branding forces you to answer questions that will make your venture more efficient and successful in the long run. No matter the size of your budget, there are low-cost branding choices you can make right now to plan for a lucrative future.
Take these simple steps to legitimize your side hustle before you make a giant leap into entrepreneurship.
1. Choose a Business Name
Needless to say, you can’t effectively promote a business that doesn’t have a name. Even if it’s just your personal name, having a solid identity makes you sound like a professional to people who haven’t tried your services yet.
Nowadays, it’s common to choose a business name immediately in order to effectively business your online brand. But if you sell products or services locally, it’s perfectly normal to start by simply making casual business arrangements through your network without an official identity.
Since word-of-mouth marketing is often the biggest source of customers for a side hustle, you should have a name that people can remember and share with others. Keep in mind, you can always change the name later if your business outgrows it.
2. Set Up a Website
While it’s uplifting to hear charming origin stories about selling products out of a trunk, a website is your gateway to more sophisticated business interactions. People are more likely to trust you if you take your business seriously, and more customers can reach you if have an online presence.
Use a business website to:
- Outline your services and value proposition
- Demonstrate what differentiates you from competitors
- Offer proof of quality and customer satisfaction
- Provide contact information
Creating a website is important even if you sell products on a third-party platform. A website allows people to find you through online searches, bringing in customers who wouldn’t hear about your business any other way.
You also have more opportunities to identify niche customer segments, which plays a key role in growing your income.
3. Define Your Purpose
What did you set out to accomplish when you started a microbusiness? How did you make your first sale?
Maybe, you needed extra cash and decided to leverage your existing skills. A friend or relative might have mentioned a product need that wasn’t currently fulfilled by other companies.
Maybe, you had a bad experience with another business and wanted to do something about. At some point, you realized you could solve a problem for someone else, and you took action.
Defining the value you offer as a business is crucial to building a successful brand. Figure out what you do well, and use this value proposition to develop a brand promise.
Remember, a brand promise is a benefit or experience you can consistently provide to customers every time they interact with you. Basically, you want customers to reinforce your core benefits whenever they talk to other people about your business.
Being transparent about what you offer will help you attract customers with similar priorities and gain a dependable reputation.
4. Create a Logo
Create a logo early in the life of your business in order to get the most out of your marketing channels. Imagine seeing or hearing about an interesting product from a friend.
Then, you notice the same brand logo on a flyer or in your Facebook feed. Wouldn’t this tempt you to learn more about the business?
Simple imagery is powerful and easy to commit to memory. People will recognize your logo the more they interact with your business or hear credible reviews from friends they trust.
It might seem hasty to create a logo for a tiny venture, but a memorable logo can help to establish an online presence. Whether you’re posting in a forum or putting ‘thank you’ cards in your orders, displaying a logo encourages people to remember you and instills trust.
Over time, customers will associate you logomark with quality and integrity if you make good on brand promises.
5. Print Business Cards
Don’t listen to critics who insist business cards are dead. Business cards can travel from person to person, reach diverse audiences, and drive traffic to your website.
The internet is an exceptional tool for promoting your business far and wide, but nothing beats holding a tangible marketing asset in your hand. This is especially true for local businesses since many customers will reach out to you directly after seeing your card.
The chances of getting a call are even higher when past clients refer you.
6. Start Collecting Testimonials
Positive reviews are your greatest tool for establishing a brand. If you don’t already have a collection of testimonials, start gathering them right now.
Seriously, you don’t want to procrastinate on this. Customers are most enthusiastic about writing reviews soon after the transaction when the experience is fresh on their minds.
Reach out to customers who had positive experiences with you, and ask them to post reviews on one of your online profiles, such as LinkedIn or Yelp. At the same time, request permission to repost these interviews on your website and other marketing assets.
It helps to provide two or three questions upfront to get the right information from clients. You can also link directly to aggregate review sites to display customer comments on your website.
7. Polish Up Your Brand Look
The visual design of a brand can often win over an audience before they even try your product. Start creating a uniform look for your products and communications to present yourself as a professional. Don’t feel discouraged if you’re working with a small budget.
Start with the simplest changes you can make to improve your brand image.
For example, try printing custom product labels right from your home to decorate boxes and jars. You can graduate to a professional printing company once you have more wiggle room in your budget.
Why not create a signature with a logo for your email messages, a banner for your social media pages, or custom letterhead for direct mail? However, when you choose to proceed, come up with a consistent color scheme to use on all your branded materials.
8. Pitch to Local Retailers
If you sell a product and don’t have a physical store, consider asking a boutique retailer to carry it. Getting your product into an established store will instantly boost your credibility and introduce you to new markets.
However, avoid saturating the local marketing by pitching to retailers who are close competitors. Visit boutique retailers in person and bring a sell sheet with pricing, ordering, and testimonial details about your product.
Boutiques get email solicitations all the time, and most go unanswered. Meeting with a decision-maker in person allows you to show samples of your product and deliver a compelling pitch while showing your personality and business acumen upfront.
Make sure that it is easy for store owners to see the value and profit potential in carrying your product.
Learn how to promote your brand while your business is small to iron out kinks as you grow. Good branding involves an ongoing commitment to quality, so it’s important to know what you can reasonably offer.
Your side hustle will be a budding business in no time if you create a relatable brand and back it up with great customer service.
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