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How to Turn a Side Project into a Startup

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By Barbara Beauregard   |    October 12, 2016   |    3:01 PM

Many people spend their free time working on side projects for fun or supplemental income. Sometimes, these projects evolve into budding businesses, fueled by big dreams and lots of hard work. 

If you'd like to move from small-time hobbyist to full-fledged entrepreneur, learn the essential checklist for launching a startup.

Optimize Your Chances for Success

Numerous successful startups began as fledging side projects. The online marketplace Airbnb, for example, began as a simple side project to help pull in enough money to pay its founders’ rent. Today, the company is valued at over $25 billion. That said, this sort of success is extremely rare.

Regardless of what anyone says, luck and timing can play a major role in determining whether a startup will sink or float. Still, you can dramatically increase your chances for success by following some fundamental guidelines.

  • Do what you love. You aren't likely to invest enough time or effort into something that doesn't interest you. Always focus on the things you are passionate about.

  • Make time. There are only 24 hours in a day for work, family and rest. To be a successful entrepreneur, you will need to become a master of efficiency, making sacrifices where necessary. This includes less time at the golf course and fewer hours spent watching television.

  • Stay patient. When it comes to launching a startup, timing is essential. Resist the temptation to start too early. Make sure you have all your ducks in a row and carefully develop a plan before launching your new business.

  • Practice self-discipline. To successfully launch a startup, you will need a very clean budget. While crunching numbers may not be especially glamorous, it's essential for small enterprises with very limited capital. Pinch every penny and scrutinize every investment.

  • Become a social superstar. Leverage your contacts as much as possible. Seek investments and advice from established business owners and high achievers. Cultivate a strong online network and consistently work toward forming new relationships. Even if you can't see a benefit to this now, it will play a crucial role for your company down the line.

  • Stay flexible. Accept that your product, service or business model may need to be altered. Don't have a stubborn attitude toward change and make sure not to invest your money too rigidly.

  • Get feedback. Don't invest your time or money until you have established a definitive demand for your service or product. Use polls, surveys, questionnaires and social networks to see if people will actually be willing to pay their hard-earned money for whatever it is you are offering.

Maintain a Realistic Outlook

Keep in mind that there are tens of thousands of failed startups for every Facebook. Write down your goals and take an honest measure of whether they are reasonable. With a good concept and a steady, strategic approach, there's no reason your side project can't evolve into a successful startup. That said, you may need to redefine your definition of success. Ultimately, if you are able to do what you love, while enjoying steady growth, your startup should bring enough satisfaction to keep you motivated.

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