Fancy a little bit on the side? (The easier way to start a business)

Last week I asked Screw Work readers a question: “What do you most need help with now in your journey to get paid to do what you love?”. I received hundreds of responses that fell into a number of clear categories – from “I don’t yet have an idea to start” to “I have several ideas but can’t choose” to “I’m making my main income from my own idea, how do I make even more?”

Over the next few weeks I want to answer the biggest and most common questions here on the blog. I’m sure wherever you are, I’ll be able to help.

So let’s start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start apparently).

What if you don’t have an idea yet?

If you want to escape the world of jobs and make a living doing what you love you’ll need to choose something to do. That might be freelancing, consulting, advising, blogging, writing books, speaking, an online shop, creating app, running events, or any number of things that you can start without sinking a lot of money into it.

But what if you don’t have an idea for anything to start?

Well you’re certainly not alone for a start. In the survey, Tara in London said that what she most needed help with was, “Working out what I would enjoy doing for a living” and Anne in Australia said, “Deciding what I want to do with the rest of my life…no biggie” (Ha!). Rick on the south coast of England said his concern was “Breaking away from current role without the fear of risking family security”.

And there were many others in a similar position.

To address these issues we need to tackle two deeply embedded myths drummed into you by school, careers counsellors, employers and many others.

#1: The Career Myth

You’ve been taught from a young age to think in terms of careers – a full-time vocation that you are dedicated to long term. But the career is a concept from the last century.

It’s time to let it go.

Almost no one has a job for life any more and very few stay in one field for their whole working life. And starting something of your own is even more flexible. So you’re not choosing for life – or even for a year. You’re just choosing for right now.

It is however worth building skills and knowledge that you can use in other projects even if you change direction. Developing skills in an area like writing, speaking, managing projects, handling finances, marketing, using online systems, or working with others will stand you in good stead wherever life takes you.

#2: The Big Leap Myth

Because our model of work is based on jobs and careers we think starting something of our own works the same way – quit your job, dive head first into something new and pray that it works.


If you want to start a traditional business that requires funding, premises and staff that might be true but there are so many easier ways to make a living – and they’re safer too.

Here’s a better way to approach it.

Start a little something on the side

Write down everything you think you might enjoy doing and have some ability for (even if it’s a bit of a guess).

Choose your favourite based on 3 things: it excites you, you bring some skills, knowledge, talents or other assets to it, and you think it might be interesting or useful to others. As for making money, if other people are making a successful living out of something very similar then that means people are willing to pay.

Then find a way to start experimenting with it on the side.

Don’t quit your job, or wait until you know what you want to do with the rest of your life. If it turns out it’s a bad fit for you change it and try something else. If it’s working for you you can scale it up and try to make your first money from it.

Even if you change your mind completely starting something on the side is almost never a complete waste of time. You’ll be flexing your entrepreneurial muscles and practicing putting yourself out in the world and those are skills that will benefit pretty much any project you pursue next – even if later you decide you want to create a much bigger business like a tech startup.

So what are you going to start on the side? Or what have you already started?

Leave a comment and let me know…

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