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What To Do When Your Small Gig Takes Off

You’ve worked incredibly hard, stealing every moment you could find to build your business. There were days when you seriously considered giving up and moments when you were positive that the business would ultimately amount to little more than a hobby. But no! You were wrong and now you and what you have to offer are in serious demand. Congratulations! And don’t worry, it’s totally normal to react to your business’s popularity exploding the same way you reacted when your kids learned to crawl and walk: excitement immediately followed by horror and feeling overwhelmed with all of the decisions you suddenly have to make.

What To Do When Your Small Gig Takes Off

The most important thing that you have to acknowledge now is that you can no longer run your business all by yourself. That’s right, you Type A types reading this: you can no longer go it completely alone. Not if you want your business to continue to be successful. It’s time to hire help. You’ll need to hire employees and you’ll need to hire someone to make sure your payroll and taxes are handled properly (trust us: you don’t want to try to do payroll by yourself. It’s a full time job all by itself). And, if you haven’t done this yet, get out of the corner of your bedroom.

Going Legit

If you haven’t already registered your company with your local Secretary of State and applied for a business license, do this before you do anything else. Now is the time to completely sever your business’s income from your personal finances. No more depositing client payments in your personal bank account. It’s time to set up separate company specific business accounts at the bank and begin building your company’s credit. If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry; that’s totally normal. In fact, if this is your first business, don’t try to navigate this process all on your own. Make an appointment with your local Small Business Association office and have someone there walk you through the process.

Getting Funding

We’re generally a debt-averse society but it is important that you not let that hinder your progress as you expand your business. It will be tempting to simply use your current income influx to fund your expansion. Instead, tuck it away in your company’s bank account and leave it alone (okay, you can pay yourself your salary, but that’s it). Let it sit there and collect interest. Get your funding from outside sources.

There are a few ways to do this. The simplest is a straightforward small business loan. If you can prove your current and future profitability and have had an active company-specific bank account for a while, this shouldn’t be an issue. You can also apply for grants–there is tons of grant money available for startups, particularly those built by women.

Another option, especially for someone in your position, is to use crowd funding. Kickstarter is a fantastic place to get the funding you need (and make it easier to get a loan later). The best thing about it is that if your campaign is funded completely you get to keep the money (minus the fees and taxes on it you will pay) instead of having to pay it back with interest. There are also Peer to Peer and Microlending sites that can help you get the funding you need.

Okay, you’ve got money–now what?

You currently have two important decisions to make:

  1. How many people do you need to hire to keep up with current demand?
  2. How much space will you need to keep up with current demand?

If you only need one or two people you can probably get by for a while renting space in a co-working co-op. Of course, if you’re selling physical goods this might not be the best plan, as you’ll need somewhere to keep and manage your inventory.

If you need help figuring out the answers to these questions, head back to your local SBA office to talk with a professional advisor. They’re there to help you and won’t charge you exorbitant consultancy fees.

Go Slowly

Another pitfall you need to watch for is the urge to rush into a massive expansion. You’re doing great now so you need a giant warehouse or super trendy office and at least a few dozen employees, right?

Not so fast! Build your operation as it expands. Start with hiring an assistant or two to help you manage client contacts and errands. Grow as your business grows. Master the proportional response. Your profit margin will thank you for it.

It’s okay to be freaked out by this process, but don’t let that fear keep you from growing! Start with the tips we’ve shared here and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

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