Although building a successful business involves knowing a great deal about a particular industry, the good news is that there are many ways in which to learn that don’t require expensive or time-consuming resources, such as a business degree.  The following is a list of suggestions to help you learn about your industry and expand your network quickly with the goal of growing your business.

  • Volunteer your time.  There are always people in need of extra help, especially the kind that comes free.  Find outlets within your community to volunteer in some capacity that is related to your business.  For example, if you want to start a home-based daycare business, consider volunteering your services to relatives, neighbors, and places of worship.  This allows you to gain more experience in the industry, demonstrate your exceptional service, get your name locally recognized, seek referrals, and make contacts for potential customers.  Think of this donation of time as a worthy investment in your business.
  • Become a temp.  Many employment agencies specialize in placing workers in temporary positions and can even meet requests. Temp work not only allows flexibility to work with a variety of businesses, but it is also a very effective way to improve areas of weakness. For instance, if your business is lacking in customer service, consider taking a temporary customer service position.  Most retail businesses have a corporate headquarters where customer service reps are trained and take calls from clients.  Such a position would allow you to work on your interactions with customers and apply what you’ve learned to your own business.
  • Work as a consultant.  If you have a specialized talent (web design, marketing, computer troubleshooting, financial projections, etc.), taking on a consulting position will help you make new contacts to bring to your business.  You can start by contacting local business owners to offer your services for a reasonable hourly rate.  Once they see what a great job you’ve done, they will be able to refer you to other business owners.  Furthermore, you will have formed a professional relationship and expanded your business network.
  • Give back to your community.  Local business schools and community colleges are chock full of motivated young people about to enter the workforce.  Think about contributing your expertise and experience to their cause.  For example, an owner of a business that provides classes in mixed martial arts can approach future graduates of local theatre and film programs.  Lots of these students are about to move to a big city for the first time, so the owner decided to offer them a free self-defense class.  Most of these students wouldn’t be able to afford the tuition for a normal class, but would eagerly take advantage of such an offer.  Additionally, they would recommend the business to friends and family.

Taking on side jobs to build your business is a great way to stay motivated, improve areas of weakness, and build a network of potential customers and colleagues.  How have you used side jobs to build your business?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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