Say you’ve been building an app as a side project over the past year. Maybe it started out as a hobby to take your mind off of your day job or perhaps it’s an idea that’s been lingering in your head for years. But now you have the beginnings of a real product and if you’ve been enjoying your work while developing it, you might begin to ask yourself, “Should I turn this into a business?”
Many startups have successfully evolved from a side project. For example, Khan Academy began when Founder Sal Khan started to film his tutoring sessions for his cousins. He would post his videos on YouTube while simultaneously working as a hedge fund analyst, and, to his surprise, rapidly grew a significant audience. He quit his job to focus entirely on his new business, and now Khan Academy is a household name with over 70 million users.
While there are no guarantees or foolproof ideas in the startup world, success is just as possible. This could be an exhilarating opportunity for leadership and acclaim but before you take the leap, these are a few questions you should ask yourself to help you decide:
- How much do you enjoy your side project?
Side projects are fun because you explore an area of interest that you enjoy without any major responsibilities and on your own timeline. To make sure that switching from an after work or weekend activity to a full-time career doesn’t burst your bubble, start to work with a more rigorous schedule. Add in deadlines, collect product feedback from family and friends, and commit larger amounts of time to your prospective startup. If you’re still excited by your product, then it may be time to pursue it fully.
- Are you resilient?
According to Y Combinator Group Partner Harj Taggar, resiliency is one of the best predictive qualities in whether startup founders will find success or failure. While intellect and charisma are important characteristics as well, a strong leader will need to be able to handle the inevitable rejections every startup faces. Resiliency isn’t always the most obvious trait but it can help to think through the challenges you’ve faced in your life. Did you succumb to the pressure and give up or were you able to recover and adapt? Will you be able to keep believing in your product throughout an uphill battle?
- Do you have support?
You’re going to need both financial and community support to launch your business. First, consider your financial health. Since startups can take months to years to gain revenue, how long can you live without an income? Do you have enough savings to support your project and your life expenses while you work towards turning a profit? It will help to create a realistic budget calendar to track your spending and set expectations of how much time you’ll have to gain traction. You can also use this startup growth calculator as a guide to predict your future funding needs.
In addition to living expenses, think about who will be in your emotional support community as well. Being a founder can be an isolating experience—you’ll want someone to bounce ideas off of, share in your wins, and help you shake off the rejections. This can be a co-founder, mentor, partner, or friend. You can also join an accelerator, entrepreneurial groups, or even a co-working space to surround yourself in a feedback-heavy environment.
- Will your hobby make a good business?
You might get a lot of positive feedback on your idea in the hobbyist community but you’ll also need to think about how your prospective customers will respond. Think about the marketability of your potential business. Does it solve a problem no one else has addressed or does outperform an existing competitor? How will you reach your audience and how might you monetize your product? You don’t need definite answers to these questions—in fact, they’ll likely need to change with time as your takes shape and grows—but it’s better to start developing a business plan now before you put in too much work and find out there’s not a demand for your idea after all.
These questions are meant to elicit open-ended conversations rather than provide definitive yes or no answers. At the end of the day, only you will be able to decide whether or not you’re ready to turn your side project into a business. it may seem herculean but there’s no harm in opening the door and starting to think about becoming your own founder.
If you are ready, stick around for part two of this blog post, How to Turn Your Side Project Into a Business.