According to an April 2023 Bankrate survey, 39% of U.S. adults have a side hustle and about 28% say they expect to always need one to make ends meet. Before launching my six-figure side hustle as a financial coach, I worked part-time jobs for $15/hour at two local clothing boutiques. I also attempted my own retail business that taught me critical skills most new entrepreneurs miss out on by trying to learn them in their own businesses.
Here are three crucial business skills I learned working that paid off years later by speeding up the entrepreneurial learning curve while getting paid to improve my professional prowess along the way.
Practice Sales Pitches To Build Your Confidence Later
According to a study of 600 entrepreneurs by Kajabi — a tech platform for entrepreneurs and creators — 84% said they experience imposter syndrome. I’ve seen many new business owners dread sales because they often have never had to sell products or services on their own before. This can slow down the growth of your side hustle if it creates fear around selling and prevents you from getting feedback to iterate faster.
Before launching my full-time business, I practiced retail sales in jewelry and clothes by:
- focusing on increasing the overall lifetime value of a customer versus a single transaction;
- upselling on products or services based on what the customer already picked out; and
- being more direct in asking for the sale versus letting people pass by passively.
Retail experience can help you muster up the courage to raise your prices. I started by asking customers to pay a low $29 for my first coaching program and progressively increased the cost as I received positive feedback about the value of what I produced.
I eventually raised my price to $250 per session. Practicing how to sell in a retail environment helped me get over the fear of rejection.
Learn Time Management On Boring But Critical Operational Tasks
The Covid-19 pandemic inspired many people to look for more flexible working hours. The Commerce Institute — a small business research organization — finds that on average, 4.4 million businesses are launched each year in the United States. But dictating your own schedule includes the responsibility of assigning operational tasks to yourself if you’re starting a side hustle as a solopreneur.
In coaching people on how to leave their corporate jobs, I’ve witnessed new entrepreneurs frustrated by an inability to efficiently manage their own time. They don’t realize how reliant they were on their previous corporate culture to dictate their workload, even the highly paid executives who considered themselves autonomous and self-driven.
When working retail jobs, I messed up on even the most basic tasks like locking up the door or counting cash correctly because I was doing it differently every time and I wasn’t allocating enough time to the tasks until I learned the optimal order.
From these retail experiences, I learned to print out an actual checklist on a board that reminded me of the critical operational tasks and what order to do them in. I now use that same practice in managing my online business.
I also watched my retail employers manage everything from bookkeeping to vendor management to maintenance of the physical products and space. When I was ready to start my own business, I knew what tasks to schedule administrative time for and how to keep a structured daily schedule to stay on top of my business needs.
Master Confronting Challenging Customers Without Losing Your Cool
KPMG found 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers. I’ve personally been in this position when I was challenged by financial coaching customers who complained about their experiences or were unwilling to do the work we agreed upon for them to achieve the outcomes they hoped for.
In dealing with retail customers at my local fashion boutique, I learned how to manage a broader range of challenges when there wasn’t an exact protocol to follow. More importantly, I was able to shadow the business owners to see how they handled difficult interactions, and learned that listening actively and being patient, even when a customer was irate, were skills where I still had room to improve.
If you’re starting or scaling a side hustle, I strongly recommend working in retail in your local community as a crash course in entrepreneurship. My friends thought I was crazy when I left my six-figure job to work a $15/hour retail job. But that retail work experience taught me the skills I needed to scale my business to now make more income than I ever did in a corporate job.
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