4 Myths About Starting a Side Business

Have you thought of starting a side business, but didn’t follow through? If so, you probably started out excited by the idea, but then got put off as you began to think about it in more detail. It can be overwhelming, especially if you believe one of these 4 myths about starting a side business.

You need a lot of money

Many people believe that you need a lot of money in order to start any type of business, even a side business. So they begin by investigating small business loans, or seeing how much they could borrow on credit cards to get them going. But you don’t need a lot of money to start a side business. In fact, depending on what kind of things you already have on hand and what you plan to do, you may not need any money at all to get started.

That may be hard to believe, but consider this. If you live in the midwest and already have a lawnmower, you could start a lawn mowing business for nothing by walking around the neighborhood and knocking on doors until you get your first few clients. Or if you wanted to tutor students in German, you could get started by passing the word to local high school and college teachers. (Who could then give out your name and phone number for you.)

Of course, you might need some money in order to get going with some types of opportunities — for example, you might need $60 or so for a year’s worth of web hosting if you want to set up a web site — but most side businesses won’t require any type of loan. You can start with just one client, and cash flow the expenses that may come up later.

It’s complicated

Many people also believe that starting a side business is complicated. Well, it’s not. In fact, if you’re in the U.S. and you’re ok with being a sole proprietor, you can do so by saying this sentence: “I’m in business.”

And poof, you are.

You don’t have to spend months getting things set up, spend thousands of dollars on lawyer and accounting fees, create a corporation, take a year or more to get your company name approved as a registered trademark, etc. in order to, say, write a few articles a week as a staff writer for someone’s blog.

No, you just have to start doing business. Now it’s certainly a good idea to get professional legal advice, and you’ll want to talk to your local city or town about any requirements they may have so that you don’t accidentally do anything illegal, but that’s not nearly as complicated as you might imagine. It’s two hour’s work, tops.

You need a business plan

Speaking of complicated, you can also skip the myth that says you need a business plan before you can open a business. Sure, it’s good to think things out. But you don’t need a 45 page document that gives a detailed background of your work experience and lays out everything you intend to do in order to open, say, a web design business. And if you discover that you’ve overlooked something, you can probably fix it. There’s no one perfect way to start a business.

You don’t have to pass a test that says you’ve done it the “right” way. If you absolutely want to spend a lot of time on something before you get going, learn how to market and sell. Because that is something you’re probably going to need to know how to do, unless you’ve already got potential clients coming out your ears.

Someone will steal your idea

This myth about starting a side business is really more of a fear. People sometimes get so caught up in making sure that others sign NDAs before they’ll even have a conversation with another person about their idea that they spend a whole lot of time being paralyzed and creating needless delays.

Well, you know what? Ideas may as well be a dime a dozen.

What’s hard is implementing the idea and bringing it to fruition. So spend your time working and getting customers instead of worrying and being secretive. Most people aren’t going to steal your idea anyway, and even if they do, they’ll never do it the way you can.

What do you think? Have you run across any other myths out there around starting a side business? And if you’re thinking of starting a side business but don’t have an idea nailed down yet, check out 101 Ways to Make Extra Money in Your Spare Time.


  • Great myth breaking article. I wanted to expand just a little bit on the “It’s Complicated” paragraph and say that you will mostly likely be naming your business so it’s a good idea to research (in Arizona we can do this through a search engine for Tradenames and Trademarks at the Secretary of State’s office) to ensure that the name you are thinking of isn’t already taken. Also realize that there are places online that will offer to do it for you and charge you a lot more than you really need to pay. When my husband was starting his business a friend printed out some paperwork from some online site and it was going to cost $115 but then I did the research and found all we needed to do was register his business name with Arizona Secretary of State’s office and it was simple and easy to do, and cost only $10.

  • The sad part is a lot of these myths are formed because that’s what business teachers teach kids in high school and sometimes even college.


    • I guess they make sense if they’re talking about “small businesses” that might make up to $21 million a year, but that’s not the description of a typical side business that many folks think of starting.

  • Great article Jackie! A lot of people will use these myths as excuses not to better their financial position. I know that I have too on occassion. Really, they all stem from fear of failure. Thanks for the nice read!

    • Yeah, many of them do stem from fear, but they also stem from listening to what “everyone” knows, or not realizing there is an easier way in many cases.

  • Ron

    Great advice! I think people also lack the drive to start business as well, people can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? It takes dedication and perseverance to make a business work, of course coupled with a smart business idea..I started two successful businesses with less than $100 and a dedication to make them work and they did.

  • Ben

    I have an idea for a baby/family item used when out and about. I am a father of 3 and feel the “family” market needs this product. How do i get a patent? I cant design more than drawing on paper so need guidance on this as well…. Can someone help me follow this dream? Felt this article was talking to me…. Thanks to anyone who responds.

    • Hi Ben, I’ve never gotten a patent so can’t speak to this from personal experience, but if it were me I’d start by checking out http://www.uspto.gov/patents/index.jsp to learn more about the process, and to check to see if anyone else had already patented a similar idea.

      That said, I’d also investigate whether or not I really *need* a patent in order to bring a product to market. I’ve never sold a physical product before (only digital and services) so that’s where I’d start. I wouldn’t assume that getting a patent is the first step, or a required step.

      I’d also try to find individuals who had successfully brought a product to market in the family market. (Ideally some type of product that would be complimentary, or at least not a direct competitor.) Then I’d try to meet up with them or talk to them via phone or email to see what tips they might have.

  • Fred Sharples

    It’s unusual to see an article that speaks the truth about ideas, NDAs and the culture of protecting them. As software designer, I spend a lot of time signing unenforceable Non-Disclosure documents over ‘ideas’ that are far from precious or unique. Ideas have almost zero value until they are implemented in a popular product.

    • Yeah, they pretty much seem like a waste of time to me in general. I’m sure there are circumstances where they’re important, but I suspect most of those are in the case of industrial espionage where someone is an *employee* working on an existing product.

  • Now that’s a real myth buster. I think you should do more myth busting articles. I am considering a side business where it involves live band performances. I am acting as a manager for a newly starting talented musicians in my town who loves to play music. The deal is that i get them bookings (weddings, parties, celebrations) sometimes even competition. I see it as a very promising side business which i find with very few competitors.

  • Emma Tameside

    An extremely eye-opening article, anyone that’s considering starting a business should read this. My former partner had the problem of abiding by the second myth, which really meant that he became almost bored if the idea wasn’t revolutionary. Fortunately, there was money to be made, after I got a new partner.

    The new partner was quite innovative, set the workplace up with ERP Software and invested in several social networking profiles. I must say, both have paid off big time in the past year or so.