#016: Crystal Coleman on Launching a Sideline to Supplement Your Freelance Business

Summary: In this episode of the Smarter Freelancing podcast, Ed talks with Crystal Coleman on launching a sideline to supplement your freelance business.

Who said you had to limit yourself to your core services as a freelancer?

And who said you couldn't launch a separate side business that allows you to practice a hobby or passion?

That's one of the beauties of self-employment. You can chart your own course and make your own rules.

In today's episode, I interview my VP of Operations, Crystal Coleman. Crystal has been instrumental in helping me grow my coaching and training business over the past 4-1/2 years.

One of the many things I admire about her is how she's recently taken a passion of hers and turned it into a rapidly growing side business.

Not only that, she's involved both her kids in virtually every aspect of this venture. And that alone has made the whole concept hugely successful.

In this interview, she explains what she's doing ... what she's learned ... and what you need to know to make a sideline work for you.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself, your business, and where you live.

Crystal is an Online Business Manager who works with online professionals like Ed. She helps them manage business operations, including projects and teams.

She started online as a virtual assistant in 2008 and today works from her home in rural Alberta, Canada. She left her government job when she and her husband relocated to a small community out in the “middle of nowhere."

You started a soaping business with your kids about a year ago. And you've experienced some really good success. First, tell us why you started this sideline. What was your motivation?

Crystal started a soaping business producing artisan handcrafted soap and body products. She started the business after her children (now aged 11 and 8) were diagnosed with Celiac Disease three years ago. Through her research, she found that many body products contain gluten, among other surprising additives and chemicals. She started making soap as a hobby at home to have more control over what her family was using on their bodies, and found that she loved it.

Her children overheard a discussion on what to do with all the extra ingredients piling up around the house, and approached her with their own business idea: to make and sell soaps at the local Farmer’s Market.

Crystal decided to turn it into a lesson on entrepreneurship and helped them as they chose the name, worked with a designer for a logo, and supports them in most of the business decisions - like packaging decisions. The big things are voted on, but the children have real power in the business.

The response in the local farmer’s markets was incredible—they could not keep up to demand for the entire first year.

The children being the sales people, and attending all of the markets plays a big part in the success. Crystal believes people want to support the children as young entrepreneurs, and people love their story.

What have the results been—both financial and otherwise?

In their 2nd year of business, despite having tripled production, they are still struggling to meet demand.

Aside from work ethic, the children have learned how to organize themselves in a task, within a project. They’ve also learned the value of things we buy — they have an understanding of what has to happen behind the scenes before the product hits the shelf.

Crystal says one of the biggest benefits is that they spend more quality time as a family — when packaging, traveling to markets, and time spent at the markets. It’s uninterrupted time where everyone is present in the moment.

How have your OBM skills helped you launch, run and grow 2SoapyKids?

Crystal believes that her OBM background has helped her get the sideline business up and running because she already understands what it takes to run a business. She knows the backend, and all the pieces that need to be in place — website, ecommerce, paypal and what it takes to connect it all together to run the business.

She also understands the marketing path to sales. She can set up and manage the project. She sees other crafters at the markets that have entered the market without a business mindset, and lack the background to know even how to price their products.

In your opinion, what kinds of solo professionals should consider starting a sideline?

Look at this from a passion standpoint — do something that you love and think about how you can monetize it.

Do it because it makes you happy. If you are doing it for money primarily, then you do not want to enter a hobby craft business, that should not be the primary goal. You can make money, but it’s the other benefits that should be your driver.

You not only need to have money to invest, but also you need to be able to afford the time away from your main business and from leisure time. Having support from family and friends is a big factor in Crystal’s success in starting and running a sideline business.

Where do you see 2SoapyKids going in the next couple years?

The children want to be on “Dragon’s Den” and sell the business, which isn’t realistic at this point, but that is their dream goal.

This year the business has developed some wholesale accounts, which they plan to continue to grow in number to increase their brand visibility and reach beyond the small local craft shows and markets. They’ve also started attending larger fairs and markets.

Crystal expects the business could provide a part-time income in years to come for the children as it continues to grow.

Any parting advice for those who are intrigued enough with this idea to start pursuing it?

Crystal says to take time and research. Google it, buy books — look around at the possibilities. There are a lot of groups online where you can get an idea of what it’s like to run a business in that space.

Go to local Farmer’s Markets or fairs to get some ideas that trigger your creative side.

Where can listeners learn more about 2SoapyKids? Where do you ship to?

You can find out more about 2SoapyKids on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/2soapykids and their website: www.2soapykids.com

You can find out more about Crystal’s OBM business at her website: www.solo-solutions.com

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