Of all the people that walked onto Harvard’s campus in the fall of 2002, nobody would have predicted that Mark Zuckerburg, a programming genius but otherwise nondescript college freshman from New York state, would build a site called Facebook and become one of the wealthiest people in the world.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Taking a site that he called “just a Harvard thing” and turning it into a business that is currently worth over $500 billion is no small feat and certainly puts Zuckerberg into the upper echelon of entrepreneurs that have ever existed, but that doesn’t mean others can’t learn from his and others’ success. With a few business essentials, you too could be building the next empire from your kitchen table.

1. Build a Brand

Too many people are obsessed with finding the perfect product, but true entrepreneurs build a brand. Facebook is Facebook precisely because they want to be associated with the site in some form or another, and sites like Myspace and Friendster, although successful, do not have the same gravitas because of the brand that Facebook has built up.

The same must be true for your business as well. If you truly want to build your side hustle into a business, focus on targeting a specific demographic and connect with them through your brand. Do that, and you’ll have raving customers that will follow you anywhere.

2. Time It Right

It’s nearly impossible to pick the exact time to introduce a new brand or product into market, but use a little common sense when it comes to bringing your brand to market. When Henry Ford brought the automobile to market, very few Americans believed that it was viable, let alone necessary. But by anticipating the market demand for a faster and more convenient way to get around the country, he was able to build Ford into a powerhouse. The same goes for Steve Jobs with Apple, Jeff Bezos with Amazon, and Larry Page with Google. Anticipate the market and lead the charge into the future.

3. Lean Into Technology

Unless you’re Amish, there’s absolutely nothing to fear of new technology entering the workspace. Faster systems create faster order times and faster customer service and better ways to reach your audience. According to a Bank of America Small Business Owner survey, 36% of small business owners claim that technology is the single biggest contributor to their success. Paid advertising, better POS systems, outsourcing to virtual assistants, and other forms of scaling your business are now possible due to increases in technology. Don’t shy away from it.

4. Scale It Up

In order to reach your business’ full potential, you’ll have to maximize the amount of revenue you receive from each customer while minimizing the cost to find them. That means creating a repeatable business model that can increase your conversion ratio as well as your total revenue.

Once you are able to accurately predict what each new customer will bring your business on average, can pinpoint what your cost of acquisition is (and how to bring those costs down), as well as identify the highest margin items and how to get them into the right customers’ hands, then you will know you’re on the right track. Until then, keep experimenting.

5. Take Care of Yourself

It’s an old adage in business that success takes a certain amount of “sweat equity,” which means putting in the hard work necessary in order to get the business off the ground. While that is absolutely true of any success story, don’t let your obsession with success force you to forget essentials like small business insurance and legal representation in case anything happens along your business’s road to success.

Many small business owners operate their side business on top of their regular 9-5 and family responsibilities, leaving them broken and deflated after only a short time. Indeed, many small business owners struggle with depression and other mental illnesses. In order for your business to operate at its most efficient, you have to be operating at your most efficient, and you can’t do that if you’re running your body and soul into the ground. Take a step back, breathe, and take some time for yourself.

by: Mark Palmer