I get asked all the time whether it’s possible for entrepreneurs to start a business while working full-time. The answer is a resounding YES. Starting a business is never easy; it takes a lot of discipline and determination, as well as many sleepless nights. To ease the blow of starting your own LLC and praying your business is successful enough to keep food on your table, I personally recommend keeping your 9 to 5 while starting your side business — at least until your new business is making enough money for you to jump in with both feet and leave your current employer.
Starting a side business is a fantastic way to “test the waters” with your new business idea. If for some reason it doesn’t work out in your favor, at least you still have your job to fall back on. Quitting your job before your business is even off the ground is extremely risky, and I wouldn’t recommend it.
Below I’ll provide some tips on how you should be planning to start a side business while still working your 9 to 5. But first, a disclaimer: starting a side business while working a job will be extremely demanding. You have the responsibilities that come along with your job as well as the responsibility to push forward with your dream business when you aren’t working. Basically…prepare to be “working” a lot. Here’s how:
1. Utilize Your Weekends to the Fullest
When starting a side business, you need to use your free time to your advantage. That means your weekends are now two more days of a 9 to 5 — just not with your employer. Your weekends need to be used to start building your startup. Assuming you don’t have parenting duties, you should expect to work a minimum of eight hours both Saturday and Sunday in order to maximize your time when starting a side business.
As I mentioned earlier, holding down a job and starting a side business will not be easy. If you thought you needed to juggle and manage your time before, wait until you get your startup off the ground and get the ball rolling. Your fun has only just begun.
While working weekends is a great way to get things moving in the right direction, you might need even more time to see the changes required to bring in revenue and get your business in front of potential customers and your target demographic. For that, you’ll need to implement our second tip.
2. Make Use of Your Nights
Remember when you would Netflix and chill after work during the week? Well, not anymore. Kiss that relaxation time goodbye. Some of you might not be willing to give up your evenings just to start a side business — and that’s your decision. But you can’t complain when your business takes longer to get going and you’re stuck working your 9 to 5 longer (or forever, if you aren’t willing to put in the necessary time to get your business going at all).
I’m not here to tell you that starting a side business is going to be easy — it’s definitely no walk in the park. Your will is going to be tested, and you will quickly find out if you are cut out for entrepreneurship (it’s not for everyone). But at the same time, you’ll never know unless you try.
So if you get home from work around 5:30 or 6:00 pm, you should plan to eat dinner and then start burning that midnight oil. Work as long as you can while still trying to get seven hours of sleep so you aren’t crushing your productivity the following day. Remember, you’re going to need to get up early for work and still have enough energy to work on your business after hours — so make sure you’re getting enough sleep (and energy drinks are not the solution).
3. Ask Questions to Current Customers
This tip only applies if your new business will be in the same industry where you currently work. If you want to gain some insight into whether your new business suits the needs of your potential clients, why not go right to the source? If someone you interact with could also be a client of your new business, start asking qualifying questions.
Start by having an open dialogue with your current customer. Ask them if they are having issues with X, Y or Z, and whether your new service or product would help. There’s no better way to get a good understanding of who your customer would be and if your business model will work than asking them. You don’t need to tell them you’re starting your own business or even hint at it. But you can probe a little further: Ask your clients if they were to find such a solution, how much they would be willing to spend on it? And what details would they be looking for?
4. Don’t Tip off Your Current Employer
They say you should never burn your bridges, and it’s the truth. I’ve experienced it first-hand with my own business — when I left my employer, they actually ended up being one of my customers. Why? Because I solved a problem they were having. If your new business caters to your current employer, wouldn’t it make sense to try and work with them? They already know you, and (assuming you have a good rapport) they would have no reason not to seek your help with a problem they are facing.
But if you plan to compete against your current employer, the last thing you want to do is tip them off that you’re starting a side business. If they find out, they could terminate you on the spot or limit the information they share with you in fear that you’ll use it against them to grow your own company.
Additionally, if you make it seem like starting a side business is interfering with your job, your employer could terminate you based on performance. Clearly, the whole reason for keeping your current 9 to 5 is to continue paying the bills until you’re ready to take the leap. The last thing you want to do is jeopardize that and be forced to sink or swim with your new business after being fired — or having to find another job until the timing is right for your business.
So keep things under wraps until the time is right to break the news. And even then, put in and fulfill your full two weeks and don’t leave your employer hanging. Help them train your replacement if need be, too. (Remember, never burn a bridge.)
Are you looking for more information on how to set up your startup? Incfile has a fantastic startup guide that I recommend you read. It showcases the various types of businesses you could start and how to move in the direction of owning your dream business full-time.