Striking out on your own and starting a new business is considered the ideal scenario for many people. The idea of getting out from under “the man” and being your own boss is a dream everyone has had at one point or another. Sometimes, however, the reality is simply that the amount of work and money needed, along with the potentially long wait for the startup to turn a profit can make the old saying “don’t quit your day job” particularly relevant.
So what’s an excited potential new business owner to do? Well, with a realistic set of goals and the right support, starting your business while still working your normal job can not only be feasible, but can also be a fun side project with a minimal amount of risk attached.
1. Have a co-founder
Enthusiasm fades, busy lives take over, and the impetus to “worry about it later” can cause your new project to get placed on the back burner indefinitely. Having another person who’s relying on you to keep moving forward, and having someone who can pick up the slack when your life gets hectic, is almost essential when it comes to on-the-side startups.
In the same vein, entering into a partnership with the wrong person is a surefire way to ruin even the best of ideas. Before you begin, make sure that you and your potential partner have a few in-depth conversations so that you’re both on the same page when it comes to time and money expectations.
2. Be prepared for long hours
If at any point you think to yourself, “I can probably put in a couple hours here and there,” you may want to reconsider your business plan. If you’re serious about getting your startup off the ground, look forward to long after-hours work sessions and many a weekend spent at a desk.
If you want to ease the burden a bit, consider hiring a full-time employee as early as possible to help bring cohesion to the project when you and your co-founder are unavailable. Having a third party whose focus is on your startup 24/7 can provide the structure you need to manage both jobs.
3. Don’t let your startup get you fired
This is important, and for far more than just the obvious reason of “now you don’t have a job.” Your current employer could be a valuable contact once you’ve set off on your own, and your performance at your current job can affect things like future business partnerships and even outside investment. As long as you still have a job where you’re paid to do work for someone else, do that work!
Additionally, be careful when it comes to utilizing company resources in ways that benefit your startup. Many people suggest getting a separate phone for your new business, to avoid being bombarded with distracting calls during work hours. Doing research for your startup during your lunch break can be fine, but make sure you’re not letting yourself take advantage of your current employer.
4. Understand that you’re going to have to give something up
When it comes to starting a small business, the notion of sacrifice is a universal truth. If you’re not giving something up to pour your heart and soul into your new venture, there’s a good chance you’re doing something wrong. Whether it’s weekend fishing trips, that hour of TV you habitually watch, a few hours of sleep, or even your kids’ recitals or sports events, there will come a time where you have to make hard choices, and you may lose some people along the way (try not to let it be your family – priorities!) Of course, to you it may not feel like a sacrifice, but the idea remains the same.
5. Set a threshold for going “all in.”
When you start your new company, or maybe even once it starts breaking even, sit down with everyone involved with the project and decide where the “all in” point is. Sure, you’ve been following the “don’t quit your day job” advice, but you also need to figure out at what point your startup will become your day job and plan accordingly. If you need to give two weeks’ notice at your current job, make sure that you don’t wait until the last second and still find yourself splitting your time between two jobs when your new venture desperately needs you full time.
When setting your goal, make sure it’s realistic and not just optimistic. Is the business going to be at a level where it can actually support everyone involved? Is the revenue consistent, or is everyone jumping on board after one month of strong sales? If you push “all in” too quickly, you and your colleagues could soon find yourselves in the unemployment line.
Have you started a business “on the side?” What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them? Tell us about your experiences below.