How to start a business while working full-time

Laura @ IWMLB ProjectWhat business shall I start?Leave a Comment

how to start a business when you work full-time

You really want to start a business, maybe you have an amazing idea, or you feel like it’s time for a change. Whichever one it is, there’s a giant elephant in the room. Your current full-time job. 

Should you stay at your job and start your business on the side? Or, should you save money and quit your job to focus on the business full-time?

To be honest, there isn’t a right answer, successful business owners have done both. 

“Thanks, Laura, that’s really helpful, *eye roll* I just want an answer, stay in my job, or quit?”

Okay, well below are the ways you could stay in your current job and start your business. If these feel do-able then you don’t have anything to lose by starting and seeing what happens.

If your business starts to gain traction but you can’t find time to do it all, then you can quit your job (if you have the money to do so!).

I would recommend building an escape fund, starting now. That way if you want to quit your job, you have the financial cushion to do so. (I have written a free 5-day email course on how to do this which you can get here.)

Before we jump straight in with both feet, there are a few things to consider first which are VERY IMPORTANT. (Sorry for shouting, but I wanted to get your attention).

how to start a business when you work full-time #businesstips #business #startabusiness #iwmlbproject

Know why you want to start it

Are you trying to start a business you love, or are you running away from a job you hate?

There is a very important distinction between the two and something that I got wrong when I started my first business (which I’ll talk more about below).

Be really clear about what you are doing. If you hate your job and are trying to come up with ANYTHING to get you out, then you are probably going to fail.

If you are burnt out, stressed and desperate to leave your corporate job, you might be better taking a staycation or sabbatical to relax and de-stress before making any decisions about which business to start.

Deciding to do something in a state of panic is probably not going to lead to the right answer.

Start your business because you want to move towards something exciting, not run away from it.

Here are a couple of useful blog posts if you are in a bad situation at work:

Advantages of starting a business while working full-time

Money

Starting a business is going to feel a lot less risky if you are still getting a regular paycheck each month.

You will also have money to invest in your business if you need to.

If you are spending all of your money each month, you can have a read of this blog post which will help you track your spending to see where you can make some savings.

Flexibility

If you start your business while still working, you may feel like you can treat it more as an experiment to see what it evolves into. If you quit your job to go all in, there is a lot more pressure to find that one thing that will make money.

A study published in the Academy of Management Journal found that entrepreneurs who started their business while working full-time were 33% less likely to fail (this was a study done of 5,000 volunteers over 14 years). Hmm well, that’s a pretty good reason to stay in your job!

Disadvantages of starting a business while working full-time

Time

Clearly, time (or lack of it) is going to be a huge factor if you are starting a business while still working. You will have to be ruthless about your priorities and sacrifice some of the ‘nice-to-haves’ like meals out and weekends away.

Focus

You will need to be really disciplined in keeping your job and business separate. I imagine the temptation to check business emails while at work will be pretty strong but that would be a very bad idea for your focus.

You need to give each one the proper attention, otherwise, the quality of your work could slip.

My story

I was exhausted and burn out in my corporate job and I desperately wanted to leave. I thought that starting a business would be the answer but in my stressed out state, I couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

I dived into something that wasn’t right for me while moving house and trying to buy a rental property 100 miles from where I lived. Pretty ridiculous in hindsight but I was so intent of getting out of my job that I just threw myself into the first thing I thought of.

Eventually, it got to the point where I just needed to quit and start over. I saved hard and then left my job with a year’s worth of expenses to tide me over while I decided what to do. You can read more about it in the blog posts below:

Okay, so you’ve made the decision to set up your business while working full-time. Now what?

10 ways to start a business while working full-time

Start it the right way

Check your contract!

First things first. I personally do not believe you need to tell your employer about your business, however, you do need to make sure that you aren’t in breach of your contract in any way.

I am not a lawyer so can’t give you legal advice but you need to check there is no conflict of interest or non-competes that you could be violating. The last thing you want is to get sacked!

Don’t write a business plan

Ooh, controversial……

I don’t mean, just plunge in head first without giving it any thought. Have an idea of where you want to go with your business but don’t waste time writing something that you will probably chuck in the bin anyway.

Businesses evolve so quickly that a business plan can quickly become obsolete.

Pop Up Business School has some great free advice on this, the basics for your business strategy boil down to a few simple things:

  • Does your product or service solve a problem?
  • Who is your customer?
  • Do they have money?
  • Where do they hang out? (social media)
  • What is your USP? Unique selling point or what makes you stand out from competitors
  • Can you reduce the risk by starting with little or no money?

Create an MVP

An MVP is a minimal viable product. It’s the absolute minimum you need to show your customers what your product is and why they need to buy it.

Don’t go all out on developing your product or idea until you have got proper feedback from paying customers.

An example of an MVP might be to build a free basic website with Wix or Weebly. I built a one-page website for a friend in an hour on Wix using their drag and drop templates.

(If you are setting up a blog you may want to go self-hosted with WordPress.org, I use Siteground as my host.)

Another idea is to use an existing platform like Etsy to sell your product rather than pay for an e-commerce site such as Shopify (you can always move to Shopify once you starting making more money).

Invest only in what will give you the most value

You want to be as lean as possible while testing your idea, there are so many ways to start your business for free or with little money.

I list out free 44 tools for an online business in my below blog post, which you can use for some ideas:

I personally invested in this course to get my blog set up.  This has cost me money but saved me time.

Be very careful if you are going to do this though and do your research. Don’t buy a course from someone who only makes money teaching people to get set up. Make sure they have actually done what you want to do.

Treat your business as a business. 

The only way you will gain traction and start to see results is if you work on it consistently. If you pick it up and drop it again when life gets in the way, you’ll never really get going.

Even though you already have a job, you need to see the business as another job, which you also have to show up to, every day.

Make the time

Free up time 

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you to turn the telly off. You already know this. Jane The Virgin isn’t going anywhere.

Use your time wisely

First, choose what you are going to focus on. The best way to do this is to view everything as having an ROI (return on investment).

For example, don’t set up 5 social media accounts, choose one channel that will have the best ROI for your business. I.e. where do your customers hang out and where do they buy from?

Second, be aware of every single minute that could be used in a more constructive manner.

  • Waiting for a bus? Engage on your chosen social media platform. Pin some good content to your boards on Pinterest or share some useful content on Twitter.
  • Sitting on the train? Write blog post ideas in the notes section of your phone or watch a ‘how to’ video on Youtube that relates to your business
  • Driving in your car? Listen to a podcast that relates to your business

Outsource whatever you can

Let’s be honest, ‘life admin’ is a full-time job in itself. Meal planning, renewing insurance, cleaning the house. If you can outsource some of these things you will free up headspace and time to spend on your business.

There are companies that can help you with this such as $5 meal plan for, you’ve guessed it, meal planning! $5 meal plan send you a weekly meal plan and a grocery list so you can just go to the shop, get what you need and cook it on the allotted day.

Or, Goutso (for the UK) and Blue Apron (for the US) who send you regular recipe boxes so you don’t need to think about it. These are more expensive but you can get some good sign up deals.

If you want to get some more ideas to free up time then you can have a read below.

Ask your boss to work from home

Now this one may or may not be possible for you. If you are able to work from home, you will be able to do you ‘paid job’ work with a lot fewer distractions, and use what would have been your commuting time to work on your business.

Another option could be to do compressed hours. Some businesses allow you to work 10 hours a day for 4 days a week to satisfy your 40-hour contract. You can then use the fifth day for your business.

Go part-time

If you can afford to, could you drop down to 3 days a week at work? This would be the best of both worlds as you have the time for both your permanent job and your business.

Take a staycation 

Instead of jetting off somewhere, you could use your holiday allowance to work on your business. Just be careful you still make enough time to relax as well, burn out is not your friend!

Take a sabbatical

The other option is to take a sabbatical, obviously, you won’t be earning during this time but it could give you a running headstart on your business to get the initial set up done.

Once you had some systems in place, you go back to your job knowing that you had already done some of the heavy lifting.

Get in the right mindset

This is really important to do. There is no point in starting a business if you haven’t got yourself in the right headspace.

Learn how to focus

Going back to the ‘use your time wisely’ point. Once you have identified the spare time to work on your business, you need to use it in the most productive way possible.

Using methods such as the Pomodoro technique can be very helpful in smashing through tasks rather than flitting about all over the place.

Here are two great books on this subject:

Be realistic

If you already work 12 hour days in a highly stressful job, you may be able to find a bit of time to work on your business, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get it going quickly.

Some entrepreneurs advocate working til 3am and then getting back up at 7am (looking at you , Gary Vaynerchuk) but I don’t agree with this. I just can’t see how it is sustainable but then I need a good 8-9 hours sleep or I am just not productive.

Just be realistic with your time (and your sleep) and just let the snowball slowly build momentum. Small things add up over time.

Set attainable goals

Don’t set huge, overwhelming goals like ‘earn £100k in my first year of business’. That is way too big.

Breaking it down into bite-size chunks like; get my website set up, or email 20 prospective clients is much easier to do and you are more likely to achieve it.

If you want some help with breaking down your goals, Nadalie Bardo has a ‘Goal Slaying Planner‘ which you can purchase here on her ‘It’s all you, boo’ blog. I haven’t personally used it but her blog posts are really well written and informative and she has had some great feedback about it.

Choose your priorities

If you work a full-time job and want to start a business. Do those two things only (unless you have kids as you might need to feed them and stuff 😉 ).

Don’t start other projects, say yes to other things or generally spread yourself too thin.

Recognise that ‘Me time’ is different from ‘TV time!’

Don’t sacrifice time to look after yourself, as you will end up a wreck.

Rather than stopping exercising altogether, you could cut your hour gym session and do a 20 minute HIIT work out at home instead.

Or batch cook healthy lunches at the beginning of the week so you don’t end up buying junky stuff to eat quickly.

Successful people who started their businesses while working full-time

Giving you these tips is all well and good, but I actually quit my job to start IWLMBproject. So what about successful business owners or bloggers who started out with a ‘side hustle’?

Mad Fientist

The Mad Fientist is a FIRE (financially independent, retire early) blogger. He has an amazingly informative blog and has recorded over 50 podcast episodes with other people who have also reached financial independence.

I met him last year and he is a thoroughly awesome guy. I asked him how he set up Mad Fientist while he worked full-time (setting up a blog is not a quick or easy thing!)

His full-time job was at a university which was 40 miles from where he lived. The university put on a free shuttle bus everyday for employees which took an hour each way.

He got up at 5:3am and caught the bus at 6:30am and then took it home again in the evening. MF used these 2 hours to write all of his blog posts (and do his masters!). 

 
Natalie is also a blogger, who started her site while working as a lawyer. She then quit to become a Financial Planner and eventually left that to blog full-time.
 
While working full time Natalie would wake up between 4:30 and 5am (jeez) and work for nearly 2 hours before leaving for work.
 
She would then return home around 5pm and then blog again for 1-2 hours as well as working on her youtube videos on the weekend.

Sara Blakely

Sara Blakely is the founder of Spanx. Sara launched her hosiery side business while selling fax machines door to door! Her business is now worth over $1 billion……

And finally,

Whether or not you continue in your day job while you start a business is down to you and your personal circumstances.

Just make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. If you start a business because you love your idea and really believe in it, that is awesome. If you are really passionate about something, you will make the time for it.

Don’t, however, layer on another complication to your already-full life if you are trying to escape from something. Take the time to de-stress and figure out what you really want before you take action.

Are you thinking about starting a business while working full-time? Is there anything holding you back?

Thanks,

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