If you’re a budding entrepreneur, don’t quit your day job just yet! See how juggling a full-time job with your own business can set you up for success.
If you’re wondering how to start a business, don’t quit your full-time job just yet. In fact, keeping your job while starting a new business may help set you up for success.
Structure a schedule for two distinct jobs
Full-time jobs (and the salaries they offer) are based on a simple premise: In exchange for a steady paycheck, the employee puts forth a consistent and defined contribution to an employer. Though owning a business takes the boss — and some rules and rigidity — out of the equation, it still requires the same consistent effort as holding a job does.
To balance her full-time job and her company, SANK Apparel, Lisa Franco says that establishing (and sticking to) a disciplined schedule proved invaluable. “My partner and I would work 9 to 5 at our day jobs. The moment those hours ended, our own business hours began.” Much like a full-time job, consistent effort tends to go hand in hand with a greater likelihood of success—especially for entrepreneurs with full-time gigs. The temptation to procrastinate working on a business after a tough day at work, or sporadically put some effort into a business idea when motivation strikes won’t reveal a business’s true potential. Consistent and focused effort, on the other hand, might. “A new business is almost never a well-oiled machine, but it’s worth putting in the effort. What got us through the busy weekends and hectic nights was knowing that we were always benefiting our company,” says Franco.
Put your vision on paper
Business plans can help organize a flurry of business ideas into a tangible game plan. But writing a full-out business plan is laborious. To avoid getting caught in the quagmire of analysis paralysis, Elisha Lowe, who started her own boutique nursing agency four years ago (despite a full-time gig) suggests these questions to kickstart progress:
- What’s the business model?
- How does it generate revenue?
- What role does the owner (and any other partners) have in the business?
- What other help is needed (like tools, people, money, and resources) for critical business functions?
One day, there may be benefits to crafting a formal business plan. But in the interim, these initial questions can clarify which tasks are most important. They can also help make sense of how to prioritize energy, time, and financial resources to get the business off the ground, with (and eventually without) the financial support of a full-time job.
Be thrifty with your time
Juggling a full-time job and a business is tough, but for budding entrepreneurs, it’s not really about working to the bone: It’s about making an investment in future happiness. Assuming the willingness to make some sacrifices and trade-offs exists, there’s time to succeed in both roles.
But just as a financial budget can help track where money goes, a time-based budget can uncover those opportune pockets of time.
For one week, try writing down every task and about how long it took to complete. Consider whether the activities contributed positively to something of real value (like personal health, mental well being, quality of life, or professional goals). Ditch any task that doesn’t pass that snuff test, and reinvest it into achieving business dreams.
Take note of those weekend hours in particular.
As author and productivity expert Laura Vanderkam points out, most of us have about 36 waking hours of time between Friday evening and Monday morning to spend how we wish. That’s almost an entire workweek to build a business—but spending that time productively requires the same kind of meticulous planning the workweek entails. As Vanderkam points out, plan or no plan, most people do something on the weekend. Whether the time contributes to entrepreneurial momentum is another story. Though putting in extra weekend hours to a full-time job can feel like a drag, building a business is a labor of love. Chances are, it won’t feel much like work (at least not in the traditional four-letter word sense).
Simplifying daily tasks and routines can free up time and mental energy, too.
President Obama famously whittled his wardrobe to blue and black suits during his first term to eliminate the morning minutia of deciding what to wear. Likewise, things like grocery shopping, cleaning, and picking items up from the dry cleaners are all tasks that can be outsourced to someone else. Though that help will come with some costs, the expense may be justifiable if it means that time is spent on building the business.
Narrow your focus
Starting a business is a series of best guesses and some trial and error. Several ideas will prove futile, while opportunities not previously considered may reveal themselves. The unknown is part of the lure of entrepreneurism. But there’s a fine line between exploring new ideas and tactics, and spinning in circles.
Entrepreneurs can find a laser focus with this simple task: Identify just one big goal to accomplish for the year. Make it specific and measureable. Write it down, and hang it up in a spot that can’t be ignored. When balancing a business and a full-time job feels overwhelming, that one big goal can put things back into perspective.
Manage your life like a superhero
Owning a business and full-time job essentially means maintaining two different lives, in the best possible sense. In fact, Eileen Schlesier, a consultant who specifically coaches entrepreneurs with full-time jobs on how to succeed at both, recommends some simple tips for keeping both pursuits productive:
- Separate business expenses from the start
- Keep two distinct accounts for full time/personal life, and for the business
- Establish a Google phone number for the business that directs to a landline or cell phone during the work day to professionally communicate with customers
- Create a succinct and stand-alone persona for the business on social media
- Keep entrepreneurial roles, titles, and skills off LinkedIn profiles associated with the full-time job
Employees with an itch to explore the entrepreneurial life can have their cake and eat it, too. All it takes to find the best of both professional worlds is a little discipline, a lot of determination, and focus.
Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer turned freelance writer who covers personal finance, career, health, and small business news. Her work is published in national media outlets including USAToday, Fast Company, The Fiscal Times, Refinery29, Real Simple, Forbes, ForbesWoman, The Huffington Post, and Yahoo! Finance. She is the owner of Om for Mom prenatal yoga in Columbus, Ohio. Connect with her on Twitter.