Starting a side business is easy. However, running a successful one is much more difficult. Becoming an entrepreneur while working full-time includes managing time, finding clients and customers, as well as making sure that you don’t get fired from your 9-5.
Due to the Great Recession in 2008, more and more people learned to start their own businesses in order to make it. Now, side businesses are being run by millions of people as a way to ease into full-time entrepreneurship or even just a way to earn awesome side income.
But there are many challenges that you will run into on your path to success. In this article, we will lay out how to be an entrepreneur while keeping a full-time job.
Should I start a side business?
Each individual has their own reasons that compel them to start their business. Nobody can create that reason for you. You have to discover what is important to you and your life. However, here are some really good reasons why.
1. If you have a business idea that you want to test without risking greater than average financial loss.
2. If you want to save for something that may cost more than your current income can provide.
3. If you want to increase household income and cash flow.
4. If you are concerned with having enough money to retire. Social Security benefits may run out before many Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Zers retire. A side business may help save for retirement.
In many ways, part-time entrepreneurship can be similar to full-time entrepreneurship. Most people assume that starting a part-time business is always easy. Books, blogs, and articles will tell you that you just need to follow an easy five step plan, purchase a program, or invest in this one thing.
They don’t tell you how to overcome the problems that you’ll face. They never tell you that you’re going to have to learn to balance life, work, and business. They don’t tell you how to find the extra eight hours a day it takes to find products to sell online, manage your business finances, and market your idea.
They don’t tell you about the challenges you may face and the things you’ll have to sacrifice. As a part-time entrepreneur, you’ll still have deadlines, you’ll still have customers, you’ll still have products and services to sell, and you’ll still have responsibilities. You still need to manage your money and manage your energy. The major difference is, with part-time entrepreneurship, you’ll need to do it in less time. In this way, part-time entrepreneurship can be more difficult than full-time entrepreneurship.
- How do you find the time to run a part-time business?
- How to generate good ideas that will help you succeed.
- What to do when you start to make money.
- What do you do when you aren’t making money?
- Should you do it alone or should you find a partner?
- How do you handle stress?
- How do you make the most of your time?
- How do you become the best entrepreneur that you could be while still working a full-time job?
Part-time entrepreneurship is where it starts. If you can learn to manage business part-time, you are setting yourself up to have more freedom than even full-time entrepreneurs enjoy. You will be able to have the freedom to decide whether you want to keep your part-time business running for part-time income or if you want to leave your full-time job, run your business, and live your dreams.
Part-time Entrepreneurship Is Training Camp
Think of part-time entrepreneurship as training camp. It has many of the same elements as full-time entrepreneurship, but with a lot less at stake. Before the NBA basketball season, players develop their skills, work on their conditioning, and prepare themselves for the season. If a player has a particular weakness that opposing teams can exploit, the off-season is the best time to work on that weakness. This is the advantage of part-time entrepreneurship.
If you have never had to deal with time constraints, how to scale a business, hiring (outsourcing or in-house), and everything else that comes with being an entrepreneur, your part-time business is the place to work on those skills.
Running a business while having a full-time job can help you decide whether entrepreneurship is for you. This article is also for individuals who are running a part-time business but want to take that business to the next level. Maybe there are time restraints, lack of funding, lack of resources, or lack of experience.
The Difference Between Side Hustling and Running a Part-time Business
The idea of running a part-time business is attractive to many people for many reasons. The assumption is that a part-time business is easier than running a business full-time. Make no mistake about it, success, in any endeavor, is difficult. Since the idea of a part-time business is appealing, the wave of people who want to jump in is many.
So many people are starting businesses in order to have a “side hustle.” However, there is a difference between running a business part-time and having a side hustle.
Side hus·tle -“Activity that brings in extra cash; something other than your main job.”
It seems as though the “side hustle” is the thing to do these days. Most likely spurred on by the “gig economy,” side hustling has become a way to earn extra money while working a full-time job. Companies such as Fiverr, Uber, and Airbnb have made it possible for anyone to make some extra cash.
We believe in side hustling, but there is a difference between earning some extra cash and building a business while working a full-time job. There are certain responsibilities, actions, and mindsets that running a part-time business require that are not necessary in side hustling. A part-time business can be a side hustle, but you should never treat it as a side hustle.
The first obvious difference between side hustling is in their purpose. The purpose of side hustling is to better your lifestyle by giving you a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly cash infusion. With that cash, you can take a weekend trip, pay off some debts, or just save for a big purchase. All good things.
You can easily make an extra $200 a month doing just about anything. It isn’t as hard as you think. But if your purpose is to make $200 a month, you might as well just get a part-time job at a call center getting people to sign up for Direct TV. The purposes of starting a part-time business are too numerous to name. But we’re going to give it a shot. Here are JUST A FEW purposes for starting a part-time business:
- Turning a skill into a marketable commodity.
- Expressing a passion while generating revenue from that passion.
- Building an infrastructure which will give you the option to leave your current job.
- To build an infrastructure which will give you the option of working half of the time of your current job so that you can travel, and spend time with friends, family, and passions.
- To be able to work in your underwear.
As you can see, there are many more reasons to start a part-time business. The reasons for doing so have a much deeper and broader meaning. They tend to be more tied to who you are and what you care about, and less focused on just the money.
The person who starts a business designs their business, while the side hustler is confined to their chosen side hustles’ design. Some side hustles can become full-fledged businesses, but this is not always the case. This is not more evident than with individuals who use Uber as a side hustle. In January 2016, Uber drivers were up in arms when the company announced that it was slashing its fares from approximately $1.80 to $.65 in some cities. Drivers were outraged.
Protestors took to the streets in cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Tampa. Many complained of not being able to make a living driving for Uber because of the changes. This is the main reason why gigs such as Uber, Lyft, and even many multi-level marketing ventures should be side hustles, not side businesses. If you drive for Uber or Lyft as a side hustle, and you decide to make that your business, you are at the mercy of those who actually own those businesses.
They have the right to change policies at any time, and you will have to either adjust, or find another way to make money. If you’re reading this article looking for tips on how to be a better Uber driver, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Becoming a part-time entrepreneur means that you design your part-time business based on what YOU want it to be. You have options. You set strategies. You make changes, if needed. And you own the business, the business does not own you.
Difference #3-Effort Required
Another major difference between side hustling and running a part-time business is the effort required to start and sustain the endeavor. Like I mentioned before, side hustling can be done with very little effort.
Because side hustling can be anything from selling homemade baked goods to driving Uber, the “side hustler” can choose how much effort they want to put into what they are doing. With side hustling, there are no real demands that must be met, and expectations are relatively low.
Let’s say you decided to do social media marketing as a side gig. It’s possible to find clients who will pay for your services. Most likely, those clients will be newer, smaller businesses who currently do not have much support or expertise when it comes to social media presence. Because the amount of work needed to manage a small social media account is minimal, the amount of time you would need to invest would also be minimal. But so would the financial reward.
Businesses who have a higher social media budget and are willing to pay their social media managers are less likely to hire someone who cannot dedicate more than a few hours a week to their project.
How to be a Successful Entrepreneur While Working a Full Time Job
1. Decide if you want a business or side hustle
The very first thing you need to decide is whether or not you want to build a part-time business, or if you just want some extra cash. There is no shame in side hustling for extra income, but you need to make this distinction early so that you do not waste time and money working on the wrong things.
If you are not sure which of the two you want to pursue, here are some questions to ask yourself.
- How much do I want to make per month?
- Do I want to do this full-time one day?
- How many hours can I commit to this?
- How quickly can I walk away if I don’t want to do this anymore?
- Do I want to deal with legal structures and accounting?
For more questions to ask yourself, read our article 6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Side Hustle.
2. Set Working Hours
One of the major challenges that you will run into when running a business part-time while working a full-time job is finding the time to dedicate to it. Talk to any entrepreneur who has left their job to run their business full-time, and they’ll tell you the one thing they needed more than the money, was the time.
In order to set your working hours, you need to know during what time during the day you are the most productive. When I was building my business, I used to work an hour in the morning before work, and about 3-4 hours after work. I was satisfied with my productivity at first.
But things changed when I decided to test waking up early. I found that I was much more productive in the mornings than I was working nights. Once I realized this, I began saving my evenings for other things, and dedicated most of my mornings to working on the business.
Although mornings before work are a great time to work, some people are natural night owls. Night owls are more productive working late nights. They seem to be more focused after their workday, and can complete tasks more efficiently before they go to bed for the evening.
Create a “Clock-In” Time
Once you’ve understood what time of day works best, it is time to set your working hours. Setting working hours should be as structured as your working hours for your full-time job. Meaning, there is a set time for it. Just like you have a clock-in time for your job, you should have a clock-in time for your part-time business.
Having a structured schedule will help you stay focused on the work at hand. It also helps you separate your work-life from your home life. New businesses are like new born children, they require a lot of attention in order to grow. If you do not have set working hours, the business may end up running your life.
When you are working on your business, be serious about it. Remove all distractions; devote all your energy, concentration, determination, will power, and everything else you have towards your goal. A half hearted, partially inclined approach is not going to take you anywhere.
3. Small is Big
There is no need to try to build a huge business right away. If you create a demanding schedule filled with insurmountable tasks, you are not going to stick to it. The enthusiasm will be there in the beginning, but will soon fade, and you will go back to binge watching Disney+ and Netflix in no time.
It will take a little time to learn how to handle the challenge of splitting your time and attention, so don’t feel rushed. Take little steps daily towards building your business, and your efforts will compound. There is no need to rush or to overdo it.
In a 1983 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Neil C. Churchill and Virginia L. Lewis published The Five Stages of Business Growth. That study, still highly relevant, can help small business owners with planning and control system implementation. It can also help them understand their path and anticipate possible challenges and issues found in each stage.
Here are the five stages:
- The First Stage – Existence
- The Second Stage – Survival
- The Third Stage – Success
- The Fourth Stage — Take-off
- The Fifth Stage — Resource Maturity
When running a business while working a full-time job, your business will most likely reside within the first two stages. You don’t need to focus on making a million dollars in revenue just yet. You just need to focus on existing and surviving. That can be done with small and consistent efforts.
4. Family matters
Even though you are spending time learning how to run a business, work-life balance is still something that you should strive to achieve. In the U.S., full-time working men spend 8.35 hours in the workplace, while women work 7.84 hours. And of the employed adults, 33 percent work on an average Saturday, Sunday, or holiday.
Recent Harvard research found that workplace stress may account for more than 120,000 deaths annually, and costs some $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending. Because of this, it is important to take time for family, recreation, and relaxation.
If you have kids, spend time with them, and if you have a spouse, make sure that you spend quality time with him/her. Go for a walk, shop, cook, or just share a cup of coffee. It is important to be involved with the family, and if you do not, very soon you’d find yourself lost between two worlds: work and business. Finding the right balance for you will help keep you sane while running your business.
5. Be realistic
It is extremely important to be realistic about your actions, and goals. Do not make such a gigantic plan that it is almost impossible to accomplish. You may not be aware of your actual capability in the beginning, but set goals that you can accomplish, and then over-achieve your own goals.
It will build a lot of faith, keep the enthusiasm up, and your growth positive. None of us are Hercules, and it is important to know your limitations. Make small lists for daily, weekly, and monthly goals. This will not take more than 20 minutes for you to write, and can bring a sea change to your first steps as an entrepreneur.
6. Test the Waters
The challenge of working on a business while working is magnified by the fact that you have no idea whether the business will be a success. That is why it is best to test different business ideas without risking your life savings. Running a business can be risky and expensive.
Being an entrepreneur while working a full-time job is the best time to take risks and innovate. Because you are not solely relying on the income from your business, you have the freedom to test different strategies, products, and services to see which works best for you. During this stage of your entrepreneurial path, testing the waters now can help you succeed in the future.
7. Save most of your side income
When you begin to see some income coming in from your side business, it is tempting to take that money and go on a shopping spree. But before you load up your Amazon shopping cart, you may want to consider saving some of that income instead.
One of the reasons why saving your side income instead of spending it is a good idea is because your business may need that money to grow. As your business revenue increases, oftentimes your expenses will too. You may need to invest in marketing, advertising, or product development in the future. When you save your business income, you create a fund that you can access to invest back into your business.
Businesses often have seasons of slow or even negative growth. This means that you may have months when you are not making any money. Having income saved will help you continue to operate the business even when things are slow.
Another reason saving your side income is wise is if you choose to leave your job one day. Once you leave your job for entrepreneurship, you no longer have the security of a regular paycheck. Having money saved will help keep a roof over your head and food on the table if business slows.
Things NOT to do
1. Do Not Put Your Business Before Your Job
Starting a new business is exciting and can consume your thoughts, time, and energy, especially if you are experiencing early success. But while you’re enjoying the new and exciting journey towards entrepreneurial success, it is important not to neglect your 9-5.
Your job is still your priority. Make sure that you are not putting your part-time business before your full-time income. There may be a time when you realize that you want to pursue your business full-time and leave your job, but until you make that decision, be committed to your job. Or at least commit to not getting fired.
2. Do Not Work on the Clock
When you’re at work and you have some downtime, it is tempting to use that time to work on your business. Although it may seem like a good use of your time, there are several reasons why doing this is a bad idea.
First, if you are working on your business while at work, you risk getting into trouble for stealing time, since they are not paying you to work on your business. Secondly, splitting your focus between your business and your work while you are at work may affect your job performance. Again, your full-time job is still your priority until you decide to pursue full-time entrepreneurship.
Running a business while working a full-time job is in no way easy. However, it isn’t as complicated as it may seem either. The key is to understand your goals, create a system, and follow a process. Once you do those things, you’ll be able to build a business and still enjoy the benefits of being gainfully employed.
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