Are you looking to start your own business? Before you hand in your notice at your day job, you might consider holding down the fort while you get your company off the ground. An Academy of Management study found that 'hybrid entrepreneurs,' or individuals who start their business while working another full time job, are a third less likely to fail than those who jump in without the safety net of employment. With that being said, starting a company while working a 9-5 is not easy, but we'll give you six ways to tackle it.
Start with YOUR Unique Concept
First things first, to start a business you need to have a concept or product. Neil Patel, an entrepreneur and online marketing expert, recommends starting your business with a goal. He defines a goal as:
- Something that you believe in
- A cause bigger than yourself
- Something that benefits humankind
- Something that requires you to keep hustling every day
- Something that is truly attainable
- Something that you can quantify or measure
If you have a goal, let's get started with 6 ways you can turn that into a company, while still earning a steady salary.
1) Start Correctly & Legally
First step: check in with your current employer. Find, read and understand all of your employment documents: NDA, employment terms, assignment agreement, basically anything with your signature. This is especially important if you're branching out in a similar field to your current profession, you may have signed a non-compete. If you are unsure on anything relating to conflict of interest with your job, you might want to consult a lawyer. If you are going in a completely different direction than your current company, you could talk to your employer. Jason DeMeyers, founder of AudienceBloom, recommends being completely transparent with your boss and supervisor on your intentions, they could become powerful allies.
Once you've done this, set up your business correctly. Do research on whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, Sole Prop. You can use legal service websites to file paperwork yourself, instead of hiring a lawyer. Popular sites include; LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, or Nolo.
The last step to make sure you are on the up-and-up; do not work on your business on company time, or utilize company resources. That is a quick way to get fired, and possibly burn a bridge.
2) Use your time VERY wisely
Time is your most valuable asset. When you're putting in 40+ hours/week at your day job, that leaves a finite amount of hours to devote to your business. Write out a schedule of your week, and all your commitments, what can you cut? Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is the creator of Making Sense of Cents, a blog that regularly earns her 6 figures in a given month. When starting out she said: "any extra time I had would go towards growing my blog. I woke up early in the mornings, stayed up late at night, used lunch breaks at my day job, and I even used my vacation days to focus on my blog."
With that being said it's still important to avoid the burnout. You should set goals for both your business and your personal life and make sure you stick to them. Have small and realistic objectives for your business; send out 5 pitches for guest blogging this week. Do the same for your personal goals; work out for one hour this weekend. It's integral to hold yourself accountable, while still feeling accomplished along the way. Keep the balance!
3) Test your Product or Service
If you have a product, you need to validate it. Validation can be an in-depth process, and is very dependent on your market. It boils down to, will anyone buy your product and why? Ryan Robb is an 'side-entrepreneur' and writer that has built multiple successful companies, but his first failed due to product validation. He didn't test the market, price point, or get any insider feedback, you can read all about it here.
If you offer a service (IE digital marketing, data analysis, blog writing) start with freelancing. Start procuring gigs to build a client base and foundation for your business. Neil Patel, suggests finding ways to do your most efficient work. He has a process for blog writing that allows him to publish 8 posts a week while running his companies.
4) Be Lean
Even once your business starts to turn a profit, don't spend funds foolishly. Staying lean will build your reserve and allow you to achieve your ultimate goal faster. You may need to take on other people to handle workload (more on that below), but chose wisely. A lot of businesses hire expensive accountants, but when your initial numbers are small, you can use QuickBooks and do it yourself. Payment processors like Square or Revel are easy to use and offer low-cost, robust services for small business. If you do require accounting expertise (issues like filing taxes, etc), pay for a single consultation and come prepared with questions.
Jim Fowler, the CEO of Owler, and founder of Jigsaw (acquired by Salesforce in 2010 for $175 million) has said his success is due in part to being a optimistic realist. He advises you should never financially plan for best case scenario, forecast for worst-case scenario.
Once your business does start to grow, you will need help. There are only so many hours in a day and not even the best jack-of-all-trades can do everything. Whether it be graphic design, social media, or customer service, identify areas of weakness, or items you simple do not have enough time to do and outsource. Rather than take on an employee, hire a freelancer. There are many websites and services where you can find people to do everything from design a logo, to run errands. Sites like Fiverr, UpWork, or even TaskRabbit (to name a few), will put you in contact with reliable and hungry freelancers.
Sara Blakely has one of the best Entrepreneur success stories out there. She is a self-made billionaire, and owner/CEO of Spanx (women's lingerie & clothing line). She started the company out of her 2-bedroom apartment, with $5,000 in the bank, while still selling copiers door-to-door. Her big break is the epitome of the 'fake-it-till-you-make-it' mentality. In 2000 Spanx was chosen to be one Oprah's 'favorite things'. The TV producers came to her apartment to film her non-existent headquarters. She called her friends, and they came to her apartment and pretended they were her staff. Her company took off after that.
The Lesson- even if you are a one-(wo)man-show, your potential clients or investors do not need to know that. Have the bravado to tell everyone you are a pro, or your product will change their lives. If you have the right mentality and positivity to believe in your business that will come across to anyone you deal with. Sara has said: "no matter who you are, or what you're up against, or what you're trying to achieve I would bet on mindset every time. It's the single greatest gift you can give yourself."
Starting your own business can seem daunting, but there are many resources available to help you along the way. Having a full-time job might make the process longer, but it will also give you the financial support and stability you need to be successful in the long run. Start with a strong foundation, utilize tools available, ask for advice, and stay lean. Just make sure to get started as soon as you can, even the smallest step forward is still forward progress.