There’s a nasty little statistic that states that 95% of businesses fail in their first three years. That stat’s probably niggled at you if you’ve thought about leaving your job and starting something on your own.
That might be why you’re not sure you’re willing to take such a big risk with your financial security. Even though you’re tempted to go for it, anxiety about money might paralyse you and therefore you feel trapped in your 9-5 job regardless of your dreams.
However, there’s another option available that isn’t quite so stressful: you could start your business while still working in your full-time job.
To do this, you need to be realistic, avoid some common pitfalls and plan your transition from employee to business owner with care. But with the right approach, you’ll be surprised at how achievable it is to start a business this way. It’s a lot to take on, but you don’t have to do it all on your own. That’s because we can give you tips, vital information and coaching to help you get started.
Grow slowly to get strong
The most sustainable businesses start slowly and grow over time, which means starting a business ‘on the side’ and while you’re still employed is a great strategy. It not only allows you time to develop your concept and test your ideas, you also gain vital business experience.
Starting a business while working means you’ll have time to grow into your role, create supportive systems, and pay off debts so you have some money behind you.
Best of all, starting your business while you’re still working means you can experience the reality of having your own business before you make the decision about whether this is right for you. It’s a steep learning curve too. So you may find your job becomes a refuge from the demands of setting up and learning how to run your business.
Be realistic about what you can do
No matter how confident and excited you are about your new venture, it’s important to keep it to yourself as long as possible. If you’re starting a business involving similar work to that you do for your employer, you may be seen as a threat to your employer’s business by taking clients and ‘stealing’ ideas.
And with one foot outside the company, you may be seen as someone who’s no longer committed to your role. This could result in you getting side-lined before you’re ready to make the decision to leave. It could also make you a target for redundancy. Even though the pay-out might be welcome, your fledgling business might not be in a position to support you if you’re forced to leave before you’re ready. That could place your financial security under threat. You may have to find a new job to tide you over, which could add a lot of stress.
If your job is demanding, make sure you grow your business slowly. Don’t take on more than you can handle in either your job or your business. Otherwise you’ll simply get exhausted and won’t be able to perform well in either.
Do work you love
Also make sure you set up a business you’re going to enjoy. You need to balance your heart and your head when choosing what services and products you’re going to offer. If you love working with people, don’t set up an online business where you never meet anyone in person. If you would prefer to have a few long-term clients, don’t offer low-priced short-term services.
Also, consider the way in which you work as well as what you do if you want to enjoy your day-to-day work. You might need time to get it right, but good enough is good enough to begin with because you can adapt as you learn and grow.
Be aware of the pitfalls
When you decide to start a business while working a full-time job, you’re taking on a big challenge. So pace yourself, plan, set goals and prepare well before you take the plunge. There are a number of pitfalls that many new business owners fall into and it’s worth being aware of them so you can avoid falling into them.
When you first set up your business, you’ll be on a bit of a high – after all, you’re on the road to freedom at last. That means you may feel invincible and be tempted to overdo it at first, burning the midnight oil, getting up with the lark every day and working through your vacation time and weekends so you can drive your business forward.
But that’s a road to disaster. You’ll inevitably burn out, and then you’ll be prone to illness and stress. You won’t get much done if you’re struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Instead, decide how many hours (on average) you can realistically work in your business every week. Factor in down time so you can rest and recharge.
Another pitfall that’s easy to fall into when you’re starting out is overspending or spending in the wrong areas. Everywhere you look, you’ll see courses, technology and services you want RIGHT NOW. But remember, every new technology and course you opt for will take time. Operate on a need to know basis by asking yourself what you actually need right now and make sure you’re honest with yourself so you don’t confuse want with need!
Leaving your job is uppermost in your mind when you start your own business, which means you’ll have a tendency to be over-optimistic and probably a bit overexcited too. A sudden influx of work may mean you’ve hit a seam of gold, but the work may not be profitable or it could be just temporary. Does your industry have busy and quiet periods? Has a recent change resulted in a glut of work? Make sure you understand the rhythm of your work and get your marketing working before you mistake being busy with being ready to leave your job.
Lack of support
It’s easy to get isolated when you start a business. That’s why it’s important to build a network of support. It’s useful to be able to ask questions, get feedback and have a rant now and again. Otherwise, you’ll feel very alone with your new business. Depending on your situation, your network could be virtual (i.e. business groups on Facebook or LinkedIn) or personal (i.e. a coach or business buddy).
Becoming a workaholic
It’s easy to become a workaholic when you start a business, after all, there’s so much to do! But your friends and family are an equally important part of your support network as professional contacts. Don’t shove them aside. If you don’t take them with you, you risk leaving them behind. Missing your best friend’s wedding, never going for a drink with your mates and forgetting your partner’s birthday are not going to win you any brownie points. Make sure you strike a balance between work and life. They both matter.
Organic growth and change
As your business begins to take up more of your time, you’ll have to make a decision about how to accommodate its needs without giving up paid employment altogether. It doesn’t have to be one or the other and there are several options worth considering.
Work from home a couple of days a week
One way to buy more time for your business is by working from home one or two days a week. This might not sound like a big change, but when you work from home, you’ll cut out your commuting time. This frees up a few extra hours for your business. You’ll also avoid the stresses of the office so you’ll have more energy too.
It’s worth exploring part-time work when your business is consistently producing the required level of revenue and profits. Having dedicated time during the week will make it possible for you to work with a new and different set of clients who may have been out of reach before. That will allow you to take on better-paid work and increase your income. Working part-time will also free up your time for networking, business planning and offering different kinds of products and services.
Take a less demanding job
Demanding and stressful work drains your energy. This makes it more difficult to work on your business. But if it’s impractical to work part-time, you could take a role that’s less demanding. Choose one that’s closer to home if you have a long commute and you’ll see a significant productivity rise. You may take a salary drop but you’ll free up time and energy for your business to grow it faster.
Hire help and expertise
Another way to maximise your time working on your business is to hire help to do the more mundane and routine tasks. You can hire VAs (Virtual Assistants) for just a few hours a month so you don’t necessarily need to lay out a lot of cash. This will free you to concentrate on making money rather than just being busy. This can especially useful if you need to bridge a skills gap. Hire expertise so you can maximise your own skills.
Understand your highest value
Do you know what makes you the most profit? Understanding your value in your business will help you develop the right products and services. When you do work you’re good at and that others are willing to pay for, set up your business to maximise that profit. When you enjoy your work, your confidence will soar, you’ll exude positive energy and you’ll attract your ideal clients and projects.
Knowing when it’s time to leave
Choosing the right time to let go of your salary is never easy. You may try find it hard to step away but at some point, working and running your business at the same time will no longer be viable. Signs that it’s time to move on will come in the form of mistakes, working ridiculously long hours just to keep up and feeling constantly stressed. But before you make the final decision, do a business health check to make sure you’re taking the right decision rather than the easiest one.
- How many clients do you have on average every month?
- What revenue do those clients bring into your business?
- Have you got at least 3 months’ worth of savings in the bank?
- Have you paid off any expensive or large debts?
- Are you doing consistent and effective marketing?
- Do you have efficient systems to ensure the smooth operation of your business?
Knowing the right moment to leave your job can be based simply on a gut feeling but asking yourself these questions will highlight any risks you might be taking before you make the final decision.
The next step
Starting a business is always a risk, but with the world of work constantly changing, it’s probably less of a risk than it was 10 or 20 years ago. Redundancy is always around the corner and short-term contracts are becoming more and more common, so there’s far less security than there used to be anyway.
Developing your business while working full time is a tough path to walk but it lessens the risk of financial failure and gives you time to build a successful business organically.
One way to maximise your chances of success is to hire a coach. It’s an investment that’s likely to pay off in a number of ways. This makes the process of starting your business easier and lets you to produce better results faster.
Do reach out to us if you’d like to set up a business. We have a team of advisors who can help you create your own business from scratch, buy an established business or invest in a franchise. Our experts are ready to help you create something that you love so fill in the contact form to get things started.