Starting and sustaining a small business requires a lot of time and dedication. It also requires money. For many people, the one thing holding them back is the capital required to start a business and endure a lean period when it is getting up and running. People fall into debt or end up giving up on their dream and returning to full-time work for a steady income.
However, it is possible to prevent this heartache by hanging on to your full-time job while your business gets off the ground. It will mean long hours that don’t end once you get home from work and the sacrifice of every minute of free time, but it can be the difference between having the security to forge ahead with your dream, or having to abandon it when you can’t sustain it any longer.
Below are some of the key considerations for anyone who wants to start their own business on the side.
Invest in its success
From the earliest stages, the revenue your business generates should be poured back into itself. Starting an entrepreneurial venture can be expensive and, unless you have unlimited capital, anything you make will need to go towards financing your progress. Your business will need a website and a domain, hosting, freelancers and contractors, business cards, equipment, and a long list of expenses that gets longer the more successful you are. Once you have reached a certain size, then you will need to employ people and pay salaries, rent a space, pay tax, and more. If you treat your business as simply another source of income, it will never grow beyond a side project.
Keep it professional
A business shouldn’t be just a hobby. If you are providing a product or a service for money, then your customers will expect a certain level of professionalism. Even if you are operating out of your home, you need to convey the sense that people are dealing with a business, not just a person killing time. You need to make sure you have all your legal ducks in a row in terms of your responsibilities and rights as a business, and your systems and processes should be established for consistency. Building a business is easier if you do the basics well and start out the same way you mean to continue.
Audit your skills
As an entrepreneur, you will need to have a broad range of knowledge and skills. However, this means that while you can do things to a certain level of quality, your “jack of all trades” approach will prevent you from devoting the required effort, expertise, and time required as your business grows. Freelancers and contractors enable businesses to buy the skills they require, as they require them. When you are in the early stages of growth, employing specialist staff is usually unaffordable for a small business. Outsourcing will give you access to skills and experience that would be beyond budget at a full-time rate.
Keep your business and day job compartmentalised
One of the major mistakes people can make when starting a business on the side is allowing it to impact their day job. This can take many forms whether you spend all night working on your business and can’t function at work the next day, you find yourself taking sick days to do work on the side, or you start using company time to complete your side projects, these can all put your day job at risk. One of the major rules for starting a business after hours is to keep it professional; this means respecting the boundaries of your day job and small business. Losing your day job is just one consequence you could face if these lines begin to blur. Your contract will probably include clauses around misuse of company time and property, which will cover using resources for non-work related activities. This may mean that your day job could stake a claim to parts of your business or your clients and you may find yourself losing it before it has even started. There are also rules around what type of business you can start and usually, an employment contract will include a non-compete clause. Be conscientious and discuss your side project with your HR department to make sure that everyone knows where they stand.
Don’t quit too soon
Working full time and getting a business off the ground means long hours and sacrifice. You won’t get to watch your favourite TV programs, you’ll see less of your friends, your weekends will be spent working rather than relaxing, and you will generally feel busy, tired and stressed at all times. The upside is that you will still have a constant salary to rely upon. When the long hours start to wear on you, the temptation to throw in the day job will be enormous. However, if you haven’t reached your growth and financial goals, you should stick it out. You can only quit your job once, but the longer you stick it out, the better a position you will be in when the time comes to leave.