So, you’re ready to start your business, but not quite ready to give up your day job. Maybe you’re planning to use your income from your day job to help fund your new business, or are simply relying on that income to sustain your living expenses until your business can generate a profit.
Whatever the reason, plenty of entrepreneurs have started their businesses in this very way. Though it’s a tried and true means of getting your business up and running, it takes hard work, long hours, and—let’s be honest—maybe a bit of whining along the way. However starting your business at the same time as keeping your day job is not only doable, it’s often a smart decision.
I asked entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council their advice on how to successfully start a business while maintaining a day job. The takeaways? The importance of devoting scheduled time to your new business, setting monetary goals for when you’ll leave your day job, and accepting the fact that this might be the busiest period of your career as an entrepreneur.
8 tips for starting a business while keeping your day job
1. Commit time in advance for work on your new business
When you’re working on your new business while still keeping your full time job, time can often be tight. So, it’s important to have a schedule—and just as important, actually follow through with it.
“Create a schedule in advance of the days and times you will commit to working on your new venture, and most importantly, stick to it,” says Diana Goodwin of AquaMobile Swim School. “Otherwise, it’s too easy at the end of a busy day to want to relax or let yourself get distracted by other activities.”
By blocking your time into manageable chunks and devoting a set amount of time each day to your new business, you can make balancing the two more doable. “The hard work will pay off when you are eventually able to work full time on your own business, doing what you love and are passionate about!” says Diana.
2. Cut back your hours at your day job gradually
If money and your work schedule allows, consider scaling back the time you spend in the office, and using those afternoons (or even full days) to work exclusively on your new venture.
“If you can begin to cut back hours at your day job, even two to four days a month, then start the transition process now,” says Kelly Azevedo of She’s Got Systems. “With one day a week to focus completely on your business, you’ll be a lot more productive and be able to adjust to the change in income.”
While this won’t be feasible for everyone, if your office offers some flexibility, this might be a great compromise; you won’t have to choose between feeling completely overworked, and giving up your full time gig. “Usually, we view day jobs as all-or-nothing,” says Kelly, “but with this strategy, you can get the best of both worlds during the transition.”
3. Don’t get discouraged, but do know you’ll have to make sacrifices
There’s no way around it—starting a business is tough. Starting a business while still employed elsewhere? Even tougher. But, once you realize and accept this, it will be easier to acknowledge that the difficult part at the beginning is par for the course.
So, don’t let the fact that you can’t give all your time to your new business discourage you. “A lot of people think that they can’t start a business unless they devote 100 percent of their time to it,” says Jonathan Long of Market Domination Media. “Sure, it is going to require a lot of effort and you are going to be mentally and physically exhausted, but as long as you completely understand this going in, you can make it work.”
He also adds that while you don’t need to stress over not being able to give all your time and effort to your new business, some things will inevitably have to be put on the back burner for a while. “Be prepared to give up your social life as well—your new venture will require all of your time away from your day job,” says Jonathan.
4. Use your day job to pay off debt and create an emergency fund
If you’re still working at your day job while starting your business, use that security to your advantage. “I know so many people who started businesses while maintaining their day jobs,” says Allie Siarto of Allie Siarto Photography. “They often felt ready to make the jump into running their businesses full-time after they had debt paid off, and had enough money in the bank to give them a six to 12-month runway of living expenses.”
Having a steady income from your day job enables you to make the best decisions for your new business—something you might not have if you dropped everything and devoted all your time to it. “Take advantage of the regular paycheck, and save as much as you possibly can so that you’re not making decisions based on fear,” says Allie.
5. Meet with a lawyer to make sure you’re in the clear
There are some logistical concerns that you should pay attention to when starting your business at the same time as keeping your day job. Some companies will be extra particular about your behavior (even what takes place outside of the office), so make sure that your new venture isn’t going to cause difficulty for you.
“Something as seemingly innocuous as sending a message from your private Gmail on your company laptop could spell trouble down the line,” says Brittany Hodak of ZinePak. “Even if you’re starting a business that has nothing to do with your day job, it’s worth consulting with a lawyer to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for any issues.”
Brittany suggests sharing your current employment contract and the plans you have for your new startup with your lawyer, to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for trouble.
6. Set a monetary goal for when you will quit your day job
To put a bit of gentle pressure on yourself, set a monetary goal and use this as a catalyst for when you’ll focus full time on your new business. This can either be an amount saved from your day job, or an amount earned from your new business—or both.
“Have a financial goal clearly laid out so that as soon as you hit it, you can quit your day job,” suggests Nicole Munoz of Start Ranking Now. “Use positive language with yourself, such as ‘I will quit this job when I make $10,000/month’ to help you achieve your dream.”
Dave Nevogt of Hubstaff also suggests setting a goal, based on savings from your day job. “Use your job as a temporary safety net and save what you calculate you’ll need for at least 12 months of living comfortably,” he says.
David also points out that, with such a full schedule, saving for your new business may not be as difficult as you might imagine. “You’ll be dedicating your free time to growing your business and going out less,” he says.
Remember, this phase won’t last forever—that monetary goal should serve as a jumping off point. “As soon as you have your runway built up, leave your job,” says David. “By that point, your business should ideally be earning you income too.”
7. Manage your free time well and minimize distractions
While it’s important not to work yourself to death, starting a business while still employed at your day job will mean a bit of a time crunch for a while. As such, focus on better time management; you’d be surprised how many things you can fit into your day when you minimize your distractions.
Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers Personal Finance has the following suggestions: “Use software such as LeechBlock to prevent access to websites that distract you (like social media), use your lunch hour for quick errands or a gym workout, and cut back on TV and social media,” he says.
8. Budget for fatigue…and fight through it
If we’ve seemed a little “doom and gloom” throughout this article, it’s because the reality of the situation is that starting a business while maintaining your day job is difficult. “Having a day job and simultaneously starting a business is not an ideal situation,” says Cody McLain of SupportNinja. “You will risk making bad decisions and hurting your reputation because both commitments are bound to bleed into each other’s time.”
However, it’s important to focus on the bigger picture; the time you devote to starting your business now will pay off in the long run. “Remember, you’ll have plenty of free time once your small business grows and you’ve left your day job,” says Andrew.
It’s an important reminder; the late nights, the stress, and the fully packed schedule that you’re currently experiencing are all leading up to being able to realize your dream of running your own business. Keep your eyes on the prize and soon, you’ll be running your own business—no day job required.
Do you have any suggestions for other entrepreneurs on how to start your business while keeping your day job?