Starting a business is risky, but there are ways in which you can minimize your risk. For example, consider testing the waters by starting your business on a part-time basis. If you currently have a full-time position, you may be able to get started by working on your business during your own time—for most people, that’s evenings and weekends. But there are a few key things to be mindful of if you decide to moonlight with your own business.

First, don’t do the kind of work that would conflict or compete with your current employer unless you have fully disclosed it and obtained your boss’s permission; otherwise, it could be grounds for immediate termination. On the other hand, there are examples of how an employer helped an employee build his or her own business. This may be the case if there are projects too small for your current employer, and are something your new business could handle on the side. Your employer might refer those opportunities to you, giving you the chance to build a customer base.

Second, don’t let your part-time business interfere with the work you are doing for your current employer. Remember, whenever you are “at work” you are obligated to focus on only those tasks that benefit your employer. Stealing a little time from your employer to work on your own part-time business is just that—stealing. That, too, can be grounds for termination.

Keep in mind that while this venture may be a part-time business for you, your customers or clients are going to expect your full attention and professional results. So, don’t set expectations that you can’t deliver or take on more than you can handle. That’s an easy way to get a bad reputation for your business, which can be difficult to overcome if you decide to make your business a full-time venture.

Manage your part-time business just like a “real” business—because it is. Set up a bookkeeping system so you can keep your business income and expenses separate from your personal records. Make sure you have the appropriate permits and licenses. Create professional-looking marketing materials and a website.

You may find, as many people do, that your part-time business will grow and flourish, and bring you to a decision point:  whether to stay with your current employer, keeping your business small enough to manage, or to take the big step and quit your job to focus on the growth of your business. At this point, at least you’ll know whether or not you enjoy the challenge of running a business on your own, which should guide you in making the right choice.

AvatarSusan Solovic

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney.