Many Americans dream of entrepreneurship. To be your own boss, make your own hours, and reap all the rewards of your hard work for yourself and your family — that’s the American Dream. But U.S. Census data indicates that only 48.8 percent of new small businesses started between 1977 and 2000 lasted five years. Of the 543,000 new small businesses started in the United States each month, over half of them will fail.
So while starting a small business may be tempting, it’s not so easy to leave the safety and security of a full-time job with benefits, especially when you have a family to provide for. If you’re just getting started in your business venture, you should keep your full-time job until your business is profitable enough to support you financially. To hold down a full-time job while getting a small business off the ground, you’ll have to use your free time wisely. Make sure you don’t invest in any products that are doomed to failure. Evaluate your own skill set and find help when you need it. Above all, safeguard your full-time job until it’s time to quit.
Use Your Time Wisely
There are only so many hours in a day, and no one knows this more intimately than the would-be entrepreneur who is holding down a full-time job while trying to get a business up and running on the side. You’ll need to manage your time down to the minute in order to meet your obligations to your employer, get your business off the ground, and still find time for friends, loved ones, and yourself.
Whether you eventually want to start running your business full-time or you’re content keeping it as a side venture indefinitely, it’s a good idea to choose a side business that lets you dictate your own hours. If you’re working during the day, don’t start a side business that will have customers calling you up all day long demanding immediate service. Instead, pick something you can easily work on at night and on the weekends. Use your website, business cards, and other marketing materials to let customers know what hours you’ll be available. Firm boundaries can keep your side business from interfering with your personal life and full-time job.
Make Sure Your Product or Service Is Worthwhile
Before you try to start a side business selling a product or service, make sure it’s something people actually want. In one study of 101 failed startups, 42 percent of the entrepreneurs surveyed said their companies failed because there was no market need for the product. Get plenty of feedback from potential customers before you decide to invest time and money in marketing a product or service. And no, don’t just ask your mother and your friends. Seek feedback on social media forums like Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn, GrowthHackers, or ProductHunt. The survey tool Survey Monkey is a great, free resource for aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to get feedback.
Evaluate Your Skills and Get Help
You’ll probably already have some of the skills you’ll need to be a successful entrepreneur, but you’ll need to honestly assess your skill set to find out exactly what skills you already have and which ones you need. Use a skills assessment worksheet to find out what skills you have and what skills you need. Once you know more about your skill set, you can decide which skills you want to develop and which ones you want to outsource.
A great way to build entrepreneurial skills while still working your full-time job is to get an MBA online. But there may be some skills you want that aren’t covered in an MBA course, like web design or blogging, for example. You may want to hire freelancers, bring in a partner, or hire a full-time employee who can complement your skill set with his or her own.
Protect Your Full-Time Job
One thing you don’t want to do while starting a small business on the side is jeopardize your full-time job. This is especially true if you intend to continue working indefinitely while running a side business for extra income. Luckily, it’s not difficult to protect your day job while running a business on the side.
First, make sure you never use any company resources to work on your personal project — that includes time, telephone calls, printer ink, and your company laptop. Make sure you work on your side business at home, on your own time, and using all of your own stuff. Don’t allow your side venture to take up so much of your time that you can’t give 100 percent at your day job.
If you’re starting a business in the same industry as your primary employer, don’t poach customers or employees from your primary employer. If you’re starting a business in a different industry, however, it might be okay to offer your services to your company’s clients or to your company itself.
Starting a business, while working full time, is no project for the faint-of-heart. But with commitment, dedication, and great time management skills, you’ll soon be able to leave your day job for a lucrative position at the head of your own company.