Starting and growing a successful business is challenging. Pulling it off while you’re employed full-time is even more trying. I should know, I’ve done it four times myself. Starting a business while you’re still working full-time can afford many luxuries and securities. Most of these luxuries go straight out the window when you quit your job to pursue a business idea.
10 Steps For Starting a Business While Working Full-Time:
Step 1: Ask yourself how bad you want it.
Step 2: Inventory your skills, abilities, and weaknesses.
Step 3: Validate your business idea.
Step 4: Write down your competitive advantage.
Step 5: Set detailed, measurable, and realistic goals.
Step 6: Map your game-plan to launch date and beyond.
Step 7: Outsource everything you can.
Step 8: Actively seek feedback.
Step 9: Don’t blur the lines between personal projects and work.
Step 10: Reach critical mass before quitting your day job.
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The 3 positive benefits I’ve experienced when launching a business while working full-time are: 1) a steady income to fund a new venture, 2) learning how to focus only on what delivers the highest impact, and 3) reducing the pressure on yourself.
Before you can start a business while working full-time, you need a plan. Here are my 10 steps for starting a business while working full-time.
1. Ask yourself how bad you want it.
Starting your own business will get difficult. It will strain relationships and you’ll frequently be faced with making tough decisions.
Be open with others that you are stepping back a bit to focus on a new project that means a lot to you.
If it helps, write down a list of all the activities and commitments you have in your life. Add the time you devote to each and take note of those you can. Think of the easy stuff first: time spent watching TV, playing video games, or surfing Facebook and Instagram. Then, make an effort to divert your focus to more important tasks. The more time you can free up, the quicker you’ll be able to start seeing results.
2. Inventory your skills, abilities, and weaknesses.
Which skill sets does your new business idea need? You likely have some of the necessary skills to make your business happen. If you don’t, you’re now faced with a tough decision. Spend time learning a new skill or outsource to someone else who can help.
In this Skill Assessment, you’ll list out every asset & skill your business idea requires and map those needs to what you can or cannot do for yourself right now.
3. Validate your business idea.
In a recent intensive study of 101 failed startups, the #1 reason most businesses fail is a lack of market need for their product, cited by over 42% of the failed companies.
This highlights the need to validate your idea and get honest feedback from potential customers before you start building, creating, and spending money. It’s human nature to think that we’re right and that our ideas are always amazing. Unfortunately, our business concepts and product ideas are often not fully thought out, useful, or properly researched.
4. Write down your competitive advantage.
A competitive advantage is defined as your unique advantage that allows your business to generate greater sales or margins, and/or acquire & retain more customers than competitors.
It’s what makes your business, your business. This can be in the form of your cost structure, product offering, distribution network, customer support, or another area in your business.
5. Set detailed, measurable, and realistic goals.
Without setting attainable goals and realistic deadlines for yourself, you’re going to spend a lot of time spinning your wheels. It’s hard to get anywhere if you don’t know exactly where you’re going. In my experience, it works best to set daily, weekly, and monthly goals for myself.
It helps me to stick with both the short term and long term objectives. In the beginning, your daily goals are most likely small wins or to-do list type of items. Then you’ll gradually start hitting milestones as you get closer to launching your business.
6. Map your gameplan to launch date and beyond.
It’s one thing to set your goals, yet an entirely different activity mapping out exactly how you’re going to get to point B, C, D, and beyond. You need to be particularly proactive with this step. Nobody can do this for you, but you won’t be able to do it all on your own, either. Your ability to problem-solve and navigate around your obstacles will determine the level of success with your business.
7. Outsource everything you can.
This is all about focus. Look for opportunities to outsource every possible part of your business creation that you can. Obviously, you don’t want someone else planning your goals, roadmap, or telling you 100% what your product or service should look like.
The real point here is that you need to be doing only what you do best. While it would be great if you could code your own website to test your online service idea, if you don’t already command a knowledge of developing, you’re looking at a few months of dedicated learning time to get to the point where you’ll be able to understand the basics.
8. Actively seek feedback.
Your goal is to build a product or service that provides value to people. It does no good to build something that nobody wants. It’s important that you seek unbiased and outside feedback to make sure you’re building something that’s marketable. Do this from day one and never stop.
To find your early feedback group, you want to target people that you know will give you only an honest opinion. Reach out to them personally. My go-to group consists of a handful of close entrepreneurial friends and a few mentors I regularly keep in touch with. From here, you can start to widen your scope for feedback and begin incorporating Facebook, LinkedIn Groups, Reddit, ProductHunt, GrowthHackers, and your local Starbucks.
9. Don’t blur the lines between personal projects and work.
It may seem tempting to create a “better version of Company You Work At,” but unless your employer missed some major lessons along the way, your contract most likely stipulates that you’ve agreed not to that.
Plus, it’s bad practice and it can destroy a lot of relationships that could instead be helpful for you one day. If you’re under any non-compete clauses, assignment of invention clauses, or non-disclosure agreements, then it’s best to consult your attorney for personalized advice on this matter.
Additionally, it may seem obvious, but don’t work on your project during company time. You’ll also need to refrain from using company resources on your personal project, no matter how tempting that may be. This includes not using your work computer, any online tools, software, subscriptions, notebooks, or seeking the help of other employees.
10. Reach critical mass before quitting your day job.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m an advocate of only doing things that I’m passionate about and doing those things with 100% of my energy. That being said, I’m willing to take my time in fully vetting an idea, discovering my target market, and testing that idea with them before making the solo decision that “this must be great!” Having the time to continue thinking things through and seeking the advice of others will benefit your new business.
Even more importantly, unless you’re working on a high-growth startup and can secure investor funding (or you’re able to self-fund), you’re going to need some form of sustainable income before your new project is able to be that sole source of sustenance for you.
Starting your business while working a full-time job will be difficult, but it’s doable. There are as many paths to entrepreneurship as there are entrepreneurs in this world. Take these steps into account and you’ll be well on your way to being your own boss. Imagine that awesome feeling.