It’s not everyone that can afford to quit their job in order to run their own business. In reality, a lot of successful entrepreneurs started their journey by running a business while working full-time for someone else.
The prevailing wisdom is that you resign your job and work full-time on your idea, in order to have a shot at success.
This may be true. But there is no reason you can’t run your own business while working full time for someone else. Especially if your livelihood depends on earning regular income from paid employment.
Running a business whilst working full-time could mean less time to work on your idea. It might take longer to build a minimum viable product and reach the inflection point. And may require you to work at night and weekends. A lot of things could go wrong. But then, a lot could go right.
Research shows that “hybrid” entrepreneurs” – people who keep their jobs while launching their startup – are 33.3% less likely to fail than those who go all in without the security of paid employment.
Aside from the security, working and starting up provides you an opportunity to start from a strong position as an employee. You can use your position to build a strong network for your new business.
Here are nine things you should do if you want to run a business while working full time:
1. Validate your idea
Before you print your business card, find out if your idea is worth the time and money you are about to throw at it.
It’s not only the first step in starting a business while working, it is the first step in starting a business, period. However, it is significantly important for you given the opportunity cost of the limited time you have to spend on the business.
The burn rate of tech startups around the world is quite high, as a survey carried out in 2011 showed that 92% of the startups surveyed had failed within three years. You don’t want to be one of them.
Validate your idea by running the customer discovery process in the customer development framework. Know if there is a market need for your idea. It’s okay to think your idea is the best thing since velcro fasteners, but be sure you are not the only one who thinks so. Validate so you don’t make something no one needs.
How do you REALLY make something people need?
It’s basic. If you are selling something people want, and which you can turn a profit on, you are on your way to being successful.
Use a personal pain of yours: Let’s be honest here, passion is one thing you need to fuel your business ambition. If you can’t connect with the problem you are solving, if you can’t feel like you are solving a personal problem of yours, you will remain an outsider to your own business.
Your business has to be ROI focused: This gives you a straight access to the B2B market! Want to know why? Businesses will buy your product to save time, to save money or to make money. Which is what we mean by ROI focused. So when you are deciding on the product you want to go for, remember to really think about B2B.
You have to make sure, above all that you can answer the questions: Who am I serving? What will they buy? How can I get them to buy? Answer these questions, and watch yourself build some really valuable momentum.
2. Prioritise only the most important things
As you begin to work on your idea, it will take up more and more of your time. You need to figure out the non-essentials on your schedule and cut them. Cut down on your daily social media time. Reduce hobbies that are not directly improving your life or your business to the minimum. If you feel everything you are doing is important then you might have to learn how to prioritize when everything you are doing is a priority.
Here are some tips on prioritizing
Access Values of Tasks: This is very important. When you perform some tasks, they end up being of more importance and value than when you carry out three other tasks.
What is your bandwidth? This is your business and you are in it 100%. But you need to realize that you are still under employment and your first priority is to your employer. Be realistic about your bandwidth and how much tasks you can carry out within a specific period of time. Be very sure you do not overwork yourself.
Forget Perfectionism: You honestly don’t have the time for this. You need to be able to drop something you consider hot to focus on another task that will drive results.
3. Develop a routine, and stick with it
Earmark a certain duration of time you’ll spend on the idea every day. One hour, two hours, five hours. The important thing is to be consistent with the set time. There will be numerous valid excuse why you should skip the schedule. Never give in.
To get the best out of the routine, you need to recognize a lot of key things about yourself.
Recognize how your brain works: You have put together a very strict routine that is filled with tasks for you to complete. You need to understand your work pattern so you are able to make the best of it. At what times of the day are you the most active? How long does it take you to blank out? How many hours down time do you need every day? and the list goes on.
Recognize what happens when you don’t stick to your routine: In most cases, you either mess up a key project at work, or you don’t get to work on your idea at all. Neither of which you want to happen.
Recognize that not all times are equal: It’s normal, there are certain hours when you are unable to do anything productive at all. On your way home from work stuck in traffic, Immediately you get home from work in the evening, you are tired and need to relax a bit. Making sure your routine avoids heaping responsibilities on these specific times increases the chances of success.
4. Be honest about your skill set
No, you cannot do everything yourself. Yes, that is the truth.
Understandably, you must have gained some skills working for an employer that will help you take on your project, it still doesn’t mean you have the skills to handle every task that will come up in the course of executing your plan.
Analyzing your skills will enable you to identify the gaps you need to fill in order to execute your plan. So you need to decide whether you are going to learn new skills, get a co-founder, hire or outsource.
However, there are key things you need to note when hiring/outsourcing so you don’t end up creating more work for yourself.
Get the right people for the right task: Make sure whoever you are hiring has a thorough understanding of your business and your mission. That makes them the right people for the job, you complete it by matching them with responsibilities that work well with their skill set.
Honest analysis forces you to revisit the important components of the idea. This helps you cut the fluff further and move faster.
5. Set realistic goals and timelines
Playing football without the goal posts is no fun. You’ll sweat, but after a while, someone is going to pipe up and ask “what’s the point of all this?”. So it is in business. There is no way to measure your progress without setting ambitious but achievable goals.
Given that this is a side hustle, be realistic about what you can achieve on a weekly and monthly basis. This will give you an idea what you are aiming for at any point in time. You should also try not to make any of these mistakes:
Underestimating completion time: If you don’t estimate completion time for a goal properly, you get discouraged when you can complete that goal within the time that you set. Too many repetitions of these can cause you to give up.
Not reviewing progress: It is very easy to not appreciate just how much progress you have made. This makes it important to review everything that you have achieved on a regular basis. Because no matter how slow things may be, you are probably making some valid moves.
Setting too many goals: Of course there are a lot of things you need to achieve, but when you set too many goals at once, you are unable to give each goal/task the amount of time and attention they deserve. And as a result, you end up doing a shoddy job or not doing anything at all.
6. Don’t drop the ball on your performance at work
The extra strain on your time will bite into your productivity at work. This may require you to work faster and smarter than your peers. Resist the urge to cave into the pressure to let your performance slip.
Remember to stay organized so you can achieve a lot within a reasonable time frame. Listening to what goes on around your workplace might also help you to prioritize and know what to do and when to do it.
That way, if you are leaving at exactly 5 o’clock, your employer will see you’ve pushed the company further than everyone else.
7. Leave the project in the workshop
It’s unprofessional and unethical to work on your personal project during your company time. Also, in the event that there is an IP clause or non-compete clause in your contract, you’ll put yourself and your business in a difficult position if your employer decides to enforce their right.
No matter how tempting the prospect, it is better not to use company resource on your project. Company resource could include the office PC, the internet or anytime between you are expected to be working for your employer. To be fair to yourself, don’t take company work home. Leave work at work. Leave the project in the workshop.
8. Outsource, outsource, outsource
You need to be doing what you know to do best. Not spending your time trying to master a new skill.
Learning new skills will be great. Learning to code for instance. However, it’ll take too long to master it enough to come out with a good MVP. You could either bring on a partner that knows that side of the business or find a help from a micro-job platform. Leave yourself time to focus on your core competencies.
9. Ask and get feedback
It’s important during your customer discovery to find out what people think about the product your are building, as you build it. Share your progress with anyone that will give an unbiased, honest opinion. The best feedback you can get is from potential customers who are willing to pay for your product when it’s ready.
If you are getting good traction and the market appears kind. Leave your job, and go all in.
Doing a side hustle while keeping a day job is not for everyone. It will take a lot of time management, energy, dedication, and courage not to drop the balls on both fronts.
Keeping the momentum going on both fronts is what we want to help hybrid entrepreneurs like yourself achieve with our side hustle bootcamp.
But, we are still in the process of shaping it and we think it would be productive if entrepreneurs and “side hustlers” tell us what they would find useful at the bootcamp.
You can let us know by filling this survey here and we will add you to our closed Facebook group for entrepreneurs.