Starting your own business can be exciting, scary, and nerve-racking all at the same time. Building something from scratch can take some time, and most people don’t have the cash reserve to jump ship from their full-time job and dive into a new venture. This why you hear so much about the sidepreneur, or someone who is an entrepreneur “on the side”, meaning on the side of their full-time job.
This can one of the most difficult things to do: stay at a job you may not like, while you wait for your dream to take off. If you’re in this situation right now, you know what I mean. You’re probably feeling torn most days, worn out, and maybe even beat down. It’s not easy working 9-10 hours a day and then coming home to put in another 5 hours on your business. But for most people, this is the best path to success. One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen entrepreneurs make is going full time with their new business before it’s ready.
Whether you’ve just started your new business, or you’ve been doing the sidepreneur thing for a while, or maybe you’ve even started thinking about taking that plunge, here are 8 tips to help you as you chase your dream on a part-time basis.
1. Don’t be afraid to wait.
I know how you feel: you’ve got this passion burning inside you and it’s all you want to do. And every second spent at your day job feels like a waste of time. But you need to wait. Wait until you can honestly layout a financial forecast that supports not only your personal income, but also the necessary expenses of your business.
It is much better to wait an additional 6-12 months, than to have to look for a new job 6 months after going full time too soon.
2. Make sure it works.
Make sure people will pay for what you’re offering. Make sure your systems are effective and efficient. One of the benefits of hanging on to your day job is the security of knowing you have a steady paycheck. You can take risks and test ideas until you have all the systems in place and have proven your concept works.
3. Record your systems.
Speaking of testing and proving systems, make sure you document every system and process you use. When you go full-time, it is essential to continue to follow the processes that got you there. Create step-by-step guides and flow charts to ensure you can easily replicate those things that helped you prove your concept and make the move to leave your job.
Document everything from how emails are handled to what steps are taken to resolve customer complaints. Be sure to include processes for accounting as well as marketing, production, and delivery of your product or service.
4. Use this time to fix problems.
As I mentioned before, keeping your day job gives you the stability of a steady paycheck, so you can focus on building your brand, proving your concept, and building an audience. But one of the biggest advantages of having that other source of income is that you can take the time to test things and work out problems. And believe me, you will have problems. You will make mistakes and you will hit road blocks. Just remember that right now, you can recover from most problems, which gives you the opportunity to hit those roadblocks, find a way through or around them, and put that process into your systems. All of this gives you a much better chance of survival once you take the leap to full-time dream-chaser.
5. Plan around big goals.
Let’s face it, managing your schedule can get crazy when you’re limited on the time available to work on your business. One of the most common problems we have as sidepreneurs is getting caught up with the little things. Fact is, a lot of these things can wait. Take a couple minutes each day (or a few extra minutes at the beginning of the week) and layout your 3 most important goals for that day (10 if you’re laying out the week).
These should be goals that focus on growth of your audience and growth of your revenue. Then, build the rest of your schedule around those goals by filling in available time with those smaller tasks like updating the “our team” page on your site, or fixing that spreadsheet design. Build your schedule around the tasks that move your business forward and directly affect your ability to get to full-time.
6. Love your customers
People want to work with people they know, like and trust. And they buy from the same. When you’re trying to build your business on the side, your available time for sales calls can be extremely limited. If your business is B2B and you work a typical 9-5 schedule, you may be at your day job while your potential clients are available, making it pretty difficult to get ahold of the right person to make a sale. Because of this, referrals can be the lifeblood of your business.
When you make a strong connection with a client and they truly believe in what you do, they’ll be more than willing to connect you with others. This can be the difference between success and failure as a startup. Treat every customer you have like your only one, and make sure they know how much you appreciate them. Then ask them for referrals and treat those folks the same way.
7. Build your team.
Find the right people to surround yourself with, and then invest in them. When you’re part-time, doing everything seems like the only option, but it’s also darn near impossible. Do not be afraid to hire some help while you’re still working your day job. The fact that you still have that steady income gives you some financial cushion to invest in a couple key team members that might be able to handle important tasks during the day, while you’re unable.
Once you find the right people, invest your time and energy into making them understand their value. Treat them like gold and make sure they are compensated both financially and emotionally. A loyal team member is more valuable than almost anything in your business. As your business grows, so should your compensation to these people. Treat them right and show them you care, and your team will lea you to full-time.
8. Expect failure.
One thing that takes a lot of part-time entrepreneurs out of the game is the fluctuation in cash flow. As a new business, you’re going to have more ups and downs than the newest coaster at Cedar Point. Keep your focus on the long-term and don’t get emotional about that big account you just locked in, or the other one you just lost.
Picture a chalkboard with a line going up and down across it (like a roller coaster). Now picture a straight line traveling straight across the same board, in the center. Those who get too excited about a win or loss are more likely to fail in the end. Those who travel that straight line and don’t let either affect them too much are much more likely to succeed. Failure is one of the most important parts of being an entrepreneur. Expect it. But more importantly, embrace it and learn from it.
No one thing on this list is going to be the deciding factor to whether your new venture fails or succeeds. Nor is any one of them going to be the piece that takes you from part-time to full.
What all of this is supposed to do is help you understand that being a part-time entrepreneur is not only possible, but is often times necessary to succeed. Keep these 8 tips in mind as you continue on your journey. Take advantage of the stability your day job offers and don’t panic when you can’t go full time as quickly as you had hoped. Stay focused, stay patient, and stay true to what you believe, and you’ll make it to full time.