How to Start a Business While Remaining a Salaried Employee
Most books and articles about starting businesses assume that you can seamlessly jump from employee to entrepreneur. Unfortunately, this is rarely a realistic option. After all, your basic living expenses (food, rent/mortgage, etc.) still need to be paid. Unless you have substantial savings or an investor willing to pay these costs, you will probably need to juggle the business and your salaried job – at least in the beginning. This can can get complicated in a hurry unless you maintain a balance between the two. But with the right strategy and attitude, it is certainly doable.
Below are several ways to start a business while remaining a salaried employee (and keeping your sanity.)
Become Skilled at Time Management
The main perk of a salaried job is that you can unplug from it and do whatever you want once the work day ends. That stops the moment you decide to also start a business. Now, instead of coming home and relaxing, you will need to put on your “entrepreneur cap” and work on getting your company off the ground. Furthermore, unless you want to completely alienate your family, you probably cannot spend all of your non-job time on the business. Therefore, it is critical that you become a skilled manager of your own time. In his classic book The Time Trap, Alec Mackenzie writes that we tend to be our own worst enemies when it comes to time.
Natural human weaknesses like procrastination, failure to plan, and deluding ourselves into thinking we work best under pressure all conspire to waste our time and hold us back. These weaknesses and obstacles must be overcome if you are to start your business as a salaried employee.
Set Measurable & Dated Goals
Starting a business is filled with emotional “peaks and valleys” even under ideal conditions. These highs and lows will be even more pronounced because you are also working at a job. At times, the smallest obstacles will drain your enthusiasm for the business. You might begin looking at it as something that consumes all of your time and energy without yet providing a payback. It will soon become unsatisfying to come home from an exhausting day at the office and just “work on the company” without any indication of how that work will move you forward.
The best way to fight through these temporary frustrations is to be constantly setting and pursuing measurable, dated goals. Strive to connect each task to the overall picture of where your business is going. Each task should be clearly defined, have a date for its completion and a motivating reason why it must be done by then.
Sooner than later, you will need to either see money coming in from your business or have firm reason to believe that it will start coming in shortly. Without cashflow, you may start to view the business as some kind of fruitless hobby rather than a serious money-making venture. Thus, if it hasn’t occurred already, move aggressively to get the first few dollars rolling in. Whether it’s selling your first product, closing your first client or signing a distribution deal, your overall motivation to keep working on the company in your spare time will grow if you see undeniable evidence of real cashflow on the horizon.
Don’t Mention The Business at Work
While you are naturally excited about your business, it is generally a good idea not to discuss it at work. As of right now, your salaried job is the only thing paying your bills. If your boss begins to sense that you’ve already “clocked out” mentally, your remaining time there could be made difficult. In the worst case scenario, you could be fired before the business starts paying out. Ideally, your employer should feel as though you are still completely dedicated to your job until the very end. Continue to perform at the same high level that is expected of you, and certainly do not brag about your “side project” to any loose-tongued co-workers. Which brings us to our next point…
Don’t Burn Any Bridges
It may be tempting to leave your job with a lot of gloating and fanfare when you company does eventually take off. These feelings will be especially strong if the job was one you hated and could not wait to leave. However, this is a bad idea in almost every situation. The cold, hard fact is that there are no guarantees in the business world. There is always the chance that your company could go under (though we certainly hope not) and you will be looking for a job once again. The odds of getting re-hired or even getting a positive reference from a company you arrogantly departed from are slim to none. Instead, try to leave on respectful terms with all of your superiors.
About the Author: Sheena Freestone is a freelance writer for FundingUniverse. Funding Universe matches qualified entrepreneurs to banks, investors and other funding sources. Funding Universe helps small businesses avoid scams and rip offs by securing funding from trusted national banks and financial institutions.