We often get our ideas for a new on-the-side business or product as we go about our daily life, noticing what we can’t find easily (or at all) or how something could be improved to work better.
As we keep mulling over these ideas, a potential business idea is born.
Before long you’re bookmarking website addresses in your new niche, buying related products to evaluate and compare to ‘yours,’ or purchasing similar services so you can experience ‘the competition.’
But unless you’re funded by unlimited personal wealth or angel investors, odds are you feel you need to keep working for a while until your idea is fleshed out and begins to draw its own breath.
So building your new business ‘on the side’ while staying on at a full time job (with a steady paycheck!) makes a lot of sense.
Until it doesn’t.
How and when do you decide to go ‘full time’ with your on-the-side business?
Your considerations fall into two main camps: financial and personal.
On the Money Side
Your financial considerations are more black and white, so let’s start with them. As you read each question and brief description, ask yourself if your answer is more ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
1. Have you validated your on-the-side business idea and know that it ‘works’?
You have a solid product or service that customers and clients have shown they’re willing to pay for, and will continue to buy. You’ve also developed a business plan and road map so you’ll know exactly what you’ll be doing from Day One with all that new-found time once you’re on your own.
2. Are you almost or completely out of consumer debt?
The less debt you hold, the more options you’re are in control of, including successfully applying for a line of credit to use as needed for your new, no-longer-side business. If you still hold substantial debt and are in the early stages of developing a new business with little to no documentable income, you won’t be approved for more.
So pay down your debt before you make the leap, and just to be safe, apply for that line of credit while you still have a salary.
3. Do you need to hire others because you can’t keep up with the work flow?
When you can’t handle all your business matters during the day because you’re constrained by what you can or cannot do during lunch and breaks on your job, you’re limiting the revenue your side business can generate.
Realizing that you need to find, hire and train an employee or two because you can’t keep up with the level of sales or orders you’re getting, is a strong indicator that your side business is ready to jump over to the full time track. Orienting and managing employees properly and well will add significant hours to your already precarious life balancing efforts.
4. Are you being recognized for your knowledge about your on-the-side business or its industry, creating pressure to move on?
When you are develop a different, and more public role because of your new expertise, but are unable to step into that expert role because it might conflict with your current job and responsibilities to your employer, you may be putting development of your side business at risk.
There are occasions where ‘timing is everything,’ and if you aren’t able to take advantage of some opportunities when they’re first offered, you may never have another chance. Be sensitive to these situations.
5. Have your job or professional obligations changed?
You might have been sailing smoothly ahead with your side business until your employer put new products or services on the market that directly compete with what you’re selling on your own, presenting a direct ethical or legal conflict. Or perhaps your full time job description was changed in ways to prevent work outside your employers.’
Changes of that magnitude call for you to make a decision quickly to turn your side hustle into your main gig, or call a temporary or permanent halt to your juggling act.
6. Your finances are stable
You have one or two years of money saved to pay the bills while your business develops its own financial muscle.
Or maybe your spouse or partner doesn’t mind paying the bills for a year or two while you follow your dream, because you both agree it’s the right or important thing to do for the future.
Your business could also be showing steady, incremental growth, limited only by your ability to invest more time in growing it, providing you with confidence that you can make the move.
When your side business revenue has grown sufficiently to cover all or part of your basic living expenses, and does so consistently, you’re probably ready to make your leap to full time.
On the Personal Side
Developing your new business on the side is often motivated by personal reasons –– like the need to sustain your finances while you create new revenue. But juggling a full time job and a side business is or can become stressful and have consequences for your wellbeing, for your spouse and family, and even your business.
Here are some reasons to rethink whether it’s time to take your side business to full time.
1. Have the reasons why you pursued your on-the-side business part time rather than full time changed?
Many of us create a part time business because we’re juggling multiple responsibilities and full time pursuit is simply not possible.
But when things change in either your personal life or your job, so might your interest or readiness to dive in.
Perhaps you need a more flexible schedule because your mother-in-law has moved in with you, and taking her to doctors’ appointments would be more easily arranged if you were working your new business out of your home. Or maybe you’ve been working so many hours juggling job and business that your relationship with your significant other has been stressed, and that needs to be addressed.
When members of your family start noticing that no weddings, showers, get-togethers, or even holidays have a photo of you in them because you’re always too busy, it might be time to rethink your priorities.
2. Can you continue juggling it all when you’re burning the candle at both ends?
You’re staying up to the early morning hours immersed in working on your new business because you’re ‘in the zone.’ Which is good thing. But if you’re a walking zombie the next morning when you have to get up and go to work, not so much.
When you’re sick, overtired and feeling at the end of your rope, it may be time to reduce the stress in your life by narrowing your focus to your new business.
3. Does your new business need you?
There comes a point in the development of any business where you just can’t do anymore ‘on the side’ than you are doing, and all the task management and calendar apps won’t let you fit it all in anymore.
Your schedule begins to work against you and you’re not able to pursue contracts or business meetings, or travel needed to promote or expand your business because of the existing job. The job begins to ‘get in the way’ of the new business getting off the ground and getting its shot.
When you’re turning business away because you’ve still got a job to keep, it may be the moment to question whether the time has come to change which business provides your salary.
4. Are you consumed with your new on-the-side business, and can’t think of anything else?
The preparation and planning phase of a business is often a quiet time of research, contemplation, and testing of ideas, with your new business patiently waiting for your next step.
But once you obtain your first customers or clients, your on-the-side business will begin to create an energy of its own that requires interaction with you every day. There will be actions for you to take, emails to write and respond to, customers to meet and talk with, orders to be shipped, brochures and printed materials to be printed, products to be assembled or packaged.
Your challenge will no longer be about how you want to manage YOUR time, but how to keep things rolling.
And when the ball starts rolling…your decision becomes more about choosing to slow it down or stop it, than continue full speed ahead.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is that each business has its own personality –– and of course, so do you.
But in the end, you must ask yourself, what does your on-the-side business need?
Does it really need to be your full time pursuit? Is it ready to stand on its own two feet and provide you with everything you need from it –– emotionally, professionally and financially?
Of course it’s not an easy decision.
But when the time comes, don’t burn your bridges, strive to leave on great terms with your boss and co-workers. You never know when you’ll need to get referrals from colleagues you can trust, or when your employer might want to hire you back…as a highly paid consultant!