Do you dream of starting your own business but hesitate out of concern you’ll be unable to replace your existing income and support all your family and financial commitments?
If you’ve been an employee most of your life, you’ll probably agree that quitting a well-paying job cold turkey is rarely desirable, nor realistic. Staying employed a little longer might let you…
● maintain your health insurance
● save more for retirement, or
● build a strong cash flow for when you launch your new midlife business full time.
Starting your new venture ‘on the side’ as a part time business allows you to stay in your full-time job until your side gig is able to support you financially.
You can have the best of both worlds: Keeping your stable income while you pursuing your dream at the same time!
Advantages to Developing your Idea as a Part Time Business
Certainly one advantage of starting a part time business while you have a job is that you are not struggling financially, which frees you up in many ways:
● You have time to test and develop your part time business: there’s no rushing to judgment, short cutting your analysis or market research, grasping for business by accepting contracts or agreeing to prices that don’t really build your new business, but you take simply because you are desperate.
● Starting small allows you to be very focused on your first few customers or clients, getting to know and understand them, letting you test your perceptions of what each client wants and needs.
So now that we’ve outlined the advantages of exploring your business idea and starting your business slowly, let’s discuss what this uncharted territory might look like.
What are the best ways to create your business on a part time basis?
1. Carve out sufficient, quality time
You have to put in enough time and energy to figure things out; to research your business idea, develop potential products or services, to determine what you need to do and how to move ahead.
And you need to be spending the right kind of time. Cramming through the night for an occasional multiple choice test may have been a way of life when you were younger, but your efforts now require creativity and personal thought so you can shape a business that will fit your life.
Finding quality time can be difficult when the most common hours times to work on a part time business are usually ones we’d could consider less-than-optimal, like after a tiring day at work, or on a weekend. You might also need – which usually requires you to make a choice between working on your business or spending time with your spouse or partner, attending special family events, or enjoying social occasions with friends.
Working during your lunch hour might be an option. can work too, uUnless you’re skipping lunch and losing energy in the afternoons, or your absence negatively affects your relationships with co-workers.
2. Set up a Part time Work Schedule
Just spending a few hours a week probably won’t cut it. That amount of time might be sufficient to provide a single service or fulfill an occasional order or two, but it won’t be enough to market and grow your business.
You may find it helps to actually treat your new business like a part time job.
If you’re already working a forty hour week on one job, try to limit your business development efforts to what a true part time job would be: 12-20 hours. This kind of investment would let you devote one or two evenings a week to the new venture, as well as one day on the weekend.
And keeping a record of the time you spend building working on your new business will help you understand which days and times are most productive for you. If you’re you are not making the progress you’d like to, reviewing your schedule might give you an idea or two for how you can increase your productivity or outcomes.
3. Avoid the Artist mentality
There’s is a point in the development of any new idea or venture when you want to throw your heart and soul into it, live and breathe for it, stay in your jammies all day doing market research or writing a business plan, or spend the entire weekend hoofing it through your town to inspect potential shop or office space to be leased.
When you do this occasionally, your business idea can be moved forward and so can you, because you’ll will likely feel jazzed about your progress and the good feeling will carry over to the rest of your life. Holing yourself up for the occasional weekend to move things ahead makes great good sense, too.
But if you find yourself feeling that you just can’t make any progress unless you’re are completely immersed, living every second ‘in the zone’ and working, working, working on your new business to the exclusion of all else, it’s no good because it simply can’t last.
Work life balance isn’t a theory or nice to have, it’s a reality and have to have. Especially when one of those commitments provides the financial foundation for everything else.
4. Self Care is Important
Millions of people have started their business ventures while having a full-time job and been able to grow it successfully to the point where leaving employment to go full time with their new business is possible.
But no one said it was going to be easy.
When you’re burning the candle at both ends you need to manage your energy, first and foremost. Make sure you’re eating right, getting sufficient sleep, exercising to counter all that time at your tablet or desk, and enjoying some down time in whatever form you choose, like meditation, a walk in the forest, participating in sports or listening to music.
Keeping yourself and your life in balance is one way to stay motivated. Spreading yourself too thin is not sustainable and can lead to you getting sick or burned out.
It’s also important to keep your support system ‘up’ and strong for when you will most need it – like when you start your new business full time. Don’t burn so many bridges that no one is asking you to go out for a dinner anymore or to head out on a fun weekend getaway…like your spouse or partner.
Remembering how to relax is an important skill needed by all new business owners, wherever you are in the journey.
5. Small Moves, Ellie. Small Moves.
If you’ve ever seen the movie, Contact, where actress Jodie Foster, as the main character Dr. Eleanor Arroway, detects extraterrestrial life while listening to radio emissions from space, you may remember a touching scene with Ellie’s father when she was a child and he taught her to use a ham radio. He suggested that Ellie move the dial slowly, to tune in incrementally, and really listen to what might be there, before she moved on.
Starting a business on the side offers you much the same opportunity, to make small moves; to listen to and observe carefully the results you get (or don’t) so you can adapt as you go, and move on as appropriate.
Be sure to obtain the necessary licenses, registrations, and insurances before operating your part time business. You don’t need an elaborate setup to begin most businesses, just perhaps a brochure and/or a web page (not a full website), a business card with online and local contact information that you can provide to friends and networking groups you join. If you create a quality product or service, odds are word will get around and you’ll be on your way.
Starting small is also often less stressful because there’s less any fear of failure is usually less. Your successes and setbacks are private because few people will be aware of what you’re doing, or how much business you’re getting – or not. And since you’re not relying on your new part time business for your livelihood, disappointing or slow results won’t shatter your world. Once you’vre been able to recoup your initial starting expenses, everything else is gravy. You can make the decision to move forward from that point.
6. Don’t jeopardize the Golden Goose
Thinking about starting a new business or actually beginning to dive into it can be almost intoxicating, allowing the urgency of your day to day obligations to fade by comparison. But don’t let it happen.
Pay attention to how your efforts to build your new business are affecting the job that pays the bills.
You may have contractual ‘no compete’ clauses in your employment or subcontracting agreements that could limit your on-the-side efforts, or work rules in place that impose boundaries on your side business.
And give some thought to how your efforts to build your part time business might take away from your energy as an employee. Never being available to have lunch with your co-workers, taking calls or orders during work hours from your personal clients, can all interfere with your job performance and how you are perceived by others important to you.
Since the purpose of developing a business on the side is to keep your full time income flowing as your foundation…be sure to keep an eye on keeping your job.
7. The Tax Man Cometh
There are tax implications for starting a part time business that you will want to know about that affect how you can or cannot declare your side income or your expenses.
Your preparation for a new business, including degree programs or other education and/or training materials that prepare you for a different career than you currently have, are not tax-deductible. By comparison, a personal development seminar usually is.
So don’t assume you can ‘write off’ all your new business preparation costs unless they’re are related to your current employment, or you plan to file tax returns for your side business immediately.
You may be entitled to deduct certain startup costs but the IRS has strict guidelines you must follow in order to claim expenses incurred before you officially start your business. And those expenses are only deductible if you actually start your business. If you decide not to continue with your business idea, your expenses are usually lost as a deduction.
You should consult an accountant or tax professional for advice on how your start-up expenses or efforts to research and prepare for a new business will be viewed.
The good news is, if you end up opening your doors, those payments for your tax professional and/or attorney’s services will be deductible. But if you decide against moving forward with your side business, they won’t be.
Having a job while you’re growing a business on the side is always going to be a juggling act.
The good news is that this time of struggling to meet demand is a great sign that your business idea has not just potential but real value, providing opportunities for continued growth and giving you confidence about your future.
The old style of business planning used to call for detailing every nuance of your venture, looking one, five, ten and even twenty years into the future.
These days, depending on your product or service idea, you may be hard pressed to even be able to plan one year ahead with accuracy. The pace of change can be dizzying, and if you’re developing your business part time, slowly on the side, you could miss your window of opportunity as social trends and market changes speed on by.
So while some fundamental planning for your business is essential, don’t wait too long before you test out your assumptions and initial ideas for products or services.
Starting small allows you to take small risks that can provide you with feedback that can make the difference between profit and not.
Ultimately, starting your venture ‘on the side,’ pursuing it as a part time business, lets you test and rehearse your ideas, before you go big.
Take pride in each step, learn from them, and you’ll be surprised how fast it can happen, and how your efforts give rise to your new identity as an entrepreneur.
Deliberate and patient attention to who you are now at midlife and where you want to go, will form the foundation for your business success, no matter how you start out, on-the-side or full time.