Do your job, mind your business: How to start a business while keeping your job

by Paul Eze

It is very important to know what to expect and what you should be prepared to sacrifice if you are to build that business and eventually leave your job if it becomes successful.

The truth is the times are getting more difficult and sometimes the wages you make may no longer be enough to cater for your current needs and still have leftover to save for the rainy day. The increasing levels of layoffs also mean that there is far less job security so starting your own side business while keeping your job becomes imperative.

The idea is to keep your day job but mind your business. When your business starts to make you money than your job then it may be the right time to quit but until then you keep the job and work on the side to build your business.

Reasons to Start Your Side Business While Keeping Your Job

A side business done right can bring in additional and useful revenue and should it become a huge success can even make you rich and never in need to work for someone else anymore. However you may be tempted to quit your job to start that great idea here are reasons why it may be smarter to start the business on a low key while maintaining your job

1.   You Can Easily Test the Idea With Less Risks

While your idea looks good on paper the market has its way of making one see reality. Keeping your job will help you test the idea, see the potentials and decide whether you run with it. If the idea fails or shows absolutely no sign of becoming a good income earner you can then easily drop or modify it without having to look desperate since you will have your job to provide your needs.

2.     Your new business needs fund to get off the ground

Your job is likely to provide the rolling funds to get your new business off the ground and running till it reaches profitability. Unless you have a great amount of cash stashed away somewhere you will need the continuous source of funds that your job provides to build up your new business.

What to Consider Before Starting Your Own Business

Starting a side business while keeping your job means you want to eventually make more money than you currently do. However this comes at some sacrifice. It is very important to know what to expect and what you should be prepared to sacrifice if you are to build that business and eventually leave your job if it becomes successful. Here are a few important considerations to keep in mind;

1.     Your Weekends Will no Longer Be Free for All Parties

If you are going to take the bold step and start something on the side you will need all the free time you can get as you should not be found during work hours attending to your own business. This means that your weekends will be affected in the new scheme of things. Time for friends and family will likely be cut short or reduced. You will have to look at how many prospects you will be reaching out to. How many hours will you spend working on your product or service? How many hours will you devote to marketing efforts?

Be realistic with your efforts and calculate how much free time you can afford. Will your lifestyle accommodate the new schedule and sacrifices? Do you have the support of your family or spouse to start since it will obviously cut short the time you spend with them?

2.     You  Will Have Two Demanding Jobs

In addition to your 9 – 5 job you are literally adding a second job (at least until it becomes a success and you hire other team members). After going through the hectic schedule at your workplace will you be able to cope with the side business? This means that you have to carefully choose the nature of side business you intend starting. Don’t go for business ideas that will not demand your time much especially during your work hours. If you start a service based business for example you may be only able to take calls and attend to customers during your lunch break. Go for ideas that will give you flexible hours and ideas that allow you dictate your own hours. What you should be looking for is to create a balance between your full time job and your business at least until the latter becomes sustainable and successful.

3.     You Will Have to Cope With Considerable Stress

Juggling your job and your business will come with the attendant worries. No matter what you do you may not be able to prevent overlaps as issues concerning your business might come up during your job time. Example, a customer or client calling you during work hours concerning your product or service will pose a challenge. Be sure to be able to cope with this sort of situations. Politely defer all calls and emails to after work time when you can carefully respond to them. If possible have a separate phone for your business and keep it on voice mail during your job hours so you can call back all persons who had earlier called your business phone during job hours.

How to Start and Grow Your Side Business

After taking note of the above issues involved in starting a side business here are practical advice on starting and growing your business while keeping your job

1.     Come Up With a Good Idea

While looking for ideas for your side business consider ease of business, flexible hours and your passion for the idea. A combination of these will help you work with an idea that will suit your situation. Start by listing challenges or issues you notice around you. Another way to generate ideas is to think about what things you love doing. What are your passions? Can they be turned into solutions to some of the challenges you noticed.

After coming up with a list of ideas it is time to vet the ideas. Will they allow you keep your job and work on them at your own free time? This is where online based ideas have an edge. Starting an online based side business means you save yourself too much stress involved in running around. You can work from anywhere with your smart phones and laptops. Here’s a list of online business ideas you can start easily and manage flexibly

Freelance work (writing, graphics design, copywriting etc), Selling personal and corporate  gift items, Market research, Blogging/Writing, Translation Services, Photography, Web design, Graphics/Animations, Event planning, Internet Marketing Services, Online Bead Store, Online Customer Jewelry Store, Custom Software Development, Marriage Coaching, etc.

There are also many offline businesses you can start and run at your free time.

1.     Does it Have a Market Fit

Next check if your idea has a big enough market that will pay to for your product or services. Be sure not to offer a product or service that very few people want. The market should be big enough for repeat buys so your business will have the possibility of growing.

2.     Test Your Idea

Starting on a small scale helps you test your idea with your target market and see the possibilities. If you had a website designed for it test-run the website as a user would and see how good it is. Try your services or products on a few of your friends and ask for their honest opinion.

3.     Set a Simple Plan

As a side business you do not need elaborate plans. Create a simple one page plan (I have found this very effective even for businesses with more than two team members). State your goals, target audience, what makes your business unique, ways to reach your potential customers and what financial commitment you are willing to make every month to the business until it turns profitable.

Also it will not hurt to have an idea of when you hope to possibly quit your job and face your business full-time if it becomes successful.

1.     Get the Proper Licenses and Registrations

Get your business registered with the appropriate authorities and get needed licenses if your business is such that requires them.

2.     Set Boundaries and Limits

Set boundaries and limits of how much business you can take on at any time until you are able to add more team members.

3.     Create Checkpoints and Milestones

Have an idea of targets when you will have to hire either full time team members as the business expands.

Finally follow your 1 page plan. Create time for the core aspects of your work such as marketing, handling clients’ work, delivering on jobs awarded, etc.


Paul Eze is the Co-Founder and Vice President of Ngcareers a top job search and employment website that enables job seekers search and apply for latest jobs from thousands of employers in Nigeria. He tweets via @paulemekaeze


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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