Starting Your Business on the Side

Time for change
Photo: cc marsmetn tallahassee via Flickr

Many people, women in particular, start their business on a small scale, often part time. Keeping their day job while they build their business on the side, from a practical perspective, makes sense: bills still have to be paid and you have to be able to manage all your expenses. And as more seasoned entrepreneurs will warn you, it often takes longer than you think for the money to flow in.

But this dual existence is not an easy path to follow. I know because I lived that life, both with my own business and for a friend.

For six short but long weeks, I became receptionist by day in my friend’s spa and business owner by night. It’s a full and tiring life, isn’t it? But I have to say, there were aspects of playing the receptionist that were fun – such as when one elderly client told me that I was doing a great job and, believing I was just a temp (true) and looking for a job (not true), touched my arm and told me she thought I’d get snapped up and not to worry about finding work. Good to know.

Working the two jobs was a stretch but I learned a lot too. I was reminded of how much I like working with people. When you work at home, the four walls can close in, and you can get very tired of your own company.

But most of all, I watched my friend blossom and grow as she gained confidence, not only in her ability to run a business but as she learned that people actually wanted to access her services. We all have doubts, especially at the beginning when it’s all new to us.

When is the right time to make the leap?

One of the biggest decisions is when to move away from the comfort and cushioning of your day job and leap into your business full time, for real. How do you know when the time is right?

While it has been said that if you pursue your passion the money will follow, well,  not necessarily. So take a hard, long look at your finances and your potential to make ends meet before throwing in the towel at your workplace.

So do the maths would be my first suggestion. Work out what you need to live on and look at what you have saved. You will need at least six months’ savings to cover your everyday costs, otherwise you put yourself financially at risk.

Study your data. How many clients/customers do you have? What is their average spend? Do you have your processes in place to handle growth?  Do you have a marketing plan to promote your business with more vigor than in the past? Do you have the tenacity to stick with it?

Can you live with ambiguity?

If you are staying in the same industry but going towards freelance, check to see if your current employer would give you a contract. That’s what I did when I started my consulting business. They knew my work and what I could do for them, and it gave me a great kickstart to the business.

It was that consulting practice that bank-rolled Company of Women, an organization I started to support other women entrepreneurs. It was supposed to be a group I ran on the side, nothing more. Trouble was that while the consulting practice generated more revenue, Company of Women was way more fun and I knew I was making a difference. So, two years down the road, I packed in the consulting practice to focus all my energies on a business that had become my passion.

It’s that passion that will move you from the safety of your job to focusing on your own business full time.

The job, while providing a safety net, can seem ho-hum in comparison to running your own business, and you need to pay attention to what fires you up and gets you out of bed in the morning. It is that energy, passion and love of what you do that will get you through the challenges ahead and help you forge a life for yourself that truly matters.

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