Imagine you’re leaving the office and heading home.
It was a really tough day. Thank goodness it’s over. Now it’s time to enjoy these few precious hours of freedom. Do things you actually want to do. Until—
Tomorrow. When the 9-to-5 grind starts all over again.
If you’re like most working humans, you don’t have to imagine...
Honestly, how many times have you spent your lunch break staring out the window, daydreaming about quitting your dead-end job and starting a business of your own?
Wouldn’t it be amazing to become your own boss? Bring your ideas to life and lead your business to success?
Maybe you’ve even had some “Eureka!” moments already, discovering ideas, all of which could well be your tickets to freedom.
There’s the first problem:
Let’s say you quit your job to build the business of your dreams. Starting a business isn’t cheap. So now that you’re freshly out of work, how will you fund your venture?
Heck, what about even paying the bills? After all, your business won’t become profitable overnight.
Hm. Maybe quitting your job isn’t a good idea, at least not yet. You’ll need that consistent income to get your business off the ground.
So now there’s the second problem:
How can you manage your full-time career while starting a side business? Where will you find the extra hours and energy? When will you sleep?
I can tell you from experience: It’s possible.
Difficult, but doable.
When I launched my college and career consulting business Transizion, I was still working full-time. I had the idea for months, but I still hesitated. My fears were the same as yours: time, money, the potential failure.
You know this well-worn phrase:
“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.”
Cheesy? Perhaps. True? Oh, very much so.
Eventually, I stopped making excuses and took my first step.
Below, you’ll see some practical advice so that you can take yours, too.
It all comes from my personal experience (and mistakes I learned from!).
Make a Commitment
Before you’re ready to start a side business, you’ve got to commit. Juggling a full-time job and a startup is a huge challenge. It requires serious sacrifices.
So if you aren’t 100% committed, you’re likely to give up when the going gets tough. (And it will get tough.)
Ask yourself if you’re truly ready to say “I do” to limiting:
- Relaxation (e.g., Netflix, mindless scrolling on your phone, staring into space)
- Time spent on your favorite activities
- Time spent with your favorite people
- Your social life
Your business must be a priority, especially in the beginning. You will have to make financial sacrifices and give up your social life.
And what’s worse:
You’ll have to make sacrifices most of the time.
You’re going to run into problems on weeknights and weekends. Problems will surprise you at inconvenient times.
So you’ll have to sacrifice even more.
Your commitment will be tested when challenges arise out of nowhere. But keep in mind that anyone can solve problems when they can plan for them.
This also means you’ll need to learn new skills and manage your time on the fly.
I call this “putting out fires.” Problems and challenges will always be there. It’s your job to deal with them using your time and expertise.
Even after you put out these fires, you’ll be exhausted during your free time.
Sometimes, you’ll feel too overwhelmed and anxious to do anything when you’re free. During these moments, your commitment will keep you going. You’ve decided to embark on a difficult journey, and you’ve decided to see it through.
If you’re prepared to make these sacrifices and stick to them, you’ll be much more successful.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about two-thirds of businesses survive two years, and half survive at least five years. One-third make it to the ten-year mark.
Long story short—
But yours doesn’t have to.
Forbes gathered info from 101 startup founders on why their businesses failed.
The number one reason?
Lack of a market need for the product/service, according to 42% of founders.
Honest feedback is the best weapon against your business meeting this same fate. We all think our ideas are awesome. But will other people buy what you’re selling?
Start with your own network of friends, acquaintances, and mentors. Ask for brutal honesty. If their response is, “Wow, that sounds great!” don’t just smile and pat yourself on the back. Ask, “Why?”
Liking your product isn’t the same as buying it.
Measure the strengths and weaknesses of your offering. Get in-depth feedback that you can actually use.
Interview your audience to determine what problems they have that your product/service can solve. How can you be more helpful? What makes your product or service different from others they use?
After gathering enough data, it’s time to be honest with yourself. Is there a market for your product or service? Will your business eventually be profitable?
If needed, make adjustments before going live with your business. The worst case scenario isn’t going back to the drawing board. It’s investing tons of time and money into a product or service that no one wants to buy.
Your time is limited, so you’ll need to maximize it. Doing so requires that you know when and where you’re most productive.
When you need to put in those extra hours, should you stay up late or wake up early?
Personally, my brain seems to function much better in the morning. This was especially true after I had already completed my nine-to-five shift. I preferred waking up early to put in some time with my side business before heading to work.
You also need a comfortable workspace. Some people find that they’re too distracted at home and prefer to work at a local coffee shop or library. I like working at home, as long as my desk is clean and organized.
When you’re working from home, I also recommend “dressing up” as if you were heading to the office. This will keep you from getting too comfortable. Dressing up in professional attire will also give you the right mindset—you’re ready to work and accomplish your goals.
Figure out what works for you. Give your best hours to your new business and build a productive workspace.
Create a Daily Schedule
Right now, you’re energized and excited by your new endeavor. But eventually, the daily grind of your full-time job will drain you. As you sit down to work on your side business, you’ll think, “Maybe this could wait just one more day. I deserve a break.”
A daily schedule keeps you focused and disciplined. It also helps you budget your time, which is another way to maximize your daily 24 hours.
As you build your schedule, you may realize some activities need to be cut. Remember the commitment you made and prioritize what’s most important to you.
For me, exercise is key to keeping my energy levels up and my mind clear. I fit time into my daily schedule for the gym and jiu-jitsu training, in addition to working on my business. And to avoid burning out, I make sure to budget enough time for sleep.
Use Time-Saving Tools
Look for tools and apps to help you conserve time and energy. A few of my favorites are:
- Trello, to manage content writing and client projects
- Slack, for quick communication with team members (no more cluttered email inboxes)
- Stripe, to process payments without waiting for checks
- Google Drive, to access documents from anywhere.
Sure, technology can limit your productivity. But it can also increase it. Embrace any tools that keep you organized and save you time.
If you want to get some extra tips on everyday time management (plus, a list of the coolest productivity apps out there), see: Professional Project Managers Share Their Productivity Hacks
Of course, time isn’t the only commodity you need to budget. You’ll also need to budget money.
Starting a side business is tough, so you need to be realistic when creating your budget. They say you have to spend money to make money. When you’re building a new business, it’s true.
Assume that you won’t have any business revenue for at least the first 12 months. At first, your money will go into building the business and paying off invoices and credit cards.
All of Transizion’s first-year revenue went to paying content writers and compensating lawyers for drafting contracts. And some of it went down the drain after I made mistakes.
Learn from Mistakes, Celebrate Progress
Speaking of mistakes, you’re going to make them along the way. It’s inevitable. It’s also human nature to dwell on our mistakes and get discouraged.
When you’re trying to grow a business, you can’t have this mentality.
Focus on what you’re learning each time you make a mistake. The mistakes I’ve made have also taught me some of the most valuable lessons about business.
Here are some mistakes I made and the lessons I learned:
You will make critical mistakes that cost lots of money and time. You’re only human.
What counts is how you respond.
Write down what you’ll do differently next time and move on. Failure is a natural part of success, and you can’t let it shake your confidence.
When you make progress, celebrate it! Get excited about the steps you’re taking, no matter how small they are. This keeps you motivated and focused on your ultimate goal.
Keep Business Expenses Separate
From the start, split your business and personal expenses. Get a business card and open a business account.
This makes filing taxes easier and keeps your accountant happy. It also helps you maintain a clear, organized budget. As your business spending grows, you’ll want to monitor it closely. You’ll also want to see (and celebrate) when your business starts turning a profit.
So—what do you think?
Today, Transizion is growing quickly.
It took a long time, but discipline and commitment pay off. We’ve helped over 2,000 professionals and students thus far.
I’ve used the advice I gave you to grow my business while working a nine-to-five.
Now, it’s your turn to skip the regrets and pursue your dream!
Are you ready to turn your business idea into a reality? What do you think will be the biggest challenges? How will you overcome them?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.