7 Tips for Starting a Business While Working Your Day Job

Image of Cubicle at Day JobLife’s tough.

You slog through a 9 to 5 work day that involves sitting through mind-numbing meetings, breaking for lunch (which you inhale at your desk) and watching the clock praying the day would hurry along.

As a bonus, you work with a group of people you wouldn’t associate with if you weren’t forced to 40 hours every week.

Bummer. But you have to do it; bills don’t pay themselves and nobody else is offering to pay your mortgage for you.

But that’s all right because you’re an entrepreneur at heart. If you’re reading this, you’re going places. You have your aim set high and you’re strategically building your business after hours and on weekends. Good job.

So, how do you balance everything out so you don’t lose your job, abandon your business, and lose your sanity in the process? Well, I can’t do much for your sanity but I can give you some pointers on how to avoid a few pitfalls.

7 Tips for Your Startup

Check your mindset

Let’s be honest, it’s going to take considerable work to get your business off the ground. Your business is a lot like a car engine in the New England winter; it’s going to take time to warm it up and get moving.

Take the time to prepare yourself, mentally, for the early challenges. Congrats though, you’re among a small percentage of people that are trying to do more than “get by.” Commit to telling yourself:

“Self, it’s going to get rough. I’m going to be tired some days and other days I’ll want to jump on a plane and leave everything behind. But that’s not reasonable. I have to keep pushing no matter what.”

The deeper-rooted your commitment to your project (the more profound your why reason) the better your chances are coming out a winner on the other side.

Establish routine

Plan ahead. Where do you want your business to be in 3, 6, or 9 months? Next year? Write it all down. Read it repeatedly. Then you need to reverse-engineer that schedule.

Create milestones each month, each week, and each day to give you checkpoints. This will make your progress measurable and keep you on track. Establish times during your day, every day, for business-related activities.

The deeper you embed this plan within yourself, the lower the chances are of you waking up and abandoning it (without feeling awful for doing so).

Go guerrilla

You aren’t Coca-Cola. You aren’t running Facebook. Your ad budget may be $90 for the whole month. No matter, go guerilla marketing on it. With all the online tools, tricks, and communities you can use for free there’s no reason to feel like you can’t compete in your industry.

Think outside the box here. People engage deeply with personalized advertising and marketing. Reach out to the individual and make them an evangelist of your brand. The better you serve each and every person your brand touches, the faster word will spread about how much you genuinely care.

Learn to say “no”

It’s a difficult balancing act for you already. Kids, responsibilities at home, and holding down your job. You’re probably worn out from your core activities let alone running a business.

So why make it harder?

Grow gradually. I encourage you to aim for the stars but are you ready to be there? Could you handle a massive surge in website traffic and paying clients if this dream of yours came true? Probably not yet. And that’s not an insult to your skills it’s a fact.

It’s a lot easier to grow into your desired role than to achieve instant stardom.

Learn to “pass” on business and refer a client to your competitor. Be honest with yourself about how much business you can handle. This isn’t because you’ll be exhausted it’s because you want to offer 100% to each client. You can’t do that when you’re spread thin and pulling your hair out at work because you know you’re neglecting a new client.

Read the rules

What does your job say about moonlighting? If they find out are you instantly canned? Consider having a conversation with your superior about starting a business. Think about what being outed prematurely would mean for your business.

You may not be able to survive on your business income and you may be confronted with a difficult ultimatum (i.e. close your business or you lose your job).

Use the right tools

Work telephones and computers aren’t the right medium to operate your side business. What would be best is if you owned a laptop or netbook and used a smartphone for your business dealings. Use breaks and lunch time to get ahead with your startup. Avoid using company time and property for this.

Keep your sanity

Feel like you can’t take anymore? Have you neglected to set rules and abide by your established routine? If you’re answering phone calls and emails at all hours, losing sleep, or taking days off work to run your business then you need to restore balance.

Be honest with your clients and let them know you may not be available during the work day. They’ll appreciate your candor and you’ll appreciate not losing your mind from pulling double-duty 24/7 at work and home.

Your Input

What productivity hacks or tips do you have for starting a business while working a day job?

I know some of my regular readers don’t work a traditional job so please share what worked for you to get out of cubicle nation.

Let’s discuss in the comments…

Photo: orphum



33 Responses to 7 Tips for Starting a Business While Working Your Day Job
  1. Sarah Russell
    April 15, 2011 | 1:06 pm

    Very well said, Jon. Some days, I feel so lucky, because although I’m still working a day job while running my online businesses, I love my job and my co-workers. Other days, the reality of balancing both doesn’t leave me so positive :)

    Going along with your first point on mindset, this is the Sticky Note I have posted on my Google homepage that I see every time I open a browser:

    “There will be times when balancing everything is hard. Times when you feel so overwhelmed that you feel unable to do anything at all.

    These are the times when you’re going to want to hide by dicking around on the internet. When you’ve already exhausted Jezebel, 3FC and CNN, and are moving on to Memebase.

    When you hit this point, remember that you’ve made things as simple as possible. You’ve batched tasks into easily digestible chunks, and you’ve got all the tools you need at your disposal. You can do it, and you will.

    (Also, just because you’re avoiding something doesn’t mean it’s going to go away…)”

    Doesn’t always work (see all of last week…), but it’s usually enough to get me back on track :)

    • Jon
      April 15, 2011 | 10:46 pm

      Sarah,

      That’s a good post to have right where you can see it. Batch processing is exactly what I have mapped out a plan to employ and stick to it. What was getting me is I fell off my initial plan so that when my batch tasks had run out from a previous work session; I felt rushed. Things started crashing into each other and we can’t have that, can we?

      Anyway – this weekend is all mapped out and I know exactly what needs to get done. Happy as can be. Thanks for your great insight, as always!

  2. Adrienne
    April 15, 2011 | 2:17 pm

    What a post for me to read today my friend. My first guest post just went live today and I write about my journey in the corporate world, how I escaped and where I am now.

    If I had to do this while still holding down a full-time job I don’t know how I would have done it. Oh, I would have done it still that’s for sure. So everything you mentioned is oh so true. I honestly believe that if people want a better life for themselves then they will find a way to incorporate everything into their lives. They have to in order to see the big picture and get those results so you can tell your boss adios!!!

    Great post Jon… I need to pass this one on to some of my friends who are still struggling. This will definitely come in handy for them.

    Have a great afternoon.

    Adrienne

    • Jon
      April 15, 2011 | 10:50 pm

      Adrienne,

      I read your post! Ending The Grind is a great site, Steve is a fellow New Hampshire guy (or he used to live here) and I like the content and design there. Your post was open and authentic; I commented there.

      We can have what we want in life, we just have to do more than wish for it :) Thank you so much for passing this along and I hope it helps others.

  3. Usman@FirstHosting
    April 16, 2011 | 3:35 am

    From all your points I can conclude that you are trying to describe how to make plans and act on them?

  4. Heather C Stephens
    April 16, 2011 | 6:11 am

    Hi Jon,

    Love the post and as a mom who is home with kids all day, many of the tips you shared are very applicable, even though I’m not balancing a job while building my business.

    I find it has been important to be realistic about my time and my goals so that I don’t alienate my family. I’ve really been focusing on unplugging on the weekends to connect with my family (they’re all sleeping now and I’m reading your blog waiting for my coffee to brew. :))

    Getting creative about ways to market on a budget, ways to gain leverage on my time (listening to webinars and audios while getting ready in the morning, or while folding laundry) and being realistic about my expectations, while still pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone are my productivity tips…from the point of view of a work at home mom.

    I just love your writing!

    Heather

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 5:49 pm

      Heather,

      So good to hear that the points are useful and applicable to you :) You know the value and necessity in time management and balancing your important family demands with work. Many people fail to strike a healthy balance.

      Oh and kudos to you for multi-tasking like a champ, listening to educational audio while going about your business. I really appreciate your comment and thanks for the compliment.

  5. Jane | Find All Answers
    April 16, 2011 | 9:37 pm

    Hi Jon,

    You have written a post just for me and many other part-time bloggers. I am still working on a 10-5 job (a Scientist in the field of Medical Physics). Well my day job takes a lot of my brain and energy and I am really left with very less time, given the household work and commitments that await me when I return to home.

    But I can proudly say that I planned ahead for starting this business and set short term goals to check my progress. I actually set a deadline for myself to make X amount of money by Y date, and I worked hard to make that happen. And it indeed happened. My blog has taken off the ground and is having a great flight.

    Since I write a lot about time management and goal setting on my blog, I am doing good with those aspects.

    Thanks for the wonderful post.

    Cheers,
    Jane.

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 5:53 pm

      Jane,

      Sounds like you have quite the brainy job! Your intelligence is evident in your content the way you break things down systematically and how I’ve noticed you approach things.

      It’s fantastic to know that you’ve been meeting your deadlines. You achieved your goals which is great but congrats for actually setting any – it’s rare. Thank you for stopping by.

  6. Jia Jun
    April 17, 2011 | 7:01 am

    Agree with Jane, Thanks Jon for the post. It’s a guide to us that don’t have full time to work on our blog and online business, so planning and mindset is really important to keep us on the right path.

    Learn to say no is also important to control your time waste on many other things other than those that move you one step closer to your dream.

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 6:15 pm

      Jia,

      Welcome and thank you for your input. Planning is big and mindset is even bigger since this all starts from within. You’re right – learning how/when to say no helps free up your time to move in on what matters most. I hope to see you around more, Jia Jun.

  7. Janet @ The Natural Networker
    April 17, 2011 | 3:52 pm

    Jon, aloha. Yet another excellent post with such great tips for those who want to start a business or who just started one.

    As you know, I believe people have to know their Why before doing anything. Once they do that, they can develop the mindset necessary to succeed.

    To me, Jon, one of the most important tips that you mentioned is to learn to say “no.” Saying “no” is a success skill that must be developed. It is actually easier to say “yes” than to say “no.”

    What people don’t realize, is that when they say “yes” they are actually saying “no” to something else. The only constant we have is time. How effectively we use it, determines our success and the quality of life.

    If we say “yes” to everything, we become overwhelmed, exhausted, cannot do a good job for our clients and our personal life suffers as well. How much easier it would be for people to develop the habit of prioritizing requests and saying “no” when appropriate.

    Since we are both fans of Sir Richard Branson, let me share a story about him with you that illustrates the importance of saying “no” when saying “yes” would not move you closer to your goals.

    Someone wanted Sir Richard to give an hour talk at an event and offered him $250,000; he declined. Thinking it must be the amount of money they offered, they raised it to $500,000; he declined. Still thinking it was about the amount of money they offi=ered, they then asked how much it would take to have him speak for an hour. The response:

    “no amount of money would matter”

    They went on to say,“Right now Richard has three main priorities he is focused on and he will only allocate his time to those three priorities, and speaking for a fee is not one of them.”

    Jon, that’s a key reason to his success; he knows how to prioritize his time. He learned to say “no” to the things that did not matter to how he chooses to live his life or to his goals.

    That’s exactly what everyone needs to do be they employees, budding entrepreneurs or vastly successful people. If people value their time and learn to say “no” then they are well on their way to living the life they want.

    Again, Jon, terrific advice.

    Best wishes for a great week. Aloha. Janet

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 6:39 pm

      Janet,

      Wow – “when they say ‘yes’ they are actually saying ‘no’ to something else.” Leave it to you to get all deep on us, Janet! I like it though, thank you.

      Ah, Sir Richard Branson. Certainly a force worth modeling our own businesses after (well – be prepared to take some risks, right?). Thank you for illustrating your point with this; great stuff. There are great advantages to showing great discretion on what we invest our time and focus.

      Thank you!

  8. Diana Simon
    April 17, 2011 | 4:14 pm

    Hi Jon, as you know I just wrote a post about your business taking time to grow. This is a complete list which I can relate too as I am working and also growing my business. Fortunately, I have a flexible schedule which doesn’t tie me to my job but creating a routine is difficult as my schedule changes daily.

    I love what you wrote about grow into your desired role than to achieve instant stardom. I thought about this and while I would love to be there, I think it would be hard to take in everything. So yes, I think growing into the desired role is more enjoyable that being thrown into the spotlight. The analogy that came to mind is biting off more than you can chew. Choking isn’t pleasant!

    Great post and have learned a lot here.

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 6:58 pm

      Diana,

      Having that workplace flexibility is an asset but if you have a shifting schedule I imagine it introduces challenges many of us don’t face.

      Yea, I believe that we don’t give much deep thought about our dreams and aspirations. Particularly, what it would honestly be like if we woke up tomorrow living our dream. Would we be ready? Would we have developed enough from a personal and professional standpoint? Probably not. Things to make you think.

      See you again soon, Diana.

  9. Gregory McGuire
    April 17, 2011 | 7:55 pm

    Hi Jon,

    Incredible post! It’s easy to go crazy when you’re working 40 hours a week (or 52, in my case), and then have to work on your dreams in your spare time.

    What do you do? Do you surrender your dreams? Do you quit your job?

    Here’s what I do: I usually get up at 4am. I’ll do a 30 minute workout, then start on business activities until 7:30, when I jump in the shower and grab some breakfast.

    Honestly, I’m pretty lucky, in that my work is a very laid back situation. I’m the sole employee, and have full access to the work computer, which my supervisor doesn’t mind, as long as I’m not neglecting my clients.

    I’m usually able to work on my business a couple hours during the day.

    In the evening, I usually get in another couple hours. Weekends I work on bigger projects like setting up a training page, commenting on blogs, making videos or tutorials.

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking post!

    Gregory

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 7:01 pm

      Gregory,

      Thanks! You have a unique situation and one that lends itself well to balancing both. The key point being that you don’t neglect your core duties. Man, you get up too early for me. I don’t know how you workout first thing in the a.m. either. Good for you, I bet it pumps you up for the whole day.

      Keep at it, Gregory, and best wishes.

  10. Jk Allen
    April 18, 2011 | 6:55 am

    Jon – My reply on this will be short and sweet! Excellent advise. This is something that I’ve done in the past and something that I’m living and breathing now, and have been for a while.

    I think this is one of the best ways to create a business, while you have a steady flow of income. It takes off the pressure, financially speaking. It does add to the workload – but hey, that’s just a part of the deal!

    Have a great week!

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 7:10 pm

      Jk,

      Great points. It’s one of those things where it takes a lot of discipline to “stay hungry” while you have the luxury of a steady income. But the best time to start something is when you’re cushioned with some extra cash. Less pressure which keeps your creativity (and sanity) intact :)

  11. Hi Jon,

    It can be frustrating to turn off the computer and go back to work. But, I think you just have to realize that it’s going to take you longer to get your business rolling if you have another job. The good thing is that you won’t have half a million dollars to pay back when you finally do become successful in your business.

    Lou Barba

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 7:15 pm

      Lou,

      Right it can have some serious benefits and drawbacks. Some people aren’t ambitious enough if they’re already earning a steady paycheck. I’ve read more than a few success stories of companies that began when the founders had their backs against the wall (no job, no Plan B). But yes, it can extend the time taken. Thank you for stopping by, Lou!

  12. Jason Yormark
    April 18, 2011 | 11:51 am

    If you can, try to find a partner to launch with. If you are working a 9-5, you’ll need the extra help to be able to accomplish tasks to actually get off the ground.

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 7:22 pm

      Jason – good advice, man. Some of us may not feel comfortable sharing a project or we become overwhelmed with the whole partnering concept. But I agree, when you find the right individual it will make a major league difference.

  13. Ian Belanger
    April 18, 2011 | 3:08 pm

    Hi Jon,

    I think this quote says it best.

    “Self, it’s going to get rough. I’m going to be tired some days and other days I’ll want to jump on a plane and leave everything behind. But that’s not reasonable. I have to keep pushing no matter what.”

    It won’t be easy, but great things hardly ever are easy. Starting an online business while working a full-time job is very challenging, but you have laid out some good tips here for people who are thinking about taking the plunge.

    All I can say to everyone is Go For It!

    Thanks for sharing Jon and have a great day!

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 7:42 pm

      Ian,

      I like your attitude – Go For It! Enthusiasm and passion are both useful when we’re faced with these types of challenges. Thanks, Ian, and take care.

  14. Rowena Bolo
    April 19, 2011 | 1:26 am

    Hi Jon,

    I’ve come to the right place, as I must say that this very post is intended for me. I will be working part-time very soon whilst building my home-based business. Well, I have no regrets that I did the first few steps to my entrepreneurial journey, full-time but yes, it does take time, hard work and consistency, that any newbie shouldn’t actually quit his/her job!

    I also feel that there’s some truth to being more productive when you know that you only have this much time in a day to work on your business, rather than knowing that you actually have the whole day. I guess it’s psychological, as well as it’s ‘forcing’ you to maximize your time.

    I will definitely be coming back to this post once I get my part-time job. And your whole blog is definitely a go-to resource for people who thankfully realized that they can still achieve financial freedom while having a day job. Thanks so much, Jon. Always appreciate you sharing your experiences with us.

    - Rowena

    • Jon
      April 22, 2011 | 9:51 pm

      Rowena,

      Motivation is a funny thing. Some of us work great when we’re under pressure and some of us need long lead times to accomplish what we need to. Yes, it does somewhat force you to maximize the time you have. You’ll lose some sleep, go to work bleary-eyed and some days even want to quit. But if you get through it and use your work paychecks to help subsidize your endeavor, you’ll have a leg up on the bootstrapper who NEEDS to generate quick revenue to survive.

      Thank you!

  15. April Williams
    April 19, 2011 | 7:47 am

    Great post Jon! I worked a full time job while buiding my business and while it was hard and stressing at times, it was worth the blood, sweat and tears, the late nights, the small sacrifices that I made. I am home full time now working my business.

    All of your points are great and give the big picture as to what people can expect when working full time and trying to start a business.

    If I had to give someone one piece of advice it would be to set realistic expectations. As you stated, you have to reach for the stars and you can’t be afraid to dream BIG, but you just have to keep things in check and know that it will take time to get a business going and accepting what you can and can not do.

    Great article!!

    April

    • Jon
      April 22, 2011 | 9:54 pm

      Hi April,

      Nothing great ever comes easy, huh? Congratulations to you for pushing through and achieving what so many people dream. Keep rockin!

      Yes, realistic expectations. That’s the ticket. It keeps you grounded and helps you make strategic moves instead of leaping all over thinking the more and bigger you risk the more the reward. That is not always the case.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, April.

  16. Devesh
    April 20, 2011 | 10:17 am

    You’re sharing awesome points here, Jon.

    I like your point about ‘Establish routine’ – I think planning ahead is very important and it even helps to say focused.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Jon
      April 22, 2011 | 9:57 pm

      Devesh,

      Thank you, sir. Routine sounds boring but it’s so key. If you know what it is that you have to accomplish (the 20% of total actions that impact your bottom line) then adhere to a routine to get them done! The sooner you can make it second-nature to do “action 123″ the sooner you see the exponential effect that routine will yield.

  17. Christian
    April 22, 2011 | 4:49 am

    Hi Jon!

    I’m new here on your blog. This post really connects with me. I am working right now in Japan and life in here is really all about work. That’s why I am building my business part time so that one day I could start working for myself.

    This post will really help a lot of network marketers including me. All of your tips are great and I will definitely follow and implement it.

    Thanks for sharing!

    I will definitely come back for more. :)

    -Christian

    • Jon
      April 22, 2011 | 9:59 pm

      Hi Christian,

      Welcome and thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your culture is one defined by hard work and perseverance; I admire you.

      Best wishes with your endeavor and I hope you achieve your dream. See you again soon…

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