Strategy, Legal & Operations

How to start a business without quitting your day job

Many successful business owners don’t start their working life as an entrepreneur. Many of them…

Many successful business owners don’t start their working life as an entrepreneur. Many of them are employees of another business but for one reason or another decide to start their own business.

Steve Jobs worked for Atari Inc before he left to found Apple Computers with Steve Wozniak.

However, while you might be very confident in your business prospects, it wouldn’t be wise to leave your day job to run your business unless you are absolutely sure that your business can support you.

This leaves you in the possibly tricky situation of trying to start a business without quitting your day job.

In 2010, I set up my own web design business and ran it part time for several months before leaving my day job to run the business full time.

So here are some tips that I gathered from my own experience to help you along the way.

1.  Talk to your boss

It is really important that you are honest and upfront with your current employer.

First check your contract of employment to see if there is anything in it which specifies that you can’t start your own business while being employed at that company.

Even if there is nothing that legally prevents you from starting your own business while working at the company, you still need to let your boss know what you are doing.

Reassure your boss that your business won’t take away from your commitment to your day job. Be honest about what your long-term plans are.

Is this something you plan to do concurrently with your job for the foreseeable future or do you plan to leave your job if the business takes off?

If your new business is essentially a competitor of the company you work for, you will need to ensure that you do not try to take any of your employer’s customers or engage in unethical business practices.

With your conscience clear, you can then move forward with your business.

2. Make a plan

From the outset, you should decide if you ultimately want to leave your job to run your business full time or if you’re happy to do both at the same time for the foreseeable future.

If you do plan to leave then you will need to put a plan in place for your business including cash flow projections so you can decide when you think the business will be profitable enough for you to leave your job.

You may want to start saving as the first month without a pay cheque will feel like a very rainy day.

If the business runs through a rough patch, would you have enough money to sustain you for a few months?

Consider all of your options. Is it possible to take a year of a career break so you can run your business full time for a year and still have the option to return to your job if things don’t work out?

Creating a business plan will force you to answer some tough questions about the potential profitability of your business.

3. Organise your time

Don’t get caught in the trap of trying to run your business while you’re at work.

While you are at work do not take calls or answer emails about your own business, leave that for when you are off work.

If you are working part time, you can use the days you are off to run your business. If you are working full time, will you be able to run your business in the evenings and at the weekends? Is this realistic?

If you are working full time and running your own business, you may eventually burn out, which will leave you unable to run your business or work as an employee.

Make sure you factor in down time and be practical about what is really possible.

By organising your time in the right way, you will have a better chance of balancing the requirements of your job with running your business.

4. Don’t forget about tax

From a tax perspective, it is fine to work as both a PAYE employee and self-assess your income as a business owner but you will need to ensure you do your tax returns in the same way as any full time business owner would.

You may need to register for VAT and do VAT returns, so ensure you remain legislatively compliant. If you have any questions, contact your accountant or your local Irish Revenue office.

Do not rely on advice from friends or family when it comes to paying your tax.

5. Get the right advice

Some family members will give you great encouragement. Others will think you are mad to start a business and even leave your job to run your own company.

People who are close to you may let their emotions affect the advice they give you. Even work colleagues will offer you advice but they may have their own ulterior motives.

That is why it is essential that you seek advice from a professional who can take an objective view. Look for a business coach or career mentor.

You need to consider what affect running the business will have on your career prospects.

Will it make you less likely to be promoted or will it show your employer that you are capable of much more than they thought? Either way it’s important to consider the full impact of your decision.