How To Start Your Dream Business When You Just Can't Quit Your Job (Just Yet)
Last week we talked a lot about having a platform for your business and why it is so crucial to create one when you are getting started. We also dived into financial independence, which is an idea I really want to share with other entrepreneurs. I feel like those two topics are the basics for getting started doing your dream work, and also for creating your dream lifestyle.
One thing that I keep coming back to again and again is the idea of starting your new business while you are currently employed. I certainly remember what it is like to feel stuck in a job I didn’t like, but knowing that I couldn’t just up and quit quite yet. So today we’re going to talk about what it takes to start your dream business even while you are going to the 9-5 everyday.
Tip #1: Figure Out Your Quit Number
If you don’t feel truly fulfilled at your job and you would like to replace that work with your own dream work, the first step is to figure out your quit number.
So...what is that? Your quit number is the amount of money you need to quit your job and focus solely on independent work. This can be a certain amount in the bank that you believe will float you until your business starts earning.
Or, it could also be a monthly amount that you need to cover all of your expenses after you’ve quit. Perhaps you need your business to be earning at least $2000 per month to leave your employment.
Or maybe you have some savings already and you realize that if you just reach $5,000, or $10,000, or maybe $20,000 then you’ll have a big enough buffer to take the leap.
The important thing here is that you know that number. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of repeatedly thinking that you just need to be a little further along… then further still… and on and on. When you decide that number upfront, you’ve intentionally set an end line for yourself. Be sure you don’t keep moving the goal post once you’ve reached it.
Tip #2: Start A Business That Can Be Performed In The Off Hours
Most businesses can be worked on during the off hours, at least in the beginning. Marketing, answering emails, and website building can all be done at any time of day. However, you need to think about when you will be able to deliver whatever it is that you do.
If you are starting a business that serves others during the same hours that you need to be at your job, you’ll find that there is a tough gap area between having no customers and having enough customers to quit.
When you have no customers, heading out to your job won’t be an issue. But when you gain a few that you need to really impress, but yet not enough to provide the income needed to quit, then you’re in a tight spot.
This is one reason I don’t recommend starting a service business. I’m certainly not saying it’s impossible. But just be aware that you will be working long hours and time will be very tight.
Tip #3: Go Down To Part Time When Your Passion Starts Making Some Money
So let’s say that you’ve really hustled and you’ve started working on your passion while you’re still working the 9-5. You’ve got your platform set up and ironed out, and you’re starting to see a trickle of clients coming through. This may be an excellent time for you to go down to part time at your current job.
Getting a business set up in the first place is one of the hardest parts. It’s tedious, sometimes confusing, and always time consuming. The next hurdle is finding clients, so if you’ve found a handful of them already then you know you’re on the right track.
If you keep working part time for now, you have the benefit of temporarily keeping your solid paycheck (and health insurance if possible), while freeing up 20 hours per week to dedicate towards your business.
The key here is to make damn sure you use those extra 20 hours as work time, not play time. When you go into business for yourself, you’ll find that your friends and family often don’t see work time as set in stone as you need it to be.
They may feel that if you are not at your job, you are free to hang out. You will need to be extremely clear about the hours you set for working at home on your business, and let them know that that time isn’t optional.
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Tip #4: If You Can't Go Part Time, Then Quit
In a lot of positions, your boss may simply tell you that going part time isn’t an option. Bummer. If that’s the case however, don’t worry. There is another way.
If you can’t go part time and you're getting too much work in your business to stay full time, your next best bet is to quit your job and pick up some immediate side work to keep you going until your business provides full time work. Of course, I really don’t recommend you do this until:
- Your platform is nearly complete, and
- You have a small but steady stream of clients coming in
If you can’t say that you currently meet those two criteria, I would suggest you stay at your job until you do. The unfortunate truth is that most businesses, and many freelancers, don’t succeed past the first year. So if you don’t have any clients or your platform is weak at best, quitting your job could be very risky.
So what do I mean by immediate side work?
By that I mean you should find any work that you can pick up starting today to pay your bills. What skills do you have that can be transferred quickly into part time work? Here are a few ideas:
- Child care
- Lawn maintenance
- Graphic designer
- Website builder
- Pet care provider
Tip #5: Be Prepared To Hustle
Work during your evenings, weekends, and even holidays. Get up early before work and put in some hours on your passion project.
The truth is that if you want to make money doing work you love, and you have to keep your job for the time being, you are going to have to hustle. There is just no other way, unless you have someone else who can financially support you.
The good news is, building that kind of work ethic will prepare you for self employment. Once the rose colored glasses of being your own boss and making your own hours wears off, you will see that entrepreneurs work much harder than people in just about any other profession. And that is after they are already established.
Why do you think so many new businesses fail? In the beginning it is a ton of work, with little to no pay, and no promise of a successful future. So if you want to play this game, you’re gonna have to be tough as nails. Mostly on yourself.
That being said, it’s so worth it. I can’t imagine doing anything else
Tip #6: Get Out Of Debt And Build An Emergency Fund Before You Bail
If you haven’t yet read this post on debt and entrepreneurship, check it out because it is a great place to start!
The bottom line here is that being debt free and having some savings is going to amp up your chances of success in business tenfold (or more). As you probably have already discovered, it is really hard to quit your job when you have tons of payments to make and you’re just making it month to month.
Your best bet is to get super frugal and pay off any credit cards you have with an outstanding balance first. Then pay off any auto loans, or sell the car if you can and join the biking community. Don’t worry about a home loan if you have one. You can always get a roommate or try putting your spare room(s) on AirBnB if needed.
Once that is out of the way, make sure you have at least a couple of month’s worth of expenses saved up in your bank account. $3,000-$7,000 should do it.
Tip #7: Break Down Your Goals Into Weekly Lists
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
The first step here is to decide on a tentative quit date. How long do you want to stay employed before you set out on your own? I would recommend giving yourself at least six months to start up, depending on your passion. Some businesses, like blogs, take longer and you can expect a year or two of solid work before you make any money.
Other businesses, such as freelancing graphic design or website building, could be profitable within just a few months. Figure out where your business type falls on this spectrum and then set your quit date.
Once you have a quit date, your next task is to break down the steps needed to get there into weekly goals.
What do you need to have done by the end of the first month, second month, and so on to reach your goal? Then break down each of your monthly tasks into weekly to do lists and mini goals. I’ll give you a very simple example, but note that yours should be much more detailed!
Quit Date - Six months from now.
Goal: To set up a very basic website for my services.
To Do List:
- Research and decide on a webhost
- Purchase domain name
- Choose a template and upload it
- Write the about and contact pages
Goal: Decide what services and prices I will offer getting started.
To Do List:
- Research similar businesses in my field
- Brainstorm my services and prices.
- Narrow this list to three basic services.
- Write my services page with accompanying prices.
- Ask three friends to critique my decisions.
Of course, this breakdown should go on until the six month mark. While this process may seem rather tedious, it is important to start your work knowing exactly what you should be doing and being very clear on your goal for that week when you start.
Without a framework, it is all too easy to become confused and lose sight of the milestones you need to meet to make your dream work a reality. Keep in mind that there are plenty of things that you don’t know right now, so it’s ok to keep the later weeks open to change as you go along.
If this post has left your brain spinning, don’t worry! I know it is a lot to take in all at once. Remember that you don’t have to try to do everything today. Just do one little piece every time you sit down to work. You’ll get there. I promise. In the meantime, let’s chat in the comments! Here’s the question I’d like to hear your answers for:
Question: What has been the hardest part of business building so far? What small (or large!) wins did you accomplish this week?
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