Every successful business starts with a great idea. But if you’ve found entrepreneurial inspiration while still working a day job, how can you develop it without quitting your nine to five? Here are seven approaches to take.
- Be Realistic
First, honestly decide whether your idea is realistic beneath your initial enthusiasm. Does it really have the potential for full-time success? Do you have the resources to develop it within a reasonable time scale, and can you handle working two jobs in the meantime without burning out?
Market research will help you answer some of these questions, but it pays to start out with a clear picture of what you want to achieve and what’s actually possible.
- Develop the Idea
If you decide your idea has real potential, start to put some flesh on its bones. Develop a prototype product or a working preview of the service. Draw up details of the target market and ideal customer. Put together a solid estimate of costs and potential profits.
Build as full a picture as you can without committing too many resources. This is the crunch point where you decide whether your idea is worth your total commitment.
- Think Branding from the Beginning
For most ventures, strong branding is key to success. And with the strongest brands, the key values are baked into the entire operation from the beginning. Decide now what your business stands for, which type of personality it will project, and how you’ll approach marketing and communications.
Don’t leave these choices until later, as branding should be at the heart of everything you do. It needs to be strong from the outset if you want to maximize your use of resources while your working attention is still divided.
- Plan and Prioritize
There’s no escaping the fact that growing a venture while still working will leave you short of time. You’ll need to make every minute count, so plan your route forward carefully, prioritize ruthlessly, and stick meticulously to the timetable you’ve created.
Set yourself clear and achievable tasks, measurable short-term targets, and realizable long-term goals. Only by knowing exactly where you stand can you move ahead quickly enough to succeed.
- Don’t Burn Your Bridges
The sad truth is that most new ventures don’t succeed. If your superiors feel your attention and energies are divided, you might find your hand is forced before you’re ready to commit to your venture full time.
Bearing this in mind, tell no one at your current workplace that you’re building a new business until you’re 100% sure you’re ready to make the switch, unless your workplace has a culture of encouraging it.
“Employees will start side businesses regardless of whether I support it or not, so I’ve chosen to encourage it”, says Isaac Rau, CEO of Proactive SEO Solutions. “By taking this approach we’ve actually increased business because the clients that they can’t handle, they pass to the company.”
“In addition, my employees tend to sharpen their skills at home more after work, and develop quicker than those who are less productive in their off hours”, says Rau.
- Reinvest Profits
When you start to make a profit, reinvest every cent into growing your new business. Don’t be tempted to reward yourself for your effort so far, or to treat your profit as new income. Don’t divert revenue to build up a financial safety net that will allow you to leave your day job earlier.
Without total reinvestment, your new business is unlikely to grow fast enough or large enough in a realistic time to consistently pay your bills. You’ll know the time has come to switch when you can survive off your stable business income alone.
- Don’t Overreach
Lastly, when the time comes to finally work on your venture full time, don’t be overtaken by enthusiasm and try to ramp up growth too aggressively. Your first few months as a fully independent entrepreneur should be used to consolidate the business you have, making sure it’s healthy enough to survive the inevitable difficulties that will crop up.
Without the income insurance of your day job, stability and resilience should be the focus, with growth following once the foundations are solidly reinforced.
Clearly, growing a business while holding down a day job will be a challenge in terms of time, energy, and finances. But if you approach your venture carefully and methodically, it’ll soon reach the stage where working it full time is a realistic option.
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