31 May, 2017

How to start your own business while working on the side

If you’re looking to escape the rat race and have a great idea for a venture of your own, getting started with your own business has never been easier. But don’t go in with rose tinted glasses, making a success of your business is tough. Really tough. If you need convincing, just read this article from Inc. on the Psychological Toll of Being an Entrepreneur. 
So if you’re going to go down this route you really need to be committed to it and on top of that, if you’re going to start your new business while continuing to work as an employee in the first instance (whether that’s full time or part time) you’re going to need to keep your energy in a good state. This will mean living your life differently, not going out on weekend benders when that’s the time you have to put into your new venture. Not spending your money on the latest pair of trainers if that money needs to be spent on Facebook advertising. And not spending the money that should be being saved for your end of year tax return on fancy dinners.

But if you’re willing to go the distance the rewards can be fantastic, not just monetarily, but also from having built something that affects customer’s lives as well as the people you employ! If you’re at the jumping off point here’s a few ideas it’s worth considering as you get started.

Finding the Balance

Starting out you’re going to be working two jobs and this can be tricky to manage. You have to make time for everything. Set specific times aside for yourself, your friends & family and schedule in things like daily exercise (neglecting your physical health as you go will cause you problems down the line). Of course it can feel like you need to be working all the time (more like work/work than work/life) and it’s true you will need to work more hours than your friends who may have a steady 9-5.

But working to exhaustion or illness could easily result in ruining a business that. Start to think about what environments, people, food and drink build you as a person and create a strong foundation on which to grow your new business. And ultimately, don’t forget you can’t do it on your own, find those people who will help make your business a success and keep them close!

Understand your employment contract

If you’re going to start your own business you must check your employment contract before you get started. It’s not a glamorous place to begin but there are planty of contracts that include clauses either not allowing workers to carry out work outside of their existing role. Or much more importantly some organisations will claim intellectual ownership of anything you “invent” or create while you are employed by them. That means you could risk coming up with a great idea, getting started only to find down the line that you don’t own the thing you’ve sweated over! It’s also worth considering if there’s anything in your contract that considers conflicts of interest? The last thing you want to do is breach your contract and risk termination. You should investigate this carefully and ideally speak with Human Resources – who should be able to deal with questions confidentially.

Who are you going to share this with?

Of course you’re excited to start your own business! But think about what we mentioned earlier. The energy needed to make this happen is a lot and you need people around you who will support not drain you. Make a careful decision about whether to tell colleagues or not (and which ones) will they support and encourage you? Or would this just cause unnecessary tension or conflict?

It’s also a good idea to talk with your boss. You may be able to discuss how they can support your new venture. You might find that flexible or reduced working hours are an option. Some public sector companies make provision for a full or part time career break, meaning you could have the added cushion of knowing you’ll be able to come back to work if the worst does happen.

Respect the boundaries

Whilst you run your business and are still employed, you must respect the boundaries. Don’t use company time to run your new business venture. Don’t spend huge amounts of time talking with your colleagues about what you’ll do when you leave. You must recognise the fact that as you leave it will shift the team dynamic and can affect morale. And do everything you can to leave on good terms with the people your work for and with.

Get your finances in order

It might not be something you want… but if you’re going to make money, you’ve got to pay your taxes (unless your name is Jimmy Carr). So whether you start out as a sole trader or a limited company, you must declare this to HMRC once revenue starts coming in. (It’s a legal requirement to do this so make sure you know the rules and regulations by either speaking with an accountant or reviewing the HMRC website which has a huge resource of information). Then at the appropriate date you’ll need to file a self assessment or corporate accounts on time and pay the correct tax. Don’t ignore this or you will create unnecessary problems for yourself.

While we’re on the topic of finances, a cheap virtual office address from the Hoxton Mix is a great way reduce your costs going forward.

Be Organised and focused

You must have order, structure and process if you are going to get things done in a reliable, repeatable fashion. Your time must be structured (and jealously guarded). Set goals and stick to them. And make sure you understand what the most important goals are. At the end of the day, the life blood of your business is revenue and the only way you’re going to have that is through repeated sales. No sales = no business. This means that however it may feel, your primary focus must be on getting sales.

Develop a support network

Finally having people around you that are going to support you is key. You can’t do it all on your own and there will be times when you need people who can provide moral support, a different perspective on a particular problem or maybe even financial support. You can make this network from friends and family but you must develop your business network. These are people who understand the highs and lows of running a business, have potentially had the struggles and found ways through and more often than not will know someone who can help when a specific hurdle arises.

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