Should I Work Full or Part-Time as I Build My Business?
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You’ve finally decided to start your own business. That’s exciting — congrats!
You’re passionate about your idea and confident in your ability to pull it off.
Still, you’re not sure how to fit being an entrepreneur into your life – especially your professional life.
The big question is: do you build your enterprise on the side while working full-time?
Or, do you more fully commit to being self-employed, and go part-time or even no-time in your career?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t cut and dry. A case could be made for either option, depending on your situation.
Don’t worry, though — we’ll lay out what you need to consider so you can make the best decision for your circumstances.
Working Full-Time as You Grow Your Business
Most folks who start a business do so on the side, part-time while they work their full-time job.
Why? You probably guessed it — money. They generally don’t have ample enough cash reserves to cover their living expenses for an extended period while they start their enterprise.
The idea is if you keep your full-time job, you still have the income you need (and are used to getting) coming in. Those funds can also help you cover your start-up costs, so there’s less to finance.
Going this route, you’ll get to feel financially secure while you gauge if there’s a real demand for your product or service.
Additionally, you’ll get to keep your health insurance and other employee benefits while you ramp up your business income to a point where you can easily cover those costs on your own.
If your business is successful, your revenue will ultimately exceed the paycheck from your job. Then, you can leave your career to focus on being a full-time business owner.
Pitfalls of This Approach
While this path is financially safer, it’s not without its downsides. For one, time management is likely to become an issue. Building a business takes a lot of effort.
In the initial phase, your focus will be on setting up systems, getting your name out there, creating/procuring products, and designing service offerings.
Later, as you start to make sales, you’ll need to serve your customers. None of the operational or marketing duties go away, either.
Eventually, as you get closer to replacing your full-time job’s income, you’ll probably be working full-time (or nearly) in your business. That means you’ll have to hold down two full-time jobs for a while.
As you can imagine, the risk of burnout is very real!
You need to consider the impact this approach could have on your health and your family.
Stress and lack of sleep can lead to grave medical concerns. It may also cause you to be irritable and lash out at loved ones, straining your relationships.
And, depending on who’s in your household, you may need to make changes to your child care arrangements, which can get costly.
In reality, it could be quite a while before you can relax and spend regular quality time with the folks closest to you.
Are you prepared for that? Are you familiar with self-care techniques that may help?
Type of Business is a Factor
You should also note that some business types aren’t well-suited to be built on the side while you work full-time.
For example, if you want to open a restaurant or a shop and you can’t afford to hire help, it will be tough to attract customers if you’re open with extremely limited hours due to your job.
It will be far easier to keep your full-time job if your business is performing a service remotely on a flexible schedule. Some examples include web development, graphic design, virtual assistance, tutoring, or content writing.
Building your business alongside a full-time job can also work well if you’re selling products from a digital storefront.
Part-Time (or No-Time!) Employment
This approach is far less common because it takes a significant amount of financial resources to pull off.
You’ll also likely lose access to your employee benefits, which could result in a massive jump in your health insurance expense.
But if you have the means, due to savings, other household income, benefits from your spouse’s employer, or some combination – this approach can work.
The most significant advantage of going all-in on your business is that you’ll have more time to work on it and in it. This is essential for a brick-and-mortar business as you’ll be able to operate for longer hours and serve more customers.
Theoretically, regardless of business type, you should see your revenue climb faster because you’re investing more time and effort from the get-go.
You’ll also have less to worry about since you don’t have a full-time job in the picture.
That means you should get more rest, be less frazzled, and enjoy better relationships with loved ones. Your life can be more balanced.
Pitfalls of This Approach
While going this route can result in a more relaxed lifestyle and the realization of quicker profits, there are no guarantees.
It could take quite a while for you to start making sales. And the stark reality is: your business may never take off.
Do you have a financial contingency plan if things don’t go as you expect or hope? It’s never fun to bet against yourself, but you do need to maintain a certain standard of living.
So, before you start your business, try to set up a financial safety net that has multiple layers such as:
- extra cash in your checking account
- funds in an emergency savings and sinking fund accounts
- investments in a brokerage account
- investments in a retirement account
- personal and business credit cards with significant credit limits
Of course, you don’t want to have to touch your retirement savings or go into massive credit card debt. But, if it’s a matter of going without necessities, it’s nice to know those resources are there.
Along with your multi-layer financial safety net, you need to decide when you would pull the plug on your operation.
Would you wait until you reached the credit card phase? Or will you look for a job when your savings starts running low?
To that end, it’s always a good idea to stay connected with folks in your previous full-time career. If you do need to return to the workforce, it will be easier with a warm network.
Also, consider maintaining any industry certifications you hold until you’re sure your business is a success.
So, What’s Best for Me?
Working full-time while starting your business might be best if you:
- can operate your business remotely on a flexible schedule
- don’t have enough cash or other income available to afford quitting your full-time job
- have the time, mental bandwidth, and emotional capacity to juggle it all
- have a family who can accept your temporarily-reduced time for them
Working part-time, job-sharing, or working no-time while starting your business might be best if you:
- need to operate a brick and mortar location and can’t afford to hire help
- have sufficient resources to cover your living expenses until the business takes off
- have a well-developed contingency plan in case things don’t work as hoped
- have a family that’s comfortable with financial uncertainty
Full-Time Work Tips
If you’re going to work full-time while building your business, consider implementing these tips:
- Have a clear reason why you’re working this hard — it will motivate you.
- Schedule family time and commit to putting any work on hold for the duration.
- Develop a self-care routine and hold it sacred.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Have a set cutoff time in the evening so you can unwind before sleep.
- Know when you can quit your full-time job — and actually do it!
Part-Time Work Ideas
If you’re going to work part-time as you grow your business, consider asking your current full-time employer if you can move to a part-time or job-share position, preferably remote.
They may be especially open to entertaining this idea as they work to hire your full-time replacement.
You could also try to hodge-podge together a part-time income from multiple, very part-time, remote gigs.
Perhaps you write two articles a month for a website in your new niche. Then, you offer virtual assistant services to another business for 5 hours per week.
The possibilities are limitless, and income diversification is priceless. You may even learn new skills and develop new connections that help your budding enterprise.
As you can see, considering whether to work full-time or part-time while you build your business is a nuanced decision and just one of many challenges entrepreneurs face.
There are several factors you’ll want to consider and some preparation that's necessary before you commit to your choice.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of this, consider speaking with a qualified financial professional or a coach.
They can help you assess the state of your financial house and show you how to budget with a variable income.
Also, be sure to network with other entrepreneurs who have been where you are — their insight is invaluable.
Finally, stay tight-knit with your family. You’ll need their support and understanding no matter how you decide to build your business.
Next: Should You Ever Work For Free?
Article written by Laura
Laura is a frequent contributor to Women Who Money and the founder and blogger behind Every Day by the Lake.