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  • Writer's pictureThe Self-Made Entrepreneur

How to Start a Business While Working a 9-5: A Practical Guide

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

You're at your desk, 9-5 job underway, dreaming of that business you want to start. You're caught between the stability of your current job and the allure of entrepreneurship. Good news: You can have both. How? Let's get into it.

Find The Starting Line: Self-Assessment and Market Research

Young women thinking of new business ideas

Ask yourself the hard questions. Are you skilled enough? Can you handle stress? Answer these questions, and you're on your way.

After that, identify your target market. Use simple online surveys or social media polls to gather information. Don’t overcomplicate—ask questions like, “Would you use a service like this?” or “How much would you pay for X?”

Then, test your idea. One simple but effective method is to set up a basic landing page with an email opt-in. Run some low-cost ads targeting your audience and see if people sign up. No sign-ups could mean a lack of interest, while a lot of sign-ups could indicate potential.

Know Your Cents: Financial Planning

Budget carefully. Start by cutting down on non-essential expenses and consider saving a part of your salary specifically for the business.

Coins piled up with bills.

A $10,000 budget for the first year of business is not unreasonable. This can cover website costs, marketing, and minimal inventory. The goal is to get up and running, not to launch a Fortune 500 company overnight. Create a monthly budget breakdown: $500 on marketing, $300 on inventory, $200 on miscellaneous. Stick to it.

Watch Your Most Limited Resource: Time Management

Woman holding a clock over her face.

You can't create more time but you can certainly do more with the time you have. Find a way for you to stay on task as you switch from your day job to your side hustle. Perhaps, create a to-do list. Separate tasks into “urgent” and “important but not urgent” and tackle them accordingly. Utilize your weekends and lunch breaks. Remember, it's about quality, not quantity.

Strike A Balance: Juggling Two Responsibilities

Man fallen over on his messy desk.

Expect that stress will be part of the equation, especially as you are starting up. Take short breaks during your day to refocus. Don't underestimate the power of a 10-minute walk. Strive to maintain a clear division between your day job and your business. It keeps you efficient and sane.

The Legalities: What You Need to Know

Wooden block with the letters LLC

Choose a business structure that fits—sole proprietorship for simplicity, LLC for liability protection, or corporation for bigger ventures. This is a step you don't want to skip. Similarly, for tax purposes, separate your business and personal accounts to simplify your taxes.

Don't forget to go through your employment contract and make sure there are no clauses that prohibit you from starting your own venture. The last thing you want is legal trouble with your current employer.

Making That Money: Finding Your First Clients

Business people talking to each other in a crowd

To pick up speed in finding your first client, look into both online and offline opportunities. Networking isn’t just about meeting people; it’s about meeting the *right* people. Choose events where you know potential clients or referral partners will attend. Spend your weekends or after-work hours at industry-specific events rather than general meet-and-greets. Your time is limited, so make it count.

Then, make social media platforms work for you by posting useful content and interact with potential clients. In this day and age, you don’t need a marketing degree to get started here, just a smartphone and some dedication.

Final Thoughts:

As exhilarating as the entrepreneurial journey may appear, it's not a storyline from a movie or a tale from a motivational book. It's grounded in reality, complete with the challenges of balancing a 9-5 job and the complexity of starting a business. Sure, the romantic notion of "jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down" makes for a good story, but let’s not ignore the very real risks—and the very real responsibilities—you have right now.

The truth is, the majority of successful businesses weren’t built overnight or without a safety net. They were grown, nurtured—often while their founders worked another job to pay the bills. The path is less glamorous than what's often depicted: it’s paved with small, uncelebrated steps rather than grand, audacious leaps.

The wisdom lies in allowing yourself the time to make these small steps, in between the demands of your 9-5 and other life commitments. You don't need to bet the farm to start your dream business. You just need to make consistent progress, even if that means growing slower than you’d like. Small steps are still steps. And over time, they can take you to incredible places.

So go ahead and dream big, but start small. And remember, there's no shame in keeping your safety net intact while you build towards your dreams. Because in reality, that net doesn’t hinder your flight—it gives you the freedom to navigate your own path, at your own pace, toward the life you envision.


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