People are often taken aback when they ask me, "When should I start my new business?" and I answer, "Now."
"But I’m working," is a typical answer.
The best time to start being self-employed is when you're already employed. You'll only be able to work at or in your business part-time, but you'll have three big advantages that will smooth your business start up and give your new business a better chance of success.
1) You'll have business start up funding.
The main deterrent to starting a small business for most people is money. Even if they have a nest egg set aside and can afford the start up costs, they know that their new business isn't going to bring in any appreciable amount of money for a while and don't know how they're going to pay their bills in the meantime.
Getting a small business loan is an option for some, but small business loans are often earmarked for specific uses. (The Canada Small Business Financing Program is one such program that offers small business loans with restrictions on what can be done with the money.)
While you may be able to get a small business loan for purchasing property or equipment for your new business, getting a small business loan to cover your living expenses may well be impossible. (See 10 Things You Need to Know About Small Business Funding for more about business start up funding.)
Starting your new business part-time solves this problem neatly. You're still able to pay your bills and can afford to bankroll your new business because you've got money coming in.
2) Getting the first client or customer may be easier.
Getting the first client is another thing many people starting a new business struggle with. They proudly put out their shingles, do some advertising and then wait... and wait... and wait for the first client or customer to show some interest in their products or services. Meantime, their expenses roll merrily along.
But if you've started your business part-time while you're still working, your situation is very different. Besides giving you a financial cushion for starting your new business, your current job puts you inside a network that is full of potential clients and/or customers. Even if your co-workers and boss are not interested in the products and/or services you're now offering, he or she may know someone (or several someones!) who will be.
Remember, though, not to promote your new business in any way that is against your employer's company policy or that will turn off potential clients. Slapping bumper stickers advertising your business on all your co-worker's vehicles or talking endlessly about your new business all through lunch are not ways to win new customers and may get you into trouble at work as well.
However, mentioning what you're doing now to the people you're working with at the right time in the right place can get you clients and/or customers and help get your new business off the ground.
3) You'll have testing time.
Starting a part-time business also gives you the luxury of not having to fully commit to your new business right away. Instead, you'll have time to test both the feasibility of your business idea and the practicality of you running such a business.
You may find, for instance, that your market research went awry and there just isn't the interest in your products and/or services that you thought there was. It's a whole lot easier to drop an idea that's not working and move on if you have a job to fall back on.
Or you may find that the business idea is fine but that you personally are not the right person to implement it. For example, friends of mine once started a Bed and Breakfast business only to discover that they didn't actually like hosting strangers in their home and that running the B&B took many more hours a week than they had anticipated. Just like attractions to other people, attractions to particular businesses may or may not work out.
Part-Time Business Smoothes Your Business Start Up
Starting a part-time business while you're employed cuts a lot of your risk when you're starting a new business and makes it easier for you to find out what kind of chance for success your new business has. While you obviously won't have as much time to work on your new business as you would if you quit your job and threw yourself into the business start up process full time, the advantages of starting a part-time business make up for the slow start.