As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!
     

Can You Be an Entrepreneur in Your Spare Time?

This article was written by in Career and Work. 12 comments.


If anyone should be giving advice about how to become a successful entrepreneur, it would probably not be me. While I am earning money on my own outside of my day job, it’s not consistent or reliable. Part of the reason for this is that I never intended on becoming a business owner of this form. I’ve had a strong interest in computers since I was young and in web design and programming since 1994. While I decided I could see myself designing websites on the side, I never thought that writing would be the driver for the online business. Even when starting Consumerism Commentary five years ago, I didn’t start it with the intent of earning money.

I wouldn’t call my approach a “mistake” for me, but this approach is not the best for creating a successful business from scratch. Some of the best advice would be the opposite of my original thought process. Have clear goals, solicit social and financial support, be an expert in your field, research the market for your service or product, seek advice or mentoring from other similar, successful entrepreneurs, and don’t quit your day job.

The last piece of advice has been one that I have followed. At the end of last year, I decided that I would determine by the end of June 2008 whether I would be in a strong enough position to quit my moderately-supportive day job at a financial services company and give working for myself a try full-time. I decided not to quit.

There are strong arguments for maintaining a relatively secure job while laying the groundwork for your own business. With a stable income, you can fund your endeavors. With benefits from your day job, you don’t have to worry about making enough money from your side work to support you if you encounter medical emergencies.

On the other hand, there are some reasons why you can’t be a successful entrepreneur if all you can devote to the business is your spare time. The more aggressive your goals, the more risk you must be willing to take.

Abandon your day job. If “wild success” is an integral part of your goals, keeping a day job is a distraction. Yes, this means giving up your income. For driven individuals, this is strong motivation to develop the business to a point where it can support you as quickly as possible or to aggressively seek financial backing.

If I were to quit my day job, where I earn less in terms of gross pay than I earn from side projects in total, I would be able to focus on building my business with all of my effort rather than my “spare” effort at night and on weekends. Perhaps I’m not a risk taker, but I’m going to need a stronger sign of viability than what I’ve experienced so far. This is a risk a budding entrepreneur must take.

Don’t expect to have more time with your family. One of the main reasons people say they would like to become an “entrepreneur” is that it would allow them to spend more time with family. That may be fine if your intent is to sell products made by someone else on eBay but if you are trying to build a unique business that provides an original product or service or if you are trying to be the best at what you do, you will have less time for friends and family than you had when all you had to worry about was your day job.

All the other typical entrepreneurial advice still applies. It’ll take dedication and a detailed plan for a would-be entrepreneur to become successful. But that success requires sacrifices and risks. It’s easy to sell the idea that you can become rich “in your spare time” or in the “comfort of your own home” like the infomercials promise. A real entrepreneur, someone at the top of their niche, has no “spare time” and very little “comfort,” particularly when they are still building their business.

This article is part of the July MoneyBlogNetwork writing project. Here are more articles from around the web about entrepreneurship.

Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published July 28, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

Email Email Print Print
avatar
Points: ♦127,371
Rank: Platinum
About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Eric

I’ve got a similar situation with the exception that I’ve embarked on two endevours. First is my side consulting for Application security and second is the Money magazine / blog. I’ve found my family time greatly dimished so what I did was started staying up later to get things done and dedicating time and whole day’s for family time.

My income from the security consulting has been sporadic. On the same note however, I’ve not really put much effort into marketing, advertising or networking. If I did It’s entirely possible for me to pull 2 months worth of income with a single consulting job. Yet, my full time employment distracts both of my endevours by taking up 40 hours a week. I find myself in the catch22 you mention above. Leave the day job and potentially be successful, but hit some hard financial roads without the pay checks. Or stay here, generate a few extra dollars but continue burning midnight oil.

Reply to this comment

avatar Robert Stribling

Hello Flexo,
You are right on target with your advice about “start-ups”. and becoming an entrepreneur. Most people really don’t have any sense of what is going on behind the scenes at their “Day Job”, that inconvenince that feeds the family. I have never been employed by others, however, I consider myself very lucky to have begun my entrepreneur career as a young man (without wife and children). People should use your guidance and suggestions before they make the big leap toward thier dream.

With this bad U.S. economy of recent, I am seeing way to many under capitalized small firms circling the drain toward failure. This does not only effect the entrepreneur but also their families and friends. It’s sad.

Reply to this comment

avatar matty dread

i too did some side work outside my day job, and while I did bring in some income, the time I had to spend invoicing, collecting, documenting, and “communicating” (my term for clients asking for advice and not paying a fee) with clients and customers dug deep into my personal/family time.

i was doing that stuff at night and weekends and found myself real tired at my day job. i learned a lot, but probably the clearest messages were its not as easy as it seems, and once you take into account the administrative time, it is close to not worth it, or worth a lot less than you thought.

Reply to this comment

avatar Julie

I became completely self-employed by accident – I had been contracting through an agency with a company for almost two years, and we discovered that my contract buyout fee had gone away and I could contract directly with the company and skip the agency. So the company severed my contract and instead of having a couple months to transition I had a couple weeks. Suddenly I was working from home full-time, coming in only for meetings, and rolling with an ebb and flow of work instead of a guaranteed 40 hours per week. In retrospect, 40 hours a week was… safe. We had money in the bank, my husband had a lucrative day job, and he was encouraging me to follow my dreams and make a go of it – but I don’t think I would have made the leap if the platform hadn’t been pulled out from under me. Thankfully things have worked out; I’ve either billed or contracted for enough work so far in the year to surpass my pre-tax income from all of last year – and I’ve still got five months to bring in some more client work. I haven’t had to do any advertising, because the network of contacts I’ve built in the past few years working part-time on the side have provided enough work to keep me busy. I’ve also been able to raise my rates, so I can focus on business development and accounting when I need to without seeing a drop in income. I’ve been one of the lucky ones so far, and my “spare-time entrepreneurship” is paying off. My “tipping point” – the point at which I needed to focus on business full-time to really succeed and truly replace my day-job income – happily coincided with the point I was forced into it.

Reply to this comment

avatar CJ

I think the ideal situation is to get a job that allows you to do your side job or adds to it.

I work a job where I get a lot of downtime where the projects are feast or famine. I double duty sometimes as the receptionist as well. During slow times, I can work on my personal finance blog and side web design projects. This gives me a steady income while also preventing me from cutting into family time. It’s like the best of both worlds.

The trouble is finding such a job. I guess I just got lucky. :-)

Reply to this comment

avatar RC@Thinkyourwaytowealth

Flexo-

You are spot on about the time required-anyone expecting to be successful in their own business can pretty much kiss free time goodbye and plan on spending less time with their family.

Thanks for including my article from the group writing project in your post, i appreciate it.

Reply to this comment

avatar Curt

You may not have pulled the trigger yet, but you have positioned yourself into a comfortable and secure income. One the best goals with creating a side-business is to find new opportunities by networking with other while providing additional income. Todays job culture with little regard for loyalty increases the risk of having to change jobs several times during your career. Having a side-business can provide a great income between jobs and provides the opportunity to never return to the corporate world.

The recession is changing the economy, as the reality of broke consumers are high inflation disrupt markets. Many jobs are likely to shift around. For these reasons, I think everyone should start a side-business.

Reply to this comment

avatar Randy

Another issue to consider is whether or not your present employer will allow you to even have a side business. In high-tech, many employment agreements include clauses around the ownership of IP; and some can be written such that anything you develop effectively belongs to your employer, regardless of when or where it was developed.

If you’re considering a side business, then be sure to review your employment contract and consult with lawyer, if needed.

Reply to this comment

avatar Rick Vaughn

Interesting post,

There is nothing wrong with working for someone else if your happy. There are allot of bad things that can happen when you work for yourself. However, the thought of playing the corporate game for the rest of my life is just not fulfilling to me. I want to stake my claim and get my piece of the pie.

Reply to this comment

avatar Joe Crawford

Good info. I’ve been self employeed since my early twenties and experienced much of what you talk about here. I learned that it is in the way you build your business and the way you grow personally. We need different stuff at different stages in maturity, both business and life wise.

Starting a business on the side is simple to do today, compared to ten or fifteen years ago. People would be wise to realise that businesses have life cycles, its not a business goal to keep on going. Not to downplay persisitance, but there comes a time to stop racing a three legged horse in some business ventures. What I like most about a home based business that uses the internet is that it innovates, the marketing message, the product, service, visual aspects, they can all innovate and you control the business cycle… A very powerful entrepreneurial advantage..

Reply to this comment

avatar Ray The Money Man

Working from your home and on the side is the American way. While it isn’t easy it is the best way to get started without taking on massive debt.

Great post!

Reply to this comment

avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

Some people are not meant to be a business owner. I have great ideas and know the financial part, but I don’t have the follow through. So I worked for others. Now that I’m retired, I do plenty of things to ‘make’ money like coupons, retirement checks (saved in an account) and mystery shopping. I love my life.

Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment

Connect with Facebook

Note: Use your name or a unique handle, not the name of a website or business. No deep links or business URLs are allowed. Spam, including promotional linking to a company website, will be deleted. By submitting your comment you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Previous post:

Next post: