I am an entrepreneur and I also hold a full-time job. No, my full-time job isn't at a company I cofounded, but one that I am an employee at. I am an account manager for a market research services company as well as the cofounder and Business Guy at WishBooklet, a gift crowdfunding website that makes raising money for the gifts you really want easy. I like to say I’m an employee by day, CEO by night and an entrepreneur 24/7.
All my life I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur. Growing up, all my heroes were entrepreneurs, my dad was an entrepreneur for a couple of years and I even studied entrepreneurship in college. So what’s the first thing I did when I graduated from college? I got a job. Getting a job after college wasn't part of my initial plans but it was a decision I made after trying my hand at entrepreneurship for a couple of months.
I started my first company during my senior year in college. Well, at the time it wasn't as much of a company as it was a class project. Part of the entrepreneurship program’s curriculum at CSUF was to launch a business during the last semester of your senior year. Along with two other partners, we created a prototype for our online expert video marketplace startup. The marketplace generated a little bit of revenue and I was able to pass the class and graduate from college.
I put my startup on the back burner for a while when I accepted a position at the current company I am employed by. It wasn't until a couple months after starting my job that I found the motivation and experience to turn my class-project into a real business.
While CEO of this startup, I was able to raise a seed round of funding, appoint a board, sign-up celebrity coaches and launch a public beta all while holding a full-time position. This start-up eventually lost traction but I gained a ton of confidence and knowledge that I applied to my job and future business opportunities.
While under employment, I have held 3 positions and ran 3 companies. The second company I started was a social media manager that had mild success and the third and current startup I run is WishBooklet, which has been generating revenue since the first month. Starting these companies while holding a full-time position was no easy task, but sometimes being an entrepreneur while having a job is the way to go. Here are some lessons that I have learned from my journey so far.
1. Never work on your business while at work
Being an entrepreneur while having a job feels like having two full-time jobs because it’s pretty much exactly that. On average, I work about 45-50 hours a week at my job and 25-30 hours a week on my business. I learned very quickly that you need spend your time wisely and effectively. Never work on your business while at your job and try not to work on job-related matters while working on your business.
Try to keep the two entities separate and make sure you are 100 percent focused on whatever you are working on at the moment. This is very important because it doesn't only force you to do your best on whatever you’re working on but it also saves you time. If you are 100 percent focused while at work it allows you to excel and to get all your work done on time, eliminating overtime that could cut into your business hours.
Overtime is the enemy to an entrepreneur. When working on your business, put on headphones, ignore work email and get stuff done. You will be surprised at how much time you can save when you cut out distractions.
2. Work out/Find a Hobby
Being an entrepreneur while having a job takes up a lot of time. More than likely you are working an 8-5 and then working on your business during the evening or early hours of the morning. The last thing you want to do is get overloaded and discouraged. You should do your best to avoid going straight from work to working on your business.
Every day after I get off work at about 5 pm or 6 pm, I go to Crossfit for an hour, eat dinner and then spend about 3-4 hours working on my business. I like taking this break because it helps me unwind, eliminate stress and gives me some free time to get my creative juices flowing. I would suggest you find something you enjoy doing other than working and spend about an hour doing it every day.
3. Provide visibility to your management
Sometimes things can get cloudy between you and your management when you have a company you run on the side, especially when you’re in a management position yourself. This isn't something I experienced myself but something I’ve had close entrepreneur friends experience. I haven’t had any issues with my management regarding my side businesses and I attribute this to me providing them visibility on the existence of my company.
You don’t have to let them know everything, just that you run a company after hours and that it won’t affect the work at your job. It’s best your management hears this from you rather than from some article about your company. If you’re growing your business correctly, it won’t be a secret for long. Providing visibility also has its perks, I was able to get a promotion that was partially based off the experience I obtained while working on my business.
4. Learn how to budget
It’s no secret that it costs money to make money. Launching a business requires you to do a bunch of things that require money. One of the benefits of having a job while starting a company is that you can pay for these things. You will learn in the beginning stages of growing your business that a good deal of your work paycheck will go towards your business.
Make a budget and do your best to keep the cost low. Make sure you’re only paying the things you absolutely need and avoid things you can do on your own or that can wait for a later time. Try not to pay for marketing or PR in the early stages. There are plenty of free ways to market your product and get your name out there. You can start worrying about paying for larger items once your business has started generating revenue or you've receive funding. Do your best to bootstrap and stay lean.
5. Be Patient
Very few businesses are overnight successes. This holds to be even truer when you’re starting a business while holding a job. You have to remain patient and understand that it will take longer to get your business off the ground while having a job. Spend your time wisely, go after small wins in the beginning and do your best not to get discouraged. When I first took my job after having started my first business, I felt I let my education and instructors down by becoming an employee.
I later realized I was utilizing my entrepreneurial mindset every day at my startup and the organization I worked for. Your business becomes a marathon while working, find a good productive pace and keep it. Be patient and never lose faith in your company’s vision, and most importantly never lose faith in yourself.