So you want to start a business. Chances are, you’ve already got a day job but want to be your own boss, or work on your passion full-time. While that’s great, it’s going to take some perseverance to balance the 9-5, your new venture, and that thing called ‘life’. How on earth is it done?
New businesses are mostly born out of passion rather than necessity, which gives them a distinct advantage: the people driving their creation are motivated. Whether you’re turning your hobby into a business, or have identified a niche in the market you just can’t miss, it’s this passion that’ll keep you going through the long hours.
However, tempting as it may be to quit your day job in glorious and dramatic fashion, hold your horses for a bit. A steady income is a very welcome thing in the early days of a startup, especially while you’re testing your product or service to the market and haven’t caught any customers just yet.
You day job gives you other advantages, too: there’s a ready-made audience for networking and promotion already there in your colleagues. Be sure not to infringe on work time when you pin down your colleagues at the coffee point, and definitely make sure you’re not stepping on any contractual clauses or conflicts of interest!
The skills you learn in a day job are invaluable in growing your startup: whether it’s project management, task prioritisation, or telephone sales manner, there are still things you can learn and pick up before you take the big leap.
And yet: working the 9-5 AND running a startup is exhausting. How do people do it?
Find out where you can pass tasks to someone else. We’re not necessarily talking about during your day job: you can delegate life tasks, too.
Hire a cleaner to come over once a week or fortnight for an hour, for example. It may feel like an unnecessary cost (especially when you’re watching the startup purse strings), but work out the time investment instead. One hour of freedom to work on your startup versus £15 and not having to scrub your toilet. It’s a no-brainer!
You can delegate out other tasks, too. If you’re feeling swamped by the administrative side of creating and growing your startup, think about hiring a freelance virtual PA. You can pay by the task or by the hour, and have no financial obligations beyond those you agree to for the task completion. This way, you get to take the tedious admin off your hands without employing someone full-time, saving so much time that you can re-invest in developing your startup.
Take On An Intern
If your purse strings are so tight they’re ready to snap, it may feel impossible to delegate any tasks. Consider where you could delegate tasks for your startup, and find an eager student willing to take an internship.
You’ll need to be flexible due to their study schedule, but it is a great work experience opportunity for eager business minds, and helps you offload some of the project work involved in running a startup. (It might even save you employment hassle too, should you grow and want to hire them permanently – no recruitment fees!).
Become A Pro At Organisation
You need order in your life! If you’re going to be working a day job, running a startup, and finding any time for a social life, it’s important to find a way to schedule your weeks in a way that’s effective for you.
It could be that you like to write everything down in a planner, or have a wall chart year-to-view diary pinned up on the kitchen wall. There are a ton of apps for your smartphone which can help, too.
You might have to experiment a bit to find the system that works best for you: some people are fans of bright Post-Its everywhere and anywhere, while others like a minimalist Google Calendar alarm reminder.
Have A Strategy
Alongside day-to-day organisation skills, be sure to have a long-term action plan. Understand what you want from your business, and set realistic time scales and achievable goals at a weekly, monthly, and annual level.
Having clear goals set out will help you break down the weekly and daily tasks. What absolutely must be done this week, in order to get to next week’s goals? Working this out gives you focus and prevents that overwhelming brain-melt when there is so much to do, you have no idea where to start.
Take time to write down your strategy, and include action points to remind yourself exactly how you intend to achieve each step. This will remove the scary unknowns that make your mind build up small tasks into mammoth-must-procrastinate-forever projects.
Negotiate Your Time
If your startup is beginning to feel like it’ll be ready to open its wings and fly, talk to the boss at your day job. See if there are ways that you can change up your working hours so that you can spend some more time with your own business, yet carry on in your stable-income job.
You might suggest starting an hour early and finishing an hour late four days a week, and have one day off a week to focus purely on your startup. This way, you’re not reducing your hours or effectiveness in your day job, but have dedicated time each week to really knuckle under to develop your business.
If your employer isn’t such a fan of this suggestion, consider other workarounds: can you afford to drop a day’s income and go part-time? Would your company be willing to do this? Or can you take additional unpaid holiday – or buy extra holiday days – so that you can commit time to your business?
Automate Everything You Can
Make things work for you: invest in a social media scheduling programme such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social, and spend an hour a week scheduling the following week’s posts. You can use software like this to also search for keywords, hashtags, or lists, which means you’re no longer spending hours trawling Twitter – you can jump right in to a conversation and build your network from there.
Another consideration for investment is accounting software (and, better still, an accountant). Software such as Freshbooks allows you to quickly and easily manage invoices and receipts, making it super easy and fast to run your accounts each month. If you drive for your business, you may also want to consider installing a mileage app on your phone, which will automatically track how many miles you are doing and help with your expenses reports.
Automation is also great for creating and building a sales funnel. Once you have your digital structure in place, feeding potential customers into the funnel will help you to automatically filter out the cold leads and only come into contact with those who are likely to buy. This will significantly speed up your sales process, helping to inject cash flow into your business so that you can focus on growth.
Don’t Duplicate Tasks
It’s very easy to accidentally spend time duplicating things that you needn’t. How often do you change up your weekly grocery shop, for example? If you buy mostly the same things week in, week out, set up an online shopping list. Add all to your basket each week, and book the delivery slots well in advance.
If you are a serial jotter for notes and ideas, work out how you can minimise duplication. Rather than transferring handwritten notes into a Word document or email, try apps such as Evernote which allow you to create books of notes and ideas, where you can take notes from within the app, photograph and include handwritten notes, or pin useful things you’ve seen on the web.
Combine Your Social Life And Startup
Normally, mixing business with pleasure is a disaster waiting to happen. However, if you’re going crazy from long nights sat at home, staring at the laptop and desperately hoping for customer leads to drop into your lap… it’s time to get out.
Find local networking events – or even, any event which interests you. You might discover a new hobby, a love of pottery or the enjoyment of classical music for example, which will expand your horizons.
Spending time away from the laptop feels like you’re not working – but you are! Use these opportunities to meet as many people as you can, and learn from them as much as possible. Even at non-business events, such as the local rambling club, you’ll meet a wide range of people with all sorts of life experience you can draw upon.
A top tip is to always be the one asking questions: people love to talk about themselves, and it’s been proven time and again that listening more than talking will leave a good impression on the people you meet.
Finding time out with events or a new evening class also allows you to develop a new skill, whether that’s talking with strangers or paying attention to fine details. It will also boost your creativity and broaden your problem-solving abilities – which shapes you into a better leader and solution-provider for your growing startup.
Be Prepared For The Big Leap
When you have customers, a relatively regular income or plenty of investment capital, it may be time to take the leap of faith and leave the day job. Before you go, be sure to have everything ready so that, on your next Monday morning, you’re sat in your home office, looking at your branded letterheads and calling from your dedicated business phone line. It’ll help make the transition as smooth as possible – and that’s when the fun begins.