How to start your next business while working a full-time job

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How to start a side business

The American dream used to be getting a secure job, working from 9-5, and retiring. For most of us, especially people born in the 80s and 90s, this is the American nightmare.

The idea of working for someone else makes many of us cringe, and if you’ve had a 9-5 job, you’ve probably felt the suffocating hold it can take on your life. Mondays are dreadful. Mundane meetings and conference calls seem never-ending. Having a corporate job can literally suck the soul right out of your body. But fear not, you can start your next business while working for someone else.

Let’s assume you already have an idea for a business you want to start. The first thing you need to do is set intentions. A couple of those intentions could look something like this:

  • I intend to continue working at my soul-sucking 9-5 job for only six more months
  • I intend to start living a much more frugal lifestyle so I can create a savings account and have a financial buffer when I do quit my job and start running my own company
  • I intend to come home from work, spend two hours with my family, then spend three-four hours working on my new business
  • I intend to completely disconnect myself from my 9-5 job when I leave my 9-5 job

Those are just a couple examples of intentions I set for myself when I made the decision that I wanted to start my own company and leave my “secure” 9-5 job back in 2007. By taking action and repeating those intentions to myself (almost daily), it created a sense of focus and desire to work that much harder at getting my own business up and running.

One of those intentions needs to be dug into a bit more and that’s your after hours work schedule. Because a normal job creates structure and a fairly rigid schedule, most people want nothing more than to come home, lounge around, kick their feet up, and be lazy. If you want to start your own business, you’re going to need structure in the beginning to make sure you’re actually getting work done and putting in valuable time and effort. Kicking your feet up isn’t going to help you escape the stranglehold your 9-5 job has on you. Here are a couple tips on how to get into a routine after work:

  • Start small. Don’t try to dive in head first with a new schedule, you’ll never stick to it. For the first week, just try to get on a schedule with one thing (maybe it’s dinner time). On the second week, give yourself an hour of relaxation time after dinner, but cut yourself off after that hour is over. We all have favorite TV shows, but just sitting on the couch watching them doesn’t help us start a new career. Each week add a new change to your evening schedule.
  • Family comes first, so come home and immediately devote time to your kids, your spouse, your pets, etc. If you get home at 6pm, spend an hour doing something with your family that doesn’t involve TV, a computer, or anything technology based. If you have kids, this is a great time to wear them out before bed. If you don’t have kids but have a spouse, spend some quality time with them and avoid talking about work of any kind. Go for a walk, get some exercise, make a delicious meal together.
  • When you start spending time working on your next business (maybe 8pm – 11pm), be focused only on that. Turn off notifications on your phone. Close all the tabs you have open on Google Chrome. Shut your email down and don’t look at it unless that’s part of your work. Spend these limited hours actually working.

You may not be a fan of having a schedule at home, but that’s only because you work at a job you don’t enjoy and it forces you to have a schedule you don’t enjoy. Make an effort to appreciate your time away from your 9-5 job, and I guarantee giving yourself some parameters won’t feel the like the worst thing ever.

Now that you’ve created structure and a schedule for yourself, start working on goals for your new business. Through trial and error, I’ve found that creating three sets of goals works really well for me (and people I consult with). The sets of goals are daily, weekly, and monthly.

Daily goals will most likely be your smaller goals or to-do list items. Each evening that you start working, you should make a list of goals you intend to complete by the end of that night. This small exercise should only take 5-10 minutes of your time (at most) and I find it best to physically write these down so you can then cross them off. It always feels great to cross things off a list!

Weekly goals are somewhat larger goals and are things that won’t necessarily be able to be completed in one evening. Some weekly goals you might be setting early on are: Design and develop different stages of your product/service/website. Reach out to friends and family for feedback about your idea. Do PR or influencer outreach to try to get exposure for your new idea. Put a product or service up for sale and work on perfecting your sales process. Take one week off to recharge your batteries. You should still write these down and be diligent about crossing them off at the end of each week (it’s okay if some carry over to the next week).

Monthly goals are your bigger goals and you’ll probably want to set these for one month, three months, six months, and a year. It may seem silly to write down goals for a year from now, but trust me, it helps keep you accountable for that intention you set to leave your job in six months. Your monthly goals might look something like this: Month 1 – Create prototype product, launch website, and get feedback from initial user group. Month 3 – Start selling product or service publicly. Month 6 – Build up enough savings through initial sales and 9-5 job money to leave 9-5 job! Month 12 – Hire sales person, customer service company, and start doing paid marketing and advertising.

Goal setting can feel uncomfortable and awkward at first, but like everything else, it gets better with practice. It wasn’t until I started writing my sets of goals on a whiteboard in my office that I really started to focus on completing them.

Starting your next business while working a 9-5 job isn’t easy, but it’s absolutely doable. Put these steps in place and you’ll not only be working for yourself in no time, but you’ll also look forward to your work.

Oh, and if you already own your business, pat yourself on the back and then get back to work!  🙂

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