Maybe you love your job, or maybe it has become too restricting. In either case you might feel the need to change your life and exit the routine of a corporate job by starting your own business. The question arises: can I do it while working full time?
The common answer is “no, you need to focus 100% on your startup and that can’t be done if you have a full time job”. We at Sparklehood, on the opposite, believe it is possible and it can actually even bring some advantages, especially in the early stage.
Indeed, you might not be aware, but many famous and successful co-founders started their businesses while working full time. Airbnb first CTO and co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Salesforce founder Marc Benioff all started working part time on their startups, just to name a few. Therefore, do not get scared, because having a full time job while working at your startup can be the perfect way to start, if you have low risk appetite.
In this article I have mentioned both advantages and disadvantages of this choice, because you need to compare them before making an informed decision.
I would like to start by outlining the cons of starting a business while working full-time because personally I prefer to hear bad news first. So, let’s rip the band-aid right off.
- The main, biggest and expected disadvantage is time. Time will be your biggest enemy, always. Let’s consider that managing time is a problem even for entrepreneurs committing 100% to their startup, so you can probably get an idea of how much of a problem it will be if you are only committing 40% to it. All the other cons are actually derivatives of lack of time.
- Being able to work less hours on your startup means that you will be moving slower. When launching a startup, speed is quite fundamental. Often, you should be able to have an MVP (minimum viable product) as quickly as possible. If you are working, you will not be as fast and consider that moving slowly brings an opportunity cost which might mean a lot of wasted resources over time.
- Imagine being back from the office (or most likely finishing your work day at home considering Covid-19 implications) and moving to startup work in evening hours. Or picture working on weekends instead of relaxing, hanging out with friends or spending quality time with your family. It means never stopping and always keep pushing. You will get tired, very tired, and when you are tired, also motivation starts to fall.
Motivation is the main strength pushing you forward and therefore it is existential to your startup to keep it high. Trying to launch a startup with a full time job requires extra motivation and very strong will power. What usually helps full time entrepreneurs to keep moving forward is achieving small results every day, but since you will be working less, you will take more time to see results and that can be demotivating.
- Starting a business on the side while keeping a job is a very delicate balancing act. You want to do both, and do them well. Two opposite things might happen. You might start considering your startup only as a hobby and therefore do not work your ass off enough to make it work. Or, you might start neglecting your job and lowering your performance. Your boss and colleagues might notice it and consequently your job would be at risk. You do not want either of this to happen.
- Last con is less imminent, but I believe it is fair to point it out. At some point, after you have built and launched your startup, you might want to raise funds and initiate conversation with VCs and angel investors. The problem here is that most likely, no VC will give you money if you are still working full-time. What I am trying to say is that, at some point, you will have to quit your job, and I think that is also the end goal, isn’t it?
I do not know how many of you are still here after reading all the bad news. I believe only the truly motivated and a little crazy people, who are exactly the ones we want! Starting a business while working full-time also has some advantages, let me list them down.
- The most expected pro is that your job becomes your safety net. When working on launching your startup you need money, and I do not only mean money to cover startup costs (which might be very limited depending on your business), but most importantly money to survive and take care of your family, in case you have one. Having a steady and safe stream of income takes a lot of financial stress off your shoulders. Keeping your job minimizes your risk consistently and provides you with the mental stability to work effectively on your startup. I assume that, if you do not want to quit your job right away, it is because you have a lower risk appetite and therefore maintaining a safety net works better for your situation or personality.
- Maintaining a source of steady income can buy you time (I realise I might sound quite contradictory). What I mean by this is that you can reflect over many different ideas and have the time to validate them before jumping right in. This way, you will quit your job only when you have some certainty about whether your startup has some chances to stand on its feet (by certainty I mean an idea of certainty, because true certainty is a mirage).
- Also, I know before I said lack of time will be your biggest enemy, but sometimes, it might be good. Indeed, having a limitation, in your case time, might help you improve at prioritising your tasks and become very structured in your decisions. You will also learn (because you have no choice) to manage your time effectively.
- Another point to take into consideration is that your work itself can become your advantage. First of all, your job can be the place of inspiration for your next successful business. For example, you might be facing daily issues while doing your job and you might want to find a way to solve them. Plus, since you have been working in the sector for years, you have the knowledge and experience necessary to do so. Another pro is that you are surrounded by people. Talk to them, find out what problems they are facing and how often they are facing them. Your office might be the best place to start from. Also, you should leverage company relationships to build your network.
Like everything in life, launching your startup while working full-time has its pros and cons. It really depends on the kind of person you are. If you like to have some financial security before committing completely to your startup, keeping your job for the time being sounds like the perfect solution.
It is not only about your attitude and personality though, numbers speak loudly: entrepreneurs who start on the side, fail 33% less often.
So, do not hesitate to work on your dream. Start straight away to build your startup, it doesn't matter if you have a full-time job. It is possible, you can do it, and we will help you.