Many dream of the day when they can quit their day job and jump into building their business. Unfortunately, businesses take time to become profitable. Before taking the plunge, I encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to keep their day job, and start building their business on the side. Yes, it is more work and your focus is divided, but it’s a great test to see if you are truly committed to the business or if it was just a passing interest. The exercise can also help you develop time management strategies that will work for you as your business grows.

To get you started, here are some simple steps.

1. Figure out when you’ll ‘clock in.’ Each person has differing levels of productivity, but I do recommend coming up with a realistic estimate of how much time you can set aside weekly to work on your side business. (I recommend at least 1 to 2 hours a week, or even 5 to 10). More hours doesn't always lead to better results but what’s important is to arrive at a focused schedule that is realistic and consistent.

As you consider your schedule, work back from the type of business you’re building and what it needs. If you’re offering a service, like teaching yoga on the side, it will take you at least 60-90 minutes to teach the class, plus roundtrip travel time, and then there's the time before and after to interact with students. That requires around 2 to 3 hours or more. Do you have that kind of time to set aside? If you instead decide to create a product, such as cupcakes or an e-book, it will still take you time to create and perfect that product, not to mention find a customer base for it and get the word out.

2. Get strategic. Don’t skimp on things like sleep, exercise or family obligations. But do rethink your personal to-do list. Be creative about the tasks you can delegate or automate to carve out the time you need. Some things you can likely skip entirely. As you work on your business, think about ways to automate and outsource back office tasks for your company like billing and accounting to devote as much time to your core service or product as possible.

3. Decide which tasks you can share. Just because you're starting a business on the side, doesn't mean you have to go at it alone. I'd encourage you to recruit some partners, especially in areas where you might feel like you lack expertise. Sarah Coronado, a program manager at a large tech company, founded of Lotus Premium Denim four years ago to address the denim needs of petite women. With four additional co-founders, her company had the expertise it needed in sales, marketing, design, and supply chain management. This team helped her bootstrapped company get up and running more quickly.

4. Set a target. Calculate how much money your company will need to generate consistently before you say goodbye to your steady paycheck or hire help. Backtrack by asking yourself:

  • How much would you need to charge and how many customers would you need in order to hit that target?
  • What does the cost structure look like to handle that many customers? Too often people set a target but fail to realize how much working capital they need to handle the customer load that goes along with it.
  • Is the type of customer you are going after willing to pay the amount you want to charge for your offering? And are there enough people that who need what you're offering?

Being realistic about the costs of doing business can help you understand when you can hire additional help to buy yourself even more time to drive your company’s vision before you work on it full time.

Are you thinking of starting a side business or have you already started one? How do you find time? Let us know in the comments below.