Evaluating Your Business Goals
Whether you decide to start a business part time or full time depends on your goals, your priorities and how comfortable you are living with unpredictability.
Both part-time and full-time commitments have their pros and cons. For example, starting a part-time business will mean less risk (in some ways), but it requires more patience and perseverance since it will probably take a bit longer to get your business going. On the other hand, starting full time will potentially speed up the development of your business, but it will require a higher level of commitment from you since more of your time will be focused on its success.
It really depends on how comfortable you are with the different aspects that should be considered. For example, if you view health insurance and a regular paycheck as nonnegotiable items, you might be more comfortable working part time while maintaining a normal full-time job. This strategy might mean less pressure than working full time on a fledgling project and could be less stress-inducing until your business gets properly underway.
Your choice of working full time or part time is also dependent on how certain you are of your business's success. Is your business going to be an instant success (realistically), or is it in a field where it will take time to build networks, customers and other similar groups? Or do you feel that you've already done this and are ready to hit the ground running? If you think you've already developed a good support network, then full time might be the way to go. If you haven't, then perhaps it's safer to start part time.
However, if you're chomping at the bit and ready to get going with your own business--and can tolerate a little unpredictability in your life--perhaps full-time would be the way to go. Since this will directly affect your family as well, it would probably be advisable to get your spouse involved in some of the decision-making. By doing so, your spouse might also start to get interested in your business and support you at the same time. Since the success of your business will obviously affect both (or all) of you, it only seems to make sense to involve your family in the earlier decisions.
No matter which avenue you choose, try to remain flexible in regards to the future. Things might not work out the way you plan them, and it's always a good idea to have a "Plan B" to fall back on whether that means going to fulltime or parttime. Life is unpredictable at the best of times, so try to be prepared.
Ultimately, the decision should rest on your comfort level of predictability--how comfortable are you (and your family through default) with irregular paychecks? Do you have a plan to handle the inevitable moment when there is a gap in paychecks coming in?
By covering all your bases prior to the startup date, you'll probably feel more comfortable with your decision in the long run, which will mean that you can concentrate on the business at hand.
Elizabeth Inskip-Paulk has worked in the field of stress management and other health-related fields for more than seven years in both the public and the private sectors. She has a master's degree in English and has been freelance writing in her spare time for a number of years, which involves a significant amount of personal balancing. She tries to live what she teaches in terms of life/work balance (although it's not always an easy journey!). Elizabeth grew up in England, lives in Texas and now says "y'all" when necessary.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.