Go Ahead, Start That Side Business
If you're working for someone else, chances are you've thought about being your own boss at some point.
One of the easiest ways to become your own boss is to start a sideline business while you're working for someone else.
But how do you manage the challenges of having a job, a business and a life? Here are some tips.
Choose a Sideline You're Passionate About
"My sideline business was created out of passion. I have two children with life-threatening food allergies. I have always dreamed of having my own business, so this has provided a great opportunity. Plus, the timing is right for food allergy awareness, as it continues to grow and be a national health concern," says Dina Clifford of Centennial, Colo., founder of Mind Flight LLC, which offers products that teach children and those who care for them the principles necessary to stay safe with food allergies.
Plus, passion can carry you through the tough times, says Amanda Fries, who started her sideline business, SizeWize.com, in 2009, from her home in Ellicott City, Md. SizeWize.com helps women who shop online calculate their correct size for more than 150 brands of clothing, based on their actual measurements. "Many days you will be tired from your full-time job, and if you want your sideline to work, you will have to put in the time and energy to it," Fries says. "So you will spend time at night or other off hours, and if you aren't passionate about your business, you will have a tough time 'getting off the couch' to go work on it."
Create Clear Boundaries
Sue Sweet's sideline business, BedHog, is a his-and-hers line of bed sheets that she founded in 2008 in San Carlos, Calif. But Sweet makes sure she gives priority to her full-time job.
"Make sure you give 110 percent to your day job," she says. "You probably need the money, and it's the right thing to do. You do not want to be perceived as the person who is slacking off because you have something else on the side."
Fries notes that many women in the work force have sideline businesses, such as Avon, Pampered Chef, Partylite, etc. "SizeWize.com is handled outside of my work hours or during my lunch time, so it doesn't interfere at all with my full-time job."
Show Your Employer How Having a Sideline is Useful
"Not only does my employer know about my sideline business, but I was hired because of it," Sweet says. "I was previously with a very large software company, and the position I was applying for was at a startup. The startup team was concerned that having worked so long at a big firm with considerable resources, I might not be able to 'roll up my sleeves' to do the necessary tasks at a startup. But when they heard about my sideline business, it made them more confident that I could do all aspects of the job."
While other employers may not be so open-minded, you learn many useful skills as an entrepreneur that can be applied to your full-time job. Case in point: At night, Clifford was researching ways to promote her sideline business, and she learned how large companies were using Twitter effectively to promote their businesses.
Says Clifford, "If I hadn't been looking for new ways to promote my sideline business, I wouldn't have learned about this. Since social media is still new to my employer's industry (oil and gas), I was able to suggest some ways that we could use Twitter and other social media to achieve some marketing goals."
Set Up a Strong Support System
With a full-time job, a sideline business, family obligations and the need for a life, a strong support system is critical.
"I really rely on my support system to help me make everything work," Fries says. "When I had my first child, my husband and I moved back to my hometown to be nearer to a strong support system, including my parents and sister. My parents watch our two boys often and are my backup if the kids are sick and can't go to day care. And even better, when everyone is healthy, they will usually take the boys once a week to sleep at their house, which the boys love, and [which] is critical to the 'adult time' that my husband and I need."
A supportive spouse is another must-have. "My husband and I are a great team," Fries says. "We are very good at managing our time and energy to focus on both our jobs and the children. When I decided to launch SizeWize.com, he was more than supportive. He encourages me and gives guidance if I ask for it, but knows that this is my project and lets me fly with it on my own. We celebrate the victories, and he supports me when I am overwhelmed."
And don't forget the kids. All of the business owners in this article have children, and they all help out.
Clifford's son, 7, and daughter, 8, are always looking for ways to help.
"We were at a restaurant and we asked questions about the food and whether it would be safe to eat there, due to the kids' peanut allergies," Clifford says. "My daughter asked if we could tell them about beyondapeanut.com."
Her children also tell their friends about the products and help put the orders together. "They are my best word-of-mouth advertising," Clifford says, laughing.
Yes, it's possible to have a sideline business, full-time job and a great life. So stop standing on the sidelines--jump in and start that sideline business!