How to Build a Business When You Can't Quit Your Job

Starting a business is scary, and quitting a job that pays the bills is risky. Here's advice on how to mitigate the risk.

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By Larry Alton • Jul 7, 2016 Originally published Jul 7, 2016


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Most of us get the urge to become an entrepreneur at one point or another. We may be called to create something from scratch, or lead a team of people or just earn money without having to answer to a boss. Whatever the motivation, the urge strikes us, but only a fraction of us ever take that all-important next step of actually building a business.

Why don't more of us take that step? For starters, most of us already have jobs, and we can't quit them smoothly or conveniently, so we just continue working them without pursuing our dreams. But what if you could build a business without quitting your job? It's possible with the right approach.

Related: How to Start a Business With (Almost) No Money

Why not quit?

First, let's take a look at why you're not quitting your job in the first place. There are some valid reasons, but the reality is, you may not need your job as much as you think you do.

You need the money.

Money is tight during the early stages of entrepreneurship no matter how good your idea is. However, if you can secure enough venture capital or a good line of credit, you can scrape by without needing a supplementary job.

You're afraid of plateauing in your career.

You may worry that if you quit, you may be unable to return to the workforce in the future. This is somewhat illogical in most cases. Talk to a boss or supervisor you trust, and get their opinion on a potential return if your business doesn't pan out.

You're unsure about your idea.

If you don't have a good idea yet, you probably shouldn't leave your job. While this is a valid reason, why not spend more time developing your idea?

Related: Starting a Business: The Idea Phase

You're afraid of the risks.

You may want to keep your job as a safety net, but safety nets don't always lead to a better overall performance.

If you've considered any of these reasons to hold onto your job, and you're still convinced you can't quit, follow these strategies to start a business successfully while still maintaining your daily responsibilities.

Related: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start a Business

Be realistic.

First, be realistic about what you can and cannot do while still maintaining your job. You can work on your ideas, build some infrastructure and maybe even manage your business during the early stages, but you can't feasibly manage this forever. There are only so many hours in the day, and you'll need to make a commitment to one side or the other eventually.

Focus on the idea.

While you're still working, focus on developing your business idea as much as possible. That is to say, keep your work conceptual during the early stages. This is the best time to flesh out the gritty details of your idea. Evaluate it for flaws, and fine-tune your idea to perfection. You won't be under the gun with deadlines, and you won't be strapped for cash, so make the most of this time by writing up the best possible business plan you can.

Gain connections.

Unless you're working in isolation, this is a great time to build connections you can use for your business later on (assuming you won't be violating any non-compete agreements). Get to know as many people as possible. You never know when or where you'll meet a potential partner, vendor, client or employee. The wider your range of professional contacts is, the more options you'll have when it comes time to growing your business. This will also save you valuable time when you need to be managing your business instead of networking.

Start with baby steps.

Don't try to do everything with your business while you're still working full-time, and don't try to rush the process. Instead, take baby steps, when you can, to slowly advance your idea forward. Test the waters. Experiment. If you get in too deep, you'll lose control over the situation, and your business will end up outpacing you.

Tread carefully.

You may think of yourself as quite capable, and maybe you are, but there's still a hard limit to how much work you can do before your work starts to decline in quality. If you spend too much time on your business, your professional work will suffer, and you may end up losing the career you tried so hard to protect. Spend too much time on your career, and your business won't have a chance. Keep yourself in balance.

If you follow these strategies, you can build a business while still maintaining your day job in the early stages. Just remember, there's no perfect time to start a business, so be sure you understand your own motivations before opting to delay getting started. Oftentimes, the best thing to do is throw yourself into something, and make adjustments along the way; otherwise, you may never start at all.
Larry Alton

Freelance Writer & Former Entrepreneur

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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