Running a side business while working a full-time job is relatively common. Some people operate side businesses to supplement their incomes. Others simply keep their jobs for financial stability while trying to launch full-fledged companies.
Managing this process can be difficult and requires a delicate balance. You must be fair to your employer and give them 100 percent of your dedication. They pay your salary after all. At the same time, you need to work hard at your own business to make sure it succeeds.
Here are seven considerations to help you navigate this process successfully.
1. Does Your Job Allow It?
In general, most employees are allowed to run side companies as long as they don’t interfere with their jobs. However, it’s best to check your employment contract. Some employment contracts include clauses that prevent employees from running their own businesses, even if it’s just a side businesses.
The safest course of action is to consult a lawyer. Show the lawyer any workplace agreements, HR manuals, and employee contracts you have, to help determine if your side business breaks any of your employment clauses.
2. Don’t Compete with Your Employer
Don’t run a side company that is in direct competition with your employer. Unfortunately, this creates a conflict of interest. If your side company competes with your employer, the only course of action is to resign.
However, there are some gray areas when it comes to competition. It is is not always easy to determine if your company in direct competition with your employer. For example, let’s say that your employer runs a full-service marketing consulting firm that works with large companies. On the other hand, your side business offers marketing consulting services to self-employed individuals. Are you competing against your employer? Arguably, you could say that you are offering somewhat similar services. However, you are working with very different client bases and are not competing for clients.
What is the right course of action? It varies. Speak to a lawyer to determine if you would have legal liability. Legal consultations might be expensive, but they are cheaper than the consequences.
3. Do You Have the Time?
The time commitment needed to run a side business varies by industry. People who launch a startup or run a side business typically devote a couple of hours to the business every work day. They must often spend a part – or most – of their weekends working as well. This demanding schedule may leave little time for friends or family.
Running a side business may not be an option if you have a job that requires more than eight hours a day, or if you have significant responsibilities outside of work.
4. Run Your Business Outside of Company Hours
Company hours should be spent doing your job. Running your side business or startup should be outside of your regular business hours. Consequently, you must get your business work done before your job starts or after it finishes.
If you have to handle an urgent startup-related matter during work hours, do so during your breaks. Keep these interruptions to a minimum. And, as a precaution, go to a coffee shop or step outside your office. The next section discusses why this point is important.
5. Don’t Use Your Employer’s Office or Equipment
Your employer’s office is their place of business, not yours. Do not work on your business on their premises. This rule is for ethical and practical reasons. Many employees sign agreements that assign all work and intellectual property that is developed at work to their employers. This agreement applies even if the work is done afterhours.
These agreements are common in many professions. You want to avoid working on something that is revolutionary – only to give your employer the legal right to own it. Work from home, coffee shops, or hotel lobbies, but never from your employer’s office.
6. Know When to Call it Quits
Knowing when to quit your job is important if you want to transition from your part-time business into a full-time venture. If you can, grow your business while working and try to replace some, or all, of your work income. But keep in mind that the fair thing to do is to quit the moment that you cannot give your employer the proper attention.
For more information on how to transition from full employment to working in your startup, please read “Are you ready to quit your job and work in your startup fulltime?” from Small Business BC.
7. Know How to Resign
When the time comes to move to your startup full-time, remember to resign professionally. Thank your employer for the opportunity and speak fondly of your colleagues. Your supervisor and colleagues should remain important contacts throughout your career.
It’s an exciting time when you start your small business. It is probably something that you have wanted to do for a long time, so it can be easy to start to neglect the employer that is paying your living expenses in the meantime. As the old adage says though, it is important not to burn bridges in business. No matter what you were like as an employee before you started your business, if you start to neglect your work, your colleagues will only remember your mistakes. But by continuing to be a loyal employee you never know who will make that next referral to your business.