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How to Manage an Early-Stage Startup While Working Full-Time

When you’re years into your career, juggling a full-time job and maybe a family, managing an early stage-startup can be downright nerve-wracking. The vast majority of adults don’t want to eat into their savings or move back in their parents once they’ve begun their career, even if their startup idea could be worth millions. And fortunately, with a little bit of panning, you don’t have to.

Keeping that full-time job means investing your free time in your dream, giving you the security of a salary until your dream really takes off. While managing a startup and working full-time will be difficult at times, this guide will walk you through the steps you should follow to keep your day job, build a great business, and maintain your sanity.

Separate your day job from your startup

If you want to succeed at your day job and launch a flourishing startup, you need to keep your two worlds separate. While it may be tempting to log some hours on your passion project during your day job, it’s important to remember you still have to remain dedicated to your job. After all, the security of that paycheck allows you to pursue your dream outside of work.

Plus, your company may have rules against working another job or starting a company while employed, so review your contract closely to avoid legal issues. As Ryan Buckley, serial startup founder, points out in his book on the topic, The Parallel Entrepreneur, spending work time on startup-related calls or printing out startup documents on the office printer could lead to a lawsuit. Lay down an iron curtain between these two worlds to make this balance sustainable.

Learn to say no

Manage an early-stage startup with full-time work - learning to say no

You’re probably used to saying “yes” to any and every project that comes your way. This go-getter attitude is likely what makes you want to start your own company. But when you’re juggling two worlds, it’s important to say no to workload you simply can’t handle. This will allow you to stay sane and devote ample time after hours to your business idea. Complete essential tasks and projects, of course, but consider whether any proposed, non-essential task will leave you burning the midnight oil at your office before you take it on.

Pick the right productivity tools

Task Pigeon - Monday.com Alternative

The budding entrepreneur knows that juggling endless tasks goes along with the gig, but the right project management tools can make a world of difference when it comes to productivity. From allowing you to keep better track of ideas to planning new goals to tracking time spent on each project, there are endless ways technology can help make your business venture a little more organized. Here are just a few that will make your life easier

This little known Google secret tool has much of the functionality of Evernote, for free. With it, you can set reminders, write notes and lists, and save pictures and audio memos for later.

Want to visualize your startup idea, plan new product features, or plot out website categories? Create a “mind map” with Bubbl.us to organize your thoughts and make it easier to share your plans with others.

This task management software allows you to track and manage tasks however you and your eventual team want, as traditional tiles, a calendar, or a list. With it, you can easily stay on top of both work and startup tasks with ease.

FocusMe is a Chrome timer plugin for focus periods and break times that also allows you to block sites you shouldn’t visit during those focus periods.

Choose the right co-founder and hire the right people

manage an early-stage startup with full-time work hire the right people

Unless you plan to be a solopreneur, you’ll eventually have to choose a co-founder to help you in your business venture. Signing on with a co-founder gives you a partner to bounce ideas off of and someone who likely offers complementary skills to help you create a formidable team. For example, if you’re an excellent marketer or salesperson, consider bringing on a technical co-founder to cover your knowledge gaps. Once you partner with a co-founder, keep the communications lines open and honest.

To find the right co-founder, monitor Meetup for entrepreneur events in your area, search the Co-Founder Reddit, or look into your own professional network on LinkedIn for potential matches.

When it eventually comes time to hire employees, try to make a point of hiring swiss army knife-types who are comfortable taking on tasks that may not fall into their traditional wheelhouse. A lean team requires the maximum output of every individual so you need people who can learn on the job and adapt to an always-changing workload.

Develop a communication flow with teammates

manage early-stage startup with full-time work - communication

To split your time well between your startup and day job, you must set expectations for your team about your availability and how you can be reached. As your team grows, Slack can be a big help in coordinating and communicating between teams. With it, you can automatically mute notifications at specific times and set statuses to fill others in on your availability.

Invest some of your salary but be strategic

The goal of working full-time while developing your startup is to have a backup plan while building a nest egg with your salary. As your startup develops, you will have to selectively invest in premium tools and other things you might need for your business. Make it a priority to create a budgeting plan that will balance the money you need to save, live, and invest. Depending on the product your startup will produce, there will likely be a lot of startup costs, which you should factor into your plan. Ultimately, your business is important—but your financial stability matters most.

Consider outside funding to complement your salary

To avoid pouring too much of your salary into your startup, consider other funding options, including financing from family and friends, crowdfunding, and business credit cards.

Receiving funding from family and friends can be a delicate process, but if you do it correctly it can be beneficial for both parties. Consider offering generous loved ones equity in your company or interest over a period of time. And even though it may feel formal, it’s a good idea to write up a contract and make any loan official.

Crowdfunding is another great way to acquire needed capital and raise awareness of what you’re building. Crowdfunding exposes your business idea to the world and allows interested parties to fund you towards a certain goal, often through rewards-based crowdfunding. Some sites specialize in equity-based crowdfunding, where investors lend an amount in exchange for equity in your business, or donation-based crowdfunding, where individuals donate an amount, expecting nothing in return.

Even if you have a personal credit card, a business credit card is a great option for the budding entrepreneur. A business credit card can help you build business credit (which is helpful if you need financing in the future) and can offer perks such as cash back and travel rewards. If you plan to repay your debt off every month, credit cards can be a great financial tool to help you achieve your business goals.

Learn and implement

If you’re diving into entrepreneurship for the first time, it’s only natural to make mistakes. A business is a work-in-progress and mistakes come with the territory. As long as you learn from your errors and implement solutions, you’re on the right track. And if your startup doesn’t work out, you’ll still have the security of your full-time job.

Plan a timeline for when to quit

managing an early-stage startup with full time work - planning

When beginning this journey, you should have a timeline for when you’ll quit your day job and work on the startup full-time. It could be based on a key success metric such as revenue reached or customers onboard, or the point at which you acquire the funding required to allow you to work full-time on your business. This timeline shouldn’t be rigid, but it will provide a rough goal that you can prepare for.

Before setting out on this journey, evaluate whether you are willing to sacrifice your free time on nights and weekends. The most essential part of managing a startup while working is separating both worlds for as long as you can. Using productivity tools and working with the right people are essential to maintain order. Launching  a successful startup is no easy task, especially with a day job, but with the right drive, product, and plan you can make it a reality.

 

Written By Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.


Also published on Medium.