When people consider launching a new business, most imagine quitting their jobs, abandoning financial stability and risking it all. And, with heavy hitters as our role models -- people like Elon Musk and Richard Branson, who went "all in" and won big -- it's no wonder many of us believe theirs is the only way to do it.
But if we do think that way, we are misinformed. Consider that the number of U.S. startups is in decline, and more businesses are closing up shop than starting up. Think about how more than 50 percent of startups fail before the four-year mark. And a big reason for all that failure may be that risk-it-all mindset.
But those failures aren't hurting just entrepreneurs; they're hurting the economy at large. So, there are good reasons why aspiring entrepreneurs should stick with traditional jobs while they grow their own ideas -- rather than take a complete leap of faith by quitting their jobs.
In reality, nearly 15 percent of small business owners work a second job while starting up, something many young entrepreneurs don’t realize. That's why you too may have decided that leaving your day job isn’t a prerequisite. And now you're wondering how to launch your big idea while remaining a full-time employee. Here are tips from someone who's been there.
The beauty of the side hustle
As the COO of Hawke Media, I spend 40 hours a week growing an amazing company full of great employees possessing a wide variety of skill sets and potential. I’ve long been proud of the work I’ve done there and have no desire to leave. Yet I still wanted to build something of my own.
So, that's exactly what I did. Born from my own unfortunate tax missteps in my 20s, 1099.me is the website I created to assist non-traditional employees with tax management. Thankfully, I didn’t fall into the trap of going "all in"; instead, I built my business entirely on the side while maintaining my position at Hawke.
And as I pursued that effort, I found that my two roles were in many ways symbiotic. The marketing tactics I learned at Hawke have been wildly helpful to my side hustle, and the big-picture thinking I do for 1099. me gives me better perspective as a leader at Hawke. Running a larger, more established organization that's financially stable informs my other project, which, in turn, fulfills me on a different level.
Tips for working full-time while running a startup
I won’t claim to be the master of doing it all, but I’ve learned how to make the most of two simultaneous gigs. If, like me, you’re pursuing a business venture on the side or considering it, here are some tips for keeping it together.
Related: How to Avoid Side Hustle Burnout
1. Schedule like a boss, and follow that schedule like an employee. Sticking to a routine is the hardest part, and unfortunately, it’s also the most important. If my business isn’t on my schedule, Hawke will eat up all of my time until my site fades away entirely. The solution? I act as my own boss and my own employee.
On Sunday nights, “boss” me creates times in the week ahead's calendar, for tasks and schedules for both pursuits. “Employee” me then shows up on Monday and knocks out the work. With the accountability an organized calendar makes possible, you too can carve out time for both positions.
2. Create two buckets: 'done' and 'not done.' Moving your side project forward while making it to work every day takes not only organization, but also focus. Create two buckets: "done" and "not done." Start by listing your tasks, ranking them according to priority and scheduling them into your week. Then grind it out.
Just using productivity tools doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being productive, so don’t forget about the magic of self-discipline.
3. Revisit the origin frequently. Every time I get pulled away from my little business, I lose touch with what originally inspired me to start it. So, I ask yourself, “What made me start this thing?” Be like me: Regularly revisit the reason why you decided to follow your passion by tackling that challenge. If your startup doesn’t still set your soul on fire, get out.
For example, we just implemented a new payroll system at Hawke, which resulted in a multiple questions from our employees about taxes. This reminded me why I started 1099.me and got me fired up to get back to it.
Starting a side hustle isn’t for everyone, and you probably won’t get it right the first time around. Remember to be patient with yourself, get organized and get those tasks done. The journey isn’t always fun, but retrospective satisfaction in your accomplishments will keep you going.