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Starting a Business while Keeping your Day Job

To be a bit of a fortune teller, here are ten words that I think guarantee business failure. “I’m starting a business, but I’m keeping my day job.” Hmm…it may be an obvious mistake to some people, but it’s sure something I’ve heard many times.  Actually, what’s more common is that people do intend to leave their day jobs, eventually, when the business grows enough to support them. Then they look at me as their marketing consultant to make it happen, and I have to say….right! (not)  Here’s why.

  • Any new business actually needs at least one person’s full time dedication….if for no other reason than just the pure amount of pavement-pounding involved.  And even that person will end up really working hard to survive in the first year.  If you cut that person’s effort down to say 20% because they were keeping their day job, the business would never amount to anything that would ever support the person…assuming it’s a legitimate business, of course.
  • What about the business owner who works all day at his day job, and then switches gears to working all night at his business? Well, I did have a client like that once, and he had pretty good employees actually, running the business during the day.  But I never saw a business more riddled with financial problems, conflict, and pure exhaustion. The guy also lost his marriage trying to keep things glued together.  For some reason, he never believed his business could support him without his day job…and perhaps it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • What if you keep the overhead low, and just work from home? Well, yes, you can make a little money on the side…doing anything.  But, when your day job gets demanding, and you’re tired, your business could sit for months with no activity.  Any such period in a business will put you right back at square one….and it is essentially a hobby, not a business that is there to support anyone.  And there’s nothing wrong with money-making hobbies, just don’t expect it to support you until you give it your full-time dedication.

So what’s the best way to deal with day jobs and starting businesses? Use your day job to stock pile the cash you need, and pay off personal debts before you start the business.  Keep the day job while you plan and research the business idea.  Then when you have the idea ready, and a strong enough financial position to support yourself for say, a year, completely quit the day job.  That’s your best chance of good fortune, bar none.

Have you tried starting a business while keeping your day job?  We’d love to hear your comments, questions or insights!

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Jacqueline Drew
About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm MBA is CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a Calgary-based marketing research and strategy firm. She loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win" and is also an energetic supermom, bandleader and songwriter.

2 thoughts on “Starting a Business while Keeping your Day Job

  1. I don’t completely agree with your column but I don’t completely disagree either. I believe that for most people having their day job and their business as a secondary speaks for itself but there are exceptions. I believe if a person really dedicates their efforts to doing it that way it is possible to do both and build, prime example: Jim Rohn, he had his full time job and built his business part time on the side and even when his business income out weighed his full time job he kept it a bit longer.

    1. Yes, good comment, and thanks for your example. There are exceptions, but hearing someone say they are keeping their day job while starting their business really gets me concerned! Thanks for your contribution John – hope we’ll hear from you again!

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