How to Start a Small Business While Keeping Your Day Job

Starting a small business is still the American Dream for millions of Americans. But startups take money. And commitment. But what if you haven’t saved enough (typically, you should have six months-one year of living expenses saved before you start) or you’re not quite sure your business idea will work? You can still start a business, just proceed with caution.

The best way to do this is launch part-time, while still keeping your day job. Yes, you’ll be working a lot, but most people who start this way, don’t regret it.

Here are some tips to help you start smart—and not get in trouble with your current boss:

Choose an idea. As retail sales from brick-and-mortar stores continue to fall, e-commerce sales are on the rise. Selling online can be a great way to enter the retail business. What should you sell? Many entrepreneurs get started by turning their hobbies into businesses. You can find products to sell at Alibaba or eBay.

Do some research to learn what’s trending. Great sources of trends include, JWT Intelligence, which issues an annual listing of top trends to keep an eye on. Mintel reports on industry trends. Inc.com is full of great ideas. Or you can sign up for my free weekly small business TrendCast. Check your local SCORE office or Small Business Development Center for workshops and seminars.

Find a Partner. If even starting part-time is too much work, consider teaming up with a partner so you can spread the work around. Look for someone with similar goals and work ethic as you have, but who has strong skills in the areas you are weak.

Choose a location. Starting from home is the smartest—and least expensive option. If that’s not possible, look for shared office space. There are numerous locations in most cities. Look into spaces like WeWork or check out this website for available coworking spaces around the world. Do you need to meet with people? If so, look for spaces with available conference rooms.

Create a budget. As a part-time entrepreneur, you’ll need to rely on your own savings or loans from family or friends to finance your new business. This makes sticking to a budget imperative.

Check your current employment terms. To stay on your current employer’s good side while launching your part-time business, make you your review your employment contract or terms of agreement. You may actually be prohibited from starting a competing business or soliciting your current employer’s clients. Your employer might even claim ownership of your business or product if the idea was developed on company time.

Be smart. Never use your current employer’s time, premises or equipment to work on your part-time business. Don’t even use your employer’s equipment after hours.

Keep it separate and to yourself. No matter how nice your current boss is, don’t tell them you’re starting a side business. It’s also probably a good idea not to mention your new business to your co-workers. You just never know if someone will turn you in.

Rieva Lesonsky is an entrepreneur, best-selling author and self-educated health nut. Follow her @Rieva.

Photo Credit: mavoimages/iStock/Thinkstock

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