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Leaving your 9-5 to grow your startup business

One of the most important stages in any entrepreneur's career is also one of the most exciting: shifting from the 9-5 grind to pursue your startup business full-time. This shift, while thrilling, is full of challenges. Without the right preparation and strategy, this transition can negatively impact your professional relationships and cause your business to suffer. Here are some tips to keep that from happening.

Don’t Wait Too Long

Balancing a flourishing startup company with a full-time job is a very delicate and challenging task. As your new business starts to pick up speed, you might find that a system you had established—say, working on your startup company on the weekends—is no longer as comfortable as it used to be.

While some people like to wait until their new company is financially sound before they leave the comfort of their office job, that can be a dangerous game. As you start devoting more time to your startup, your full-time job will suffer.

It’s different for each individual, but there comes a turning point when your full-time job and startup company can’t coexist comfortably anymore. This might be long before you’re ready to give up your full-time paycheck, but that’s part of the risk and thrill of entrepreneurship. Timing is everything: don’t wait too long to leave the security of your full-time job.

Consider Alternative Arrangements

Leaving your full-time job to pursue your startup doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing scenario. There are a variety of ways to split your time between a traditional job and your new business, but you and your employer have to be willing to discuss and experiment in order to find an arrangement that works well for both of you.

Within my own business, I employ several team members at varying levels of involvement, from full-time, in-office staff to part-time remote workers and project-based freelancers. When you start to realize your startup needs more attention, consider discussing alternative arrangements with your full-time employer. They might be open to keeping you on the team as a freelancer or part-time employee, or even allowing you to work remotely and have more flexible hours.

Maintain Professional Ties

During this exciting period in the budding life of a new business, no startup owner wants to think about the possibility that his or her venture will fail. But unfortunately, that is always a possibility.

While it’s important to take risks, it’s also important to balance those risks with preparation and planning. Anyone in business will tell you that your network is one of your greatest strengths. When you leave a full-time job, you’ll need to take careful steps to ensure that you don’t destroy one of your greatest strengths. You might re-enter the traditional workforce one day and need a reference. Additionally, your professional colleagues have the potential to be great resources for your business in the form of employees, contractors and even investors.

Prepare Your Home Life

This dramatic change from a 9-5 to pursuing your startup company full-time is not just going to affect you, it will affect everyone in your life. Your spouse and close friends and family should not only be aware of the change, but also prepared to be supportive. Your spouse should understand and accept the lifestyle changes that will come with a drop in income, however brief.

Your physical space might need to undergo some changes, as well. If you’ll be working from home while your startup grows, carve out a dedicated space for this—a home office or studio should inspire organisation and productivity, and that doesn’t happen accidentally.  

Don’t Let Fear Rule You

I quit a full-time job at Hewlett-Packard to pursue my career as an entrepreneur. It was risky, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Don’t let fear of risk keep you from pursuing your dream. If you manage your time effectively, explore all options, and prepare both your professional and personal circles for the change, leaving your full-time job to pursue your startup will be a positive and exciting transition. 

Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training community; SaleHoo, an online dropship and wholesale directory; co-founder of Smtp2Go, an email delivery service and investor in SwiftMed, a virtual GP clinic. Through these companies, Simon provides the education and resources for ecommerce professionals to start their own businesses and achieve occupational independence.

Simon can be followed on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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