Adam Grant’s book, Originals, is a great read for any budding entrepreneur — especially if you feel like you’re not a “real” business owner unless you quit your job, sell all your stuff, and put every last resource you have into building your shop.
“In a fascinating study, management researchers Joseph Raffiee and Jie Feng asked a simple question: When people start a business, are the better off keeping or quitting their day jobs?” Grant writes.
Many of us assume successful entrepreneurs are successful because they took big risks. We assume going all-in and leaping from your job to focus on your retail business idea full-time is the only way to make it work.
But the study Grant shares tells a different story. “Entrepreneurs who kept their day jobs had 33% lower odds of failure than those who quit,” he says.
So, is it better to continue toiling at your 9-5 while building a side retail business? While neither way is “wrong” per se, we’re here to make a case for playing the long game — grow slowly to ensure stability. And here’s why.
Yes, You Can Be an Entrepreneur With a Day Job
The business owners who worked to build something big on the side aren’t just random entrepreneurs.
Founders of companies like Warby Parker, Apple, and Google all stayed in their full-time positions (or graduate programs) as they worked to launch their ventures.
Even creatives like John Legend and Stephen King maintained other day jobs for a period of time after releasing their first successful albums and books.
So don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t create a business on the side. In fact, you can tell them that doing so makes you more likely to succeed.
As Grant points out, this not only mitigates your risk. It alleviates a number of pressures, which could allow you to be more creative in how you build your business.
“Having a sense of security in one realm gives us the freedom to be original in another,” he writes.
By covering our bases financially, we escape the pressure to publish half-baked books, sell shoddy art, or launch untested businesses.
Keeping your day job while you manage your side business helps you diversify your opportunities, and gives you a backup plan in case things go wrong,
That explains why it makes sense. But it what this doesn’t cover is how to make it work.
And managing your side business while working your day job is a lot of work. You’ll need some strategies to handle your time, tasks, and energy to avoid burnout and successfully uphold your varied responsibilities.
Don’t Blur the Lines Between Your Job and Your Business
If you’re running a business on the side of your day job, make sure that you’re not launching a company that could be considered a competitor of your employer. This can cause a conflict of interest with your 9-5 gig — which could violate noncompete clauses in your employment contract.
You also want to ensure your actions aren’t blatant grounds for termination. Again, check your nondisclosure or noncompete agreements.
To play it really safe, you’ll want to avoid using company time or resources to work on your business.
You could be upfront and transparent with your employer. Some progressive organizations don’t mind — or even encourage — their employees to hold down side businesses or freelance gigs. If you feel comfortable, consider sharing your side business with them and see if there are any company policies that allow for employees to dedicate some amount of time to personal projects.
Or ask forgiveness rather than permission. We don’t advocate for this, but it’s a route you could take.
Most people find they don’t work a full 40-hour workweek anyway, and may not have any qualms about using a few hours here and there to check in on their business while they’re at work.
But this is questionable on the ethical side of things, and could count as time theft. Tread lightly when mixing your job with your business in any way.
Free Yourself From the Office
Working a set schedule from a set location can make it harder to manage a side business. Approach your boss and ask about other options in order to nurture your growing biz.
You could ask for flex time to get an office schedule that works better for your needs than the traditional 9-to-5. Some offices also have core hours (often 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and as long as employees meet deadlines and are available during that time range, employees can use the rest of that time as they please.
Or take advantage of telecommuting options to optimize your workday. If you’re allowed to work remotely when and where it makes sense for you, you can structure your schedule to devote your most productive, creative hours to your own business.
You’ll still be fulfilling your responsibilities to your job and working the hours required of you — but you have more control over what hours those are.
Plus, either of these approaches could save you commuting time. Cutting rush hour from your workweek gives you more time to dedicate to both your job and your own goals.
Practice Smart Time and Task Management
You already know it’s all about working smarter, not harder. But what does that actually mean?
It means you manage your available time wisely and make the most of it. The first step is to free up as much time as possible. That means cutting out what’s not essential.
Think things like TV, social media, and other distractions that don’t add value to your life or leave you feeling truly refreshed and re-energized. You can save hours every week by eliminating screen time and mindless smartphone scrolling.
Then, optimize the hours you do have. Use a calendar and agenda and strategically schedule everything that you want to accomplish.
That means doing things like:
- Batching similar tasks together so you can work through them more efficiently. For example, fulfill a week’s worth of orders on one evening each week (i.e. every Tuesday) rather than doing it piecemeal.
- Scheduling meetings and calls during your non-peak times; save hours you feel most productive and creative for your most important work.
- Giving tasks and projects deadlines.
To make the most of your time, you can:
- Eliminate distractions.
- Avoid multitasking.
- Keep unnecessary meetings, calls, and appointments off your calendar (in other words, don’t be afraid to say, “no”).
- Give yourself breaks at periodic intervals (you’ll be more productive if you schedule in 5 to 15 minute breaks at least once per hour!).
- Get organized and plan things out as far in advance as possible.
Don’t Try to Do It All Yourself
No matter how many productivity hacks and time management tips you take in, you still only have 24 hours in a day. And to function at your highest level, you need to sleep for about 8 of those.
Have you seen those online memes that say things like, “you have the same 24 hours in a day as Beyonce”? That idea can make you think you just need to hustle harder to get more done.
No. Nope. There comes a point where more work is not the solution (unless you want to burn out).
But there is something you can learn from the idea. Beyonce can do and be so much not because she’s somehow become a master at managing her time. It’s because she outsources most of the work that goes into making her Beyonce.
Smart and successful entrepreneurs and business owners know:
- There’s only so much they can personally do.
- They’re not experts in every aspect of running a business (and that’s OK). .
- They can delegate the tasks they don’t like or aren’t good at to someone else.
If you’ve tried everything you can to balance your time between your business and your day job and still don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done, ask for help.
That doesn’t mean taking on the burden of employees. You can outsource countless tasks to freelancers and contractors.
To start, make a list of the tasks you hate doing. Outsource everything you can on this list. You’ll be happier and more energized to focus on what you love.
Then, make a list of tasks that are time intensive, but not necessarily skill intensive. These things need to be done, but don’t require special skills or knowledge. Anyone with the right training could complete these tasks.
Outsource these as well and get as much off your plate as possible.
Still not sure what you could possibly outsource? Here are some common tasks that a talented freelancer or third-party provider can do for you:
- Website development and management
- Tech troubleshooting
- Graphic design
- Blog post writing (or any kind of copywriting)
- Social media management
Not sure where to start when it comes to lightening your load? Read our guide to help you get started with outsourcing your tasks to highly skilled contractors.
Decide When It’s Time to Go All In
These strategies can help you manage your side business while working your day job for a long time. But eventually, if your business does well and you’re successful, you need to make a decision.
When will you quit your job to focus on your business full time?
This point is different for every business owner. It’s a deeply personal decision that’s influenced by a number of factors.
Some people don’t want to leave their day jobs at all, and intend to keep their side business on the side. That’s perfectly fine!
Others aspire to run their business full time one day. They may set a specific income or revenue goal as their marker of when it’s time to make that transition.
How you make that decision is up to you. But do periodically pause and check in with your business and yourself.
Be prepared to ask, “am I ready to go all-in?” and know how you’ll decide if the answer is “yes.”
How Are You Building Your Business?
Thinking about starting a retail business? Will you dive in full time or keep your day job while building your side gig?
Share your experiences in the comments below.