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How to grow your side business while working full time

There are endless stories of successful entrepreneurs who’ve thrown caution to the wind, giving up everything they own to start a new venture. Their belief in their dream so strong, they’ve mortgaged the house, sold the car and spent their entire life savings getting that awesome new idea off the ground. And it makes for an excellent story when it all works out. When you can see all those risk were worth it.

But the cold hard reality is that not all businesses succeed. For whatever reason – whether it’s lack of marketing, lack of research, tough competition or just plain bad luck – many businesses won’t even make it to their second or third anniversary. Starting a business is tough. And no matter how much money or time you invest, or how much you believe in your idea, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you hoped. And what happens then, if you’ve mortgaged your house and spent your life savings trying to realise your dream?

Don’t give up your day job

If you have a business idea but the idea of risking everything is too great, sometimes it pays to hang on to your day job while building the business on the side. Yes, it’s a lot of work and will eat up more personal time than you could possibly imagine! But having a steady pay check not only means the bills will be paid, but that the decisions you make in your new venture won’t come from a place of stress or desperation.

  1. Make a plan

Planning is important for any business, but it’s particularly important when you’re also working a full time job. Weeks fly by so quickly that it’s easy to let the side business slide. You need to know roughly what you want to achieve in a year, then break that down into a small, achievable goal for each month. Then work out a few things you need to do each week to get there – and stick to the plan. No ifs or buts.

  1. Stick to a schedule

One of the best ways to achieve your to-do list each week is to build it into your schedule until it becomes a habit. Decide how long you think you’ll need and then double it – it always takes longer than expected. Block out certain nights of the week you know you’ll be able to get home on time, or certain times on weekends. The more time you can put aside each week, the quicker you’re going to start seeing results.

  1. Get an accountant

This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s important to get your business financials organised from the get go. There are a few nuances to be aware of when you’re earning income tax as an individual and then acting as a sole trader business or company on the side. Not to mention getting your head around GST! So go to a professional and get set up properly from the start to avoid a headache further down the track.

  1. Make time for you

It’s true you need to dedicate the bulk of your free time to your new business – particularly in that first year. But when you’re working full time and building something new, if you don’t also make time for you, you’ll completely burn out. It’s inevitable your social life will suffer somewhat and you may not exercise as much as you used to. But don’t neglect self-care altogether – it’s just as important to block out time for yourself, your family and friends.

  1. Consider part time

Once you’ve managed to get your business off the ground it should start paying for itself and eventually, start turning a profit. And when your business grows, your customer base grows and ultimately, so will the time you need to dedicate to it. This is when you need to make the call – do you want to keep working weekends and evenings for the foreseeable future? Or is it time to consider going part time and dedicate more time to the business?

We launched Bookabuy in 2015 and for the first two years we essentially funded it ourselves. While both working full-time jobs, Bookabuy has grown slowly but steadily with 60% year on year growth. Now, in our third year, it’s finally turning a profit and Mel has decided to go part time and put more energy into the business.

Could we have grown more quickly had we both given up everything and jumped in, feet first? Perhaps. But there’s also a chance we might have run our finances into the ground and never made it to our third year at all. If you have a business idea you want to pursue and you’re ok with the idea of building it slowly, consider hanging on to your job for a while. It’ll be a hard slog, for sure. But it won’t be forever. And if you succeed, transitioning into a fully operational business will be a much less stressful exercise in the long run.

Chris & Melissa Tantchev, Bookabuy

Chris & Melissa Tantchev are the co-founders of Bookabuy, Australia’s first personalised book subscription service.


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Chris & Melissa Tantchev

Chris & Melissa Tantchev

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