Start a business while you work for others

Work-life balance is a crock Digitalnative (http://www.flickr.com/photos/classblog/5136926303/)

Anyone can start a business. What's tough is starting a successful business.

That's why, if you hate your current job, the best way to start a business is to keep your full-time job, maybe for years. Staying employed is, except in rare cases, the best way to dip a toe in the entrepreneurial waters.

Sure, that approach requires a tremendous amount of hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. But those are the same qualities you'll need to succeed as an entrepreneur, whether you quit your job or not. Almost every successful business was built by an owner who worked incredibly, almost impossibly, hard.

Here's how to start a business while keeping your full-time job:

1. Go lean. Most businesses spend money before they make money, and some go years before revenue exceeds expenses. No matter how much money you have in personal savings, it probably won't be enough. Cut family expenses to the bone. Eliminate all personal spending that is not absolutely necessary. Start-ups often fail due to a lack of money. Besides, a lack of funds can drive you to make poor decisions for the long term. Cash creates options and freedom, especially the freedom to make the best decisions.

2. Be a superstar at work. You must continue to perform well at your job; lose it, lose everything. Yet you also need to spend time on your new business. The solution? Work incredibly hard at your job. Get as much done as you can within normal work hours. Eat at your desk. Be the outstanding employee who never has to stay late because she gets everything done during regular work hours. Time is your most precious commodity. Don't waste a second.

3. Create a challenging work schedule. When you leave work, your workday is just starting because then it's startup time. Decide how many hours you think you can spend. Then add more. Then commit to that schedule. Don't just plan to work a certain number of hours; schedule those hours. When your schedule calls for you to work on your business from 7 pm to 11 pm during the week and from 7 am to 4 pm on weekends, do it. Work your business schedule like it's your job.

4. Never whine about your challenging work schedule. This may be the second-hardest step. Say you start a consulting business: Land a number of clients, and every night and evening will be tied up. (Of course, that's a good thing.) Meeting with clients may be difficult if they're in other time zones, so you might have to find creative ways to deliver your service. Rarely will you get to choose your work hours. Customers will choose your work hours for you. That's just how it goes. If you don't accept that fact, you won't be successful or might be tempted to quit your job long before you should.

5. Don't spend profits. Reinvest your profits. Use earnings to set up the business infrastructure you need. Buy equipment and supplies. Advertise. Grow your business. Every dollar you spend should further establish your business. Cash creates options.

6. Wait longer than you want to quit your full-time job. Deciding when to quit your job and go into business full-time is the hardest decision you will make, especially when you're tired, you're stressed, you're sick of your full-time job, and you want your real life back. Stay the course. Quit too soon and you'll regret it. Stay logical and focus on numbers rather than emotions. Don't listen to your feelings, especially late at night. Listen to your business. Your business will tell you when it's time to quit.

  • Jeff Haden On Twitter»

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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.

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