By Sean C. Castrina, author of “8 Unbreakable Rules For Business Start-Up Success“
You have a respectable, steady job. You provide for your family. You do home improvement projects on the weekends and even find the time to coach your son’s Little League team. But as you slog away at your 9 to 5 and go through the motions of daily life, in your own mind, you feel that true success is still eluding you. You tell yourself that you should be grateful just to have a way to pay the bills (especially in the wake of the Great Recession!), but you can’t quite stifle that little voice that whispers, There ought to be something more.
The truth is, you want to be your own boss and to own your own business. But the risks involved in becoming an entrepreneur, you think, are just too great. After all, you can’t gamble your current steady income, your credit, and your family’s comfort on a venture that may or may not succeed.
And that is where you’re wrong.
You don’t have to gamble any of those things in order to start your own business. The solution is to become a part-time entrepreneur. And if you follow a specific set of rules, there’s less risk involved than you may think.
I speak from extensive experience. I have started over 15 companies in industries including direct mail, home services, property management, retail, and more—the first while I was working 9 to 5.
If you’re ready to create a more rewarding experience than slaving away at a 9-to-5 job that offers little to no security, disappointing retirement savings, and doesn’t come close to helping you pay for your child’s college tuition, follow my top 10 rules for being a part-time entrepreneur:
Figure out your game…
I recommend starting a service business (anything from home cleaning to tutoring to adult care) for the following reasons:
• They require minimal money to start. I’ve never started a service business with more than $10k, and many with less than $3k — including businesses that have made me millions!
• Many service businesses don’t require a prior work history in the field or particular qualifications.
• In most cases, they can’t be outsourced or performed by computers so you’ll always have work.
• Since you can hire others to perform the actual work while you handle the key behind-the-scenes management tasks (like hiring, supervising, taking client calls, marketing, etc.), service businesses are a great source of passive income.
…but make sure you understand the rules before you start playing.
Before pulling the trigger on your business, take time to research the licenses, permits, and certifications you may need for the industry you’re entering, and make sure that obtaining them won’t be prohibitive. And take it from the voice of experience: Start filling out that paperwork early. Government bureaucracies can be painfully slow!
Do business from anywhere other than your current job.
Setting up a dedicated workspace for your business is crucial for productivity. Depending on your home’s layout and your personal preferences, you might be able to use a spare bedroom, a basement, a detached garage, or even a nook in the living room as your “office.” Also, if you set up a home office, don’t forget to capitalize on available tax deduction advantages.
Prep your victory dance.
While you’re still in the planning stages, set aside an hour to take a mental trip into the end zone. Envision your goals for your business: what you’ll make or sell, who your customers will be, and — most importantly — how being an entrepreneur will positively impact your life. It is a great way to motivate you and remind you why you became an entrepreneur in the first place.
Don’t underprice yourself.
Often, the urge to undercut the competition is just too great, but doing so can quickly hurt your business. What you need to do first is figure out all your costs and what you want to make, and then use that information to determine the price. Remember, there are also many ways to add value to your services that will allow you to charge more if you have done your homework identifying what your competition fails to offer.
Make room for a marketing budget.
In a nutshell, this is the money you invest every week or month to tell your community why they need your product or service and why your company is the one they should choose. If you do not reach and retain customers, you won’t be in business — you’ll be bankrupt.
Once you’re familiar with all applicable hiring laws, it’s time to get the ball rolling. Make sure that you can get the labor you need before you officially open your doors by running test ads. If you don’t get five applicants within three days, you might want to rethink which field you’re going into, because you want a business that is effortless to hire for. And of course, be sure to look for talented, smart, experienced, and competent people with integrity. Don’t automatically hire friends and family members because it’s convenient!
Become king of your own corner of the web.
Developing an online presence is as essential as having a business card. At minimum, you need a homepage that functions as a business storefront, conveying your unique selling proposition, pricing, and contact information — though sections for customer testimonials, employee bios, and photos don’t hurt!
Don’t let the other guy outperform you.
To make sure that customers hold your company in high esteem, focus on providing great service to each and every customer from day one. Put quality control measures in place. Be prepared to listen to the occasional complaint and to rectify the problem.
Use your time wisely.
Whenever possible, plan each day the night before. Write down all of the things — family, day job, and small business related — that you’d like to do the next day. Then, mark each one with an A, B, or C. As are tasks that must be done. Bs should be done, and Cs would be nice to get around to. This system will help ensure that you’re spending your time on high-value activities instead of reactively chasing every shiny ball that rolls by.
While these rules don’t cover every step of creating your own part-time business, they will help you to head in the right direction. So stop procrastinating. There’s no time like the present to start becoming your own boss.
Sean C. Castrina is the author of “8 Unbreakable Rules For Business Start-Up Success“ and the soon-to-be-released 8 Unbreakable Rules for Small Business Dominance. He is also founder of newbizcoach.org. A successful business coach and a true entrepreneur, he has started over 15 successful companies over the last 18 years. His companies have ranged from retail, direct mail marketing, and advertising to real estate development and home services.