Starting a business…while working 9-5.

Believe it or not, most people don’t start off as entrepreneurs. Starting a venture often co-occurs with working and/or going to school. Although it is possible to save enough money to live off of while starting your own business, few people will find themselves in the circumstances to do so. So, if you have the itch to get a brilliant idea for a product or service off the ground, you will likely find yourself in a balancing act between work or school (or both) and your new venture.

There are only so many hours in the day, so how exactly does one do it? What can you expect? What are the challenges and benefits?

Entrepreneur in Residence Matt Larson has plenty of experience with the juggling act of entrepreneurship and working full time.

“At one point, I was working full time teaching at a community college, and I owned a vending company and a book keeping company all at the same time,” Larson said. “I got through it. You set goals… Just know that it is going be a roller coaster ride. Understand that going into it.”

The biggest challenge you will face on this roller coaster ride is obvious: Time. Your current work and/or school schedule will inevitably dictate the schedule you keep for your new business. This could mean that you will be answering emails at 11:00 p.m., pulling all nighters to meet a deadline, or using your lunch break to conduct market research. Due to the limitations on your time, your progress might be slower than you would like. When your ambition outmatches your pace, frustration can set in. To remedy this, adjust your expectations and be realistic with your goals. And don’t forget to pat yourself on the back every once in a while!

Although it may all seem like sleepless nights and snails pace progress, there are benefits to starting a business while working. Mainly, motivation. Working a 9-5 that you are not passionate about can be a huge motivator when starting your own business. When the light at the end of the tunnel is a future where you are no longer spending 40 hours a week doing something that you find less than fulfilling, you may be more apt to utilize your time and energy outside of work toward your venture.

Another benefit is security. Having an income and meeting your basic needs (i.e., rent, utility bills, food) gives you room to put all of your worry–and extra cash– toward your business. It may be tempting to do the “I quit” dance the moment you have your earth shattering, money making idea, but quitting is never a good idea until you are actually generating a profit.  And that may take a while, so hang in there and don’t quit your day job yet.

While it is not easy to start a business while working, there are steps you can take to ease the burden. Larson recommends setting strict deadlines and seeking partners. Deadlines are a way of holding yourself accountable, while partners can significantly lessen your load and maximize your progress.

“I used to be hesitant to have partners…” Larson said. “But it can be very beneficial. A partner can be a foot in the door to an industry that you are trying to break into.”

Lastly, do not be discouraged!  Utilize the support of your community. The entrepreneurial ecosystem around you is full of people who are all too familiar with the grind of clocking out at work only to clock in at home. Help is available. All you have to do is ask.

Here are a few resources available to entrepreneurs in Grand Rapids:

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