Deciding to Start Your Business Part-Time

Many startups begin as part-time ventures on nights or weekends, as you hang onto your corporate or day job. Here’s how to figure out if "going half-way" as you start your business is the right approach for you.

Launching a startup requires a great commitment of time, energy and financial resources. But starting a business doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to lay everything on the line right now, all at once: Many entrepreneurs figure out how to hang the Open for Business sign on a part-time basis.

Whether you intend to become a full-time entrepreneur at some point or not, starting your company part-time can be a smart way to begin. As you start your business, keep these things in mind when deciding between full or part-time.

Look at your strategic options as you start your business

Many factors can and should figure into whether you launch a company on a part-time basis. For example, where does the idea of starting a business fit into your financial and lifestyle priorities? If starting your business part-time is the only way you’d feel comfortable becoming an entrepreneur — or the only way that it’s financially feasible for you — then you’ve already made the most important decision. At this point, figure out if your would-be enterprise actually lends itself to part-time work. It’s one thing to moonlight part-time as an accountant if your day job has you playing the role of a corporate controller, but you probably shouldn’t plan on starting your own day-care center on a part-time basis!

Make a full commitment when you start up

Just because you’re starting a business part-time doesn’t mean you can make a half-hearted commitment to your venture. What it really means is that you’ve got to become dedicated to making a full-time impact on your new business in the limited hours available.

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber, for example, launched their company, The Laundress, outside the confines of their corporate day jobs. They spent most evenings and weekends together for several months to get their New York City-based cleaning-products company off the ground. And their friends and relatives could absolutely count them out for holidays. “We did our business plan on Memorial Day weekend, our financial projections on the Fourth of July, and on Columbus Day we were looking for a manufacturer at a trade show,” Wieber recalls.

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Find an enabler for your new business

The key to your success in starting your business on a part-time basis might be recruiting someone who really wants to help you succeed. It might be a sympathetic boss who’s willing to bend over backwards to accommodate your attempts to become an entrepreneur. It could be a partner such as a spouse or friend who wants to do this with you, creating a combination that adds up to more of a full-time capability.

Or it could be a franchisor like Spring-Green Lawn Care that helps you out. This Plainfield, Ill., company has a program it calls Flex Start that enables would-be franchisees to learn all facets of its business while operating part-time. With that flexibility comes the requirement that the entrepreneur determine by January 1 of the following year whether they want to make a full-time commitment. “We’ve seen the Flex Start program become a huge positive for our franchisees in launching their business while also giving them a comfort level in migrating from their current career into business ownership,” says James Young, Spring-Green’s vice president of marketing.

Our Bottom Line

Starting your business part-time might be the most feasible way for you to launch your entrepreneurial dream. But you’ve got to take a lot of things into account in order to commit to a strategy that will stretch you thin for some time to come.

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