Many hopeful entrepreneurs spend at least some time straddling the fence between the security of the corporate world and the dream of running their own shows. How do you know when it is time to turn your attention full time to your budding business?
"Our most difficult situation to overcome was the 'in-between' stage that many small businesses encounter — that period of time between working a full-time job and creating a start-up," said JP Jones, co-owner of Collipsis Web Solutions, a website developer and provider of email and marketing services. "The start-up required tons of time and attention, but wasn't providing enough income in the early years to be full-time employment for me and my co-founder."
While it can be difficult to live a "double life" — Jones and her business partner spent two years building the foundation of their company while working full time — she said the most important thing is to make sure that you have built a client base before you make the leap. "It is hard to hold both things together, and sometimes you will feel like you are losing your mind," she said. But try to fight the urge to quit the full-time job until you have everything in place to support yourself and everyone else who will be involved in the business, she added.
While it is easy to get excited if you had an exceptional month of sales or you signed a big client, you have to be realistic about whether the growth is sustainable. "You may land a big deal and think it is time to make the move," Jones said. "But what you really have to look for is a steady and sustainable stream of work."
While the corporate culture varies at each workplace, Jones recommended being as upfront as possible with your full-time employer about your plans. "I was very blessed that my full-time employer was supportive of what I was doing," she said. "I wanted to be transparent, and while every corporate culture is different, it worked for me and my former employer. I assured them that this was not going to impact my commitment to the company, and I backed it up by not letting them down while I pursued my dream."
Jones ultimately decided she was ready to quit when she found that the time required by her clients and full-time job put her at a "nearly constant" level of stress. "For us, it wasn't a matter of having X number of clients, but having the proper amount of time to devote to each client," she said.
Leaving on good terms is another piece of advice for those who are finally ready to make the move to full-time business owner, Jones said. "Even while I was working there full time, my full-time employer referred clients to us when the workload there was too much to handle, and ultimately they became a client of ours and we still work with them today."
While it may be hard to get through that rough transition period, Jones said there is a light at the end of the tunnel. "Five years later and many 18-hour work days behind us, my partner and I are both full time in our company and have a staff of six. If you're willing to go through the rough stuff, it is possible to come out on the other side."