How I started my business whilst working full-time
Even with funding, many business owners will end up working full time whilst starting up their own business. There are benefits to this – a steady income while you’re getting off the ground, a safety net should it all go wrong, a chance to try out a product and develop it without the pressure to make it profitable right away – but how can you balance a full-time job with pursuing your dream?
We talk to Virgin Startup loan recipient Rachel Moan of Train Like an Athlete about how she started up a business whilst working a full time job. In case you’re wondering, we gave her £4500 to start up.
What made you decide to start your own business whilst working full-time?
By trade I’m a Chartered Management Consultancy Surveyor working full-time, and I also contribute to RICS (the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) through writing for their online knowledge base, contributing articles to the member’s magazine and helping to organise business breakfast events. I’m also an RICS appointed 'APC Doctor' to help trainee surveyors.
The public sector is an extremely challenging place to be and we see constant cuts (including salaries), overly ambitious savings targets, restructures and redundancies. It is very distressing to see a career you worked so hard to build not go to plan, especially with very few jobs available elsewhere. Yet such disappointments and setbacks can create an environment that breeds creativity.
All of that, coupled with a 'lightbulb' moment where I realized I could turn my passion for sports psychology, writing, self-help, mentoring others and trauma recovery into a business – paired with a "I can't take this anymore" moment – led to me contacting Virgin StartUp. It helped that I saw their ad campaign at a train station on the daily grind that is the commute to work, so they were always in my mind! A few months after that, and TLA will launch on 1st February 2015.
How did you manage your time in order to get your business off the ground?
You need serious amounts of self-discipline and perseverance. When I was younger I trained professionally as a dancer, so I have a good sense of sacrificing free time to work towards a goal! You’ll need to use weekends, evenings, sitting on a train and waiting for a bus in the freezing cold as opportunities to start and maintain the business.
Very importantly, you also need to realise what your intrinsic motivation is for starting a business, because that’s the only thing that will get you through working 18-hour days with two jobs. Whether it’s contributing towards a greater good, following a personal passion or wanting to change the world (or all three!) make sure you know what really motivates you.
Did you have to keep it a secret from your employer, or were they supportive?
I haven't announced it to my employer. However due to the amount of Virgin articles I share on LinkedIn, every request I make for annual leave is met with "You're not going to meet Richard Branson, are you?!"
What’s the hardest part?
Time; because you can’t use the 'normal' working day to set everything up, your relaxation and social time will certainly take a beating!
What are the benefits?
Motivation to keep going; if you've had a horrid day in the office it's comforting to think you are working towards something far greater and will only have yourself to answer to!
Money; you have to pay bills and having a steady income certainly helps in the early days.
Contacts; you get to meet people who may become absolutely intrinsic to your business.
What advice would you give to those who work full time but want to start up?
Expect and accept that it’s going to be very difficult; yet it's also doable. Often the worst parts of a 'normal' job center on working for someone else...where it sometimes doesn't matter how hardworking, dedicated or honest you are. That doesn't happen when you’re the boss!
Take as much help as you can get from other people because you will need it. Also make sure you save a steady number of annual leave days for start-up related deadlines!
In 'A Book About Innocent: Our Story and Some Things We've Learned', Richard Reed gives advice for those in full time employment who want to start-up on their own. He suggested staying in employment until the last possible moment - and his advice was good enough for me!
Do you now work full-time on your business? If not, will you ever do so?
TLA launches 1st February 2015 so I will still be working full-time until I’m confident that we can grow enough to rely solely on that income. I'm intending to grow TLA to a far bigger platform and reach out to as many people as possible!