Whenever the point in your career lifespan that you decide to 'go it alone', there are many important factors to be considered, most of which, if you are reading this, you will already be aware of: finance, risk, motivation, professional experience, training needed etc.
Once all of these factors and their implications for success have at least been acknowledged, if not met head-on and conquered as part of a decision-making process, the budding entrepreneur then tends towards a decision of a well-established 'all or nothing' approach: either you are either employed, or you break out to work for yourself. But at this point, is it as straightforward and sensible to make it an 'either / or' decision, or could it be more sensible to establish a mid-ground and make the final decision from there?
Here we explore both sides of what this mid-ground can offer: could it be a sensible stepping stone to the entrepreneur path, or an inadequate half-measure?
Maintaining a form of paid employment, on a full, part time or ad-hoc basis, ensures a regular income. Additionally, if your financial history is not very good, it may be help you to be able to demonstrate extra income through regular employment in order to secure any additional finance needed from a bank or lender.
Particularly if you are moving into an industry which does not reflect your career experience so far, it may be wise to hang on to the day job whilst undertaking opportunities to get some more experience in your proposed field or an essential skill relating to business generally, such as book keeping, marketing or presentation skills.
Build up client base and trial your product or service:
Depending on your chosen area, it may be possible to maintain a paid employ but begin to slowly establish your business, perhaps beginning production and marketing of your product from home and building a client list. In this way, you can also begin to identify any necessary glitches or changes to your product or marketing approaches and, importantly, research whether there is a market for your idea. If so, great; if not, what could you do or change to improve your service or products' prospects for sale? Better to be able to identify this prior to any mass-production or wholesale component purchase or expensive marketing campaign.
Build up reputation:
Along with your client-base, you will start to build up a reputation. If you launch straight into your business, it takes time for this reputation to build up, and you could have several lean months whilst you rely on (possibly expensive) marketing and word-of-mouth to bring new customers and clients (and their cash) to you. By being a part-time employee/part-time entrepreneur, you are more secure in having a regular income to tide you over this transition period - an inevitable part of the establishment of any new business!
Find out if the right thing for you:
Here's your chance to 'try before you buy': you will be exposed to the routines and demands of being in business for yourself but without (at the part-time stage) all of the financial risk. Additionally, if you are unable to juggle the demands of running a business on a part-time basis, you will need to think twice about whether going into business for yourself is right for you.
Remaining in paid employment does reduce the time available to set up your business, which can be incredibly time consuming. Whilst the 24/7 availability of contact through the internet is a useful aid, it does not substitute making face-to-face contact with potential suppliers, financiers, customers and clients and you will need to consider the impact of maintaining a 9-5 paid role: where does this leave time for you to establish contacts that you need to approach during business hours? Even moving to part-time work can still mean a frenetic demand on your time: good time management skills are imperative!
As with the time factor, maintaining paid employment restricts your availability when starting up your business. Particularly where you may need to act quickly to secure the best contracts on goods, or premises options, being tied into a paid workplace could limit your availability to act quickly in securing deals.
Switching between the demands of being your own boss and being 'bossed' is the ultimate in multi-tasking across roles. You will not be effective in either if you cannot isolate the headspace that you need to perform well in each, as both will be making demands of you. Ask yourself, Are you up to that challenge?