You have a great idea. You think your startup would really catch on. You’re inspired. Unfortunately, you’re also working a full-time job that you can’t afford to quit.
You’re not alone. Most startups are founded by people with full-time jobs; 70% of them are married, 60% have at least one child, and their average salary is less than $50,000 (around £38,000). Vast riches and zero responsibilities clearly aren’t a prerequisite, but learning from those solo founders who forged a path ahead of you can immensely improve your chances of success.
Stay on the Right of the Law
Founding a new business while you’re currently employed can send you into tricky legal terrain, and it isn’t rare for former employers to send their lawyers after startups that do manage to thrive.
Make sure you’re on solid legal ground. You should be working on an idea unrelated to the business of your employer that will not grow to compete with them, and you absolutely cannot work on your business using their equipment or on their time. Cover yourself by discussing the project with a lawyer and having them go over your employment agreement.
Start Slow to Grow Fast
Paul Graham, co-founder of the startup incubator responsible for funding such companies as Dropbox, Airbnb and Reddit, defined the startup as ‘a company designed to grow fast.’ However, premature scaling is the most common cause of startup failure.
How can you expect to grow fast if doing so represents such a risk? Crawl before you run. When you’re still working full-time, dedicate yourself to building a solid foundation. You won’t be able to handle clients during business hours or devote your every waking minute to growth, so don’t try. Instead, concentrate on perfecting your product, testing the market, and defining your brand. This is the warm-up period where you stretch your legs, check for weaknesses, and get ready for the upcoming dash when you finally say ‘I quit’.
Don’t Go It Alone
Two heads are better than one in the startup game; on average, you’ll attract 30% more investment, grow your customer base 3 times faster, and be drastically less likely to commit the premature scaling faux pas mentioned above when you find a co-founder.
Two fully invested partners can share the burden of responsibility, collaborate on creative projects, motivate each other, and cover a greater range of skillsets. Most importantly, a partner helps prevent the tunnel vision that often throws solo founders off-track. Try to find someone with skills that complement your own. If no potential candidate comes to mind, consider joining a founder matchmaking service, such as FounderDater or CoFoundersLab.
Take Care of Number One
Number one is not your business; number one is you. As the founder of a start-up, you are your own most essential asset, and, just like any other tools, your mind and body will wear out if not taken care of.
A lack of sleep and the stress of pushing yourself during every waking hour can take its toll on your immune system, and depression can develop with astonishing ease when you choose to forgo your social life. Make sure you eat right, stay connected to your closest family and friends, and take the odd weekend off to unwind and regenerate.
Founding a startup around a full-time job isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Follow the advice provided above to make sure your startup will flourish when you finally do throw off the ball-and-chain of the 9-to-5.