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Transitioning from full-time work to working for yourself

- July 18, 2012 3 MIN READ

The transition from full-time work to working for yourself is filled with a mix of excitement and nervousness, especially when breaking away from your employer.

So you have a great business idea and have decided to take the plunge from working full-time to working for yourself? That’s wonderful news. Now here’s what you need to consider: 

Telling your employer

One common way for entrepreneurs to ease the transition from full-time employment to working for themselves is to downscale their full-time job to a part-time or contract role. This comes with the benefit of a regular income as you build up your side business. To do this you will inevitably have to discuss your other work with your employer. The risk is: some bosses won’t look favourably upon your side business, especially if it is in direct competition with your current work. 

Check what your employment agreement says in relation to outside revenue-generating activities. There may be restrictions that you have agreed to. If so, it may not be possible to continue working both for your employer and on your other venture. 

I know entrepreneurs who had visions of becoming part-time or a contractor for their current employer but when they approached them, the employer asked them to choose between their side business or their job. That’s the tricky part: while some employers will see your being a business owner as a strength and something that brings value to their organisation, others will question your commitment and ability to continue working for them, particularly if there are any conflicts of interest. 

Ensure you have a strong and positive relationship with your employer before revealing your intentions. 

Put yourself in your employer’s shoes

Before approaching your employer to reduce your hours, think about how they will respond to such a request and be prepared to alleviate any of their concerns, which may include:

  • Will you be focused when you are here?
  • How will we cover your workload?
  • Can your job be done in less days?

Be ready to present them with options such as job-sharing, narrowing your role, dividing it into two part-time roles or bringing on a lower-salaried employee to undertake the less complex or time-consuming aspects of your role. This might provide them with more resources for less cost.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business startup section.

If your employer is not willing to accommodate your needs you will need to consider part-time or casual work elsewhere until your business is profitable.

Whilst you are working for someone else, do so with integrity

It is really important that whilst you are employed by someone else that you do that job to the best of your ability. Try to enjoy your job as much as you can while you are there. If you get to a point where you hate being there you will come home feeling drained and depressed and not have the passion and energy to make your dream business a success.

I have also found that if you work hard and are respectful to the people that are – let’s face it – paying your bills, they will more likely be flexible if special commitments for your business arise.

Have a transition plan

It is imperative that you set the intention of transitioning into your business full time. In order to do this you need to set revenue goals – both the amount and strategies for making that amount – that will enable you to reduce your hours working for someone else. This is a solid practice that will become even more necessary when you don’t have a regular salary from a day job to fall back on.

The leap of faith

Eventually the time will come where, to move forward, you will need to take a leap of faith, leaving any part-time employment so that you can invest all your time growing your business. This will be scary and I highly recommend that you do this when you have built a solid side-income with good growth potential, and preferably a financial buffer to cover you until the business is making up for the loss of regular income.

Be kind to yourself

During the transition to soloism it is really important to be motivated and driven, yet also realistic and patient. Don’t expect this transition to be a quick one: if your business takes off quickly that is fantastic but have a realistic timeframe in mind.

What’s your advice for transitioning smoothly to working for yourself?

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"