In case you hadn't noticed, the freelance economy is taking off: more and more people are working for themselves as consultants, selling products or services and creating businesses on the side, even while working a full-time job. These entrepreneurs have what has been dubbed a "side hustle," or an extra, income earning business they run while working a traditional 9 to 5 job. In our book, Social Networking for Business Success, Hannah Morgan and I term these solopreneurs "MOXIES," an acronym for people "managing other (secondary), x-tra income engagments." This term is intended to help remove the stigma some people associate with "hustling." Moxie refers to someone who has "courage, nerve or vigor," according to Dictionary.com. Anyone planning to run a business on the side will require all three.
True job security does not exist. Even government workers, long considered "safe," have begun to experience the layoffs and uncertainty long common in other fields. Creating new income streams for yourself is prudent, forward thinking and goal-worthy. However, until you are able to be self-sufficient with your MOXIE gig, you don't want to endanger your day job.
Here are some tips for anyone thinking of starting a business while currently employed:
Do not work on your side job while you are on-the-clock at your full-time job.
This should go without saying, but depending what you're trying to do, it can be difficult to accomplish all of the tasks for your business after hours. Use your lunch hour wisely and consider taking advantage of your vacation or leave time to manage important tasks for your side business. Depending on what type of business you are growing, you may find yourself in legal hot water if you planned your successful side gig on company time or property. Be careful not to use any company equipment or resources when you are growing your new business.
Be alert to non-compete rules you may need to consider.
It's not wise to grow your side business at work with the plan to steal clients from your existing company and quit, although clearly, people do this all of the time. Ideally, you'll be able to make a clean break when you are ready and maintain a strong relationship with your current company. In many cases, the company will become your first client, especially if you're an essential employee.
Don't ignore the possibility that you can grow a passion or interest business on the side that has nothing to do with your current employer. MOXIEs in that situation often have an easier time maintaining both their 9-to-5 and traditional job.
Never share proprietary information from your current company to grow your own business.
Can you say, "lawsuit?" You don't want to launch your new business with the prospect of legal action against you. Be mindful of ethical rules as well as specific guidelines your current company expects you to adhere to so you won't be in trouble later.
Look for opportunities to learn new things at work to help your future business.
There's nothing wrong with volunteering for projects or asking to take classes that may help you in your future endeavors. Be alert to ways that you can put yourself in situations that benefit you as an employee and may also help propel your own business later. It's up to you to seek out these win-win opportunities. You'll be glad you did when you're able to solve a problem on your own or can rely on your past work experiences to handle an issue when you're working for yourself.
Tap into social networks.
In Social Networking for Business Success, we explain in-depth how employees can use social media to help them effectively grow their networks and business opportunities. Key things to remember: social media is free, you can use it at all hours of the day or night – including early in the morning and after work hours – and it allows you to easily tap into resources and information that can help you grow your business.
Use tools such as a personal blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ to demonstrate your expertise and meet new people. It's not easy, and there is no magic wand, but you don't need a million fans; all it takes is a few great contacts who are willing to take a chance on you to launch a new business endeavor.
Save your extra money.
You may need that income if you unexpectedly need to leave your current job, so if possible, plan to create a fund that will help you more easily leave your day job if that becomes necessary.
Be aware that your successful side business won't be a secret for long.
While it's possible to grow something without people finding out your plans, once you begin to succeed as a MOXIE, expect you'll need to face your employer and come clean about your moonlighting. Be aware of company policies regarding earning income outside of office hours, and be prepared to answer questions about whether or not you are using company materials or property to grow your side business.
If having a business puts your full-time position in danger, be prepared to face the consequences. You may want to have a heart-to-heart with your boss before people start gossiping about your side gig around the office. Keep in mind, if your side business does not compete or seem to interfere with your day job, you may face no resistance at all. If you are building an empire similar to your current employer's, and you can't make a case for how your personal success helps the company, be prepared to be shown the door if your employer accidentally runs across your new website or reads an article about you online.
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