Many people dream of setting up a business doing what they love and being their own boss. Imagine setting your own hours, working in your pyjamas and employing the people you want to work with. Sounds like heaven, right? But how do you get started without a huge bank balance? Is it possible to start a business while working full-time?

It may sound challenging, but keeping a steady income in the early days of setting up a new business is the most sensible choice. It can take time to build a customer base and turn a profit. In this guide, we’ll share our top tips on how to start a business while holding down a full-time job.

Set goals and create a realistic plan. One of the first steps towards starting a business is to decide what you want to achieve and make realistic plans for how to get there. Lack of planning is one of the main reasons businesses fail. It’s impossible to gauge success if there are no clear goals.
Planning is especially important for entrepreneurs who are starting a business while working full-time. Create a realistic timeline with achievable milestones. There’s no point setting out to be up and running in two months if you work 10 hour days. Equally, don’t kill yourself working 24/7 to achieve ridiculous goals — you’ll burn out before the business reaches its first birthday.

Plan a weekly schedule that includes time for paid employment, time to dedicate to your business and free time to unwind and recharge. Getting into a routine will help you to make the best use of your time and reach business goals. The Gov.UK website provides free business plan templates to get you started.

Make your business look professional. If you’re running a business from the kitchen table, prospective customers don’t need to know it. Companies that succeed build credibility and trust by establishing themselves as professionals with relevant expertise.
Startups need to work hard to win their first customers. Consumers are naturally attracted to brands they are familiar with. Make your business look professional from day one. Set up a company website that makes it clear what service or products you’re offering. There’s no need for anything fancy, but the site must be user-friendly and contain all the business information potential customers need to get in touch with you.

Next, ditch the personal mobile number and invest in a virtual phone number. This is a simple and cost-effective way to add credibility to a new business. Choose a number that makes your company look established, such as one with a national dialling code, or entice people away from the competition with a toll-free number. Callers need never know you’re operating out of the bedroom — they see only the virtual number and calls redirect to your mobile or landline.

A few simple steps can help to create a professional and trustworthy impression.

Consider negotiating your working hours. If the business takes off, but you still need the security of an income, consider speaking to your boss about reducing hours or adopting a flexible working pattern. Many employers are keen to hang on to valuable members of staff and will be willing to negotiate terms. If the new business is related to your current role — there could even be the prospect of a future partnership!
If changing work hours is not possible, consider using holidays to move the business forward. But don’t forget to take a little “you time” to chill out.

Make use of free help. It can be daunting starting a business solo and if the budget is tight, hiring help will be off the cards. There is plenty of free advice you can make use of.
The internet has a wealth of business advice and guidance on starting a business. Be sure to check the site is authoritative and reputable and cross-check information. There’s also a lot of market research readily available on the internet, which means you can gain insights into the buying behaviours of a target audience.

Another good source of information on what people are buying, where, when and for how much, is social media. Start following businesses similar to yours and monitor comments made — is there a gap in the market that you can plug?

Finally, don’t be shy of asking friends for help. Perhaps your best buddy is a pro web designer, or your sister has contacts in your industry. People who are close to you will be impressed by your ambition and will be only too glad to help.

Work smarter, not harder. Most full-time workers will have limited time to devote to their new enterprise. In addition to work, they may have family commitments and other demands on their time. So it’s important to maximise productivity in the brief windows of time that are available.
Create a space that suits your style of working. If you need silence, working in the lounge with the kids running around is unlikely to lead to the highest levels of productivity. Find a location where you can be productive, be that the garage or the local coffee shop.

Read up on time management techniques and find a method that suits you. Avoid following the same routine because that’s what you’ve always done. Running a business is different from being an employee. There may be new ways of working that will boost your productivity. It’s also important to identify and eradicate your “time thieves” — the things that distract you and reduce your productivity.

Starting a business while working full-time is certainly not for the faint-hearted. But if you’re in it for the right reasons — passion for the cause and a commitment to success — it can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Set realistic plans and create routines that help you to achieve goals in a realistic time frame. Don’t neglect the day job. Keeping a steady income while starting is a wise decision. Managed carefully, it is possible to have it all.