How to Operate a Side Business While Working Full-Time

Many people operate a side business while working a full-time job. This experience can be rewarding personally, professionally, and financially. However, running a side business while being employed can also be challenging. You need to juggle multiple tasks and deal with competing and, often, conflicting commitments.

As an employee, be careful not to do anything that could affect your full- time job. The following simple rules will help you meet this challenge:

Rule #1: Make sure your employment agreement allows you to own a side business

Before you start your side business, determine if your employment agreement allows you to have a side business. While most employees don’t have business ownership restrictions, some companies do impose them.

Rule #2: Run your business on your own time

Running a business while working full-time can be extremely time-consuming. However, every employee owes their employer their full attention during work hours, so you should work on your side business only during your free time. Refrain from running your own company during work hours.

If you must take a client call during work hours, do so during one of your regular breaks. If possible, leave your office and take the call elsewhere (e.g., a coffee shop). This policy establishes a clear separation between your full-time work and your side business.

Rule #3: Use your own resources and tools

Never use your employer’s resources to run your side venture. Don’t use their office supplies, copiers, computers, or equipment of any kind. Many companies consider this a serious offense that is often grounds for immediate termination.

Rule #4: Don’t compete against your employer

Your side business should not compete directly with your employer. It’s not ethical and could ruin your reputation permanently. If your side business does compete with your employer, you only have two options: quit your job or close your business.

Keep in mind that most companies make employees sign non-compete agreements. Breaking this rule could expose you to serious legal problems.

Rule #5: Be discreet

There is nothing wrong with having a side business if your employment agreement allows it. However, some coworkers may not see your side venture in a positive light. This perception could affect your job and career opportunities, even if you are performing all your duties well. To be on the safe side, keep the fact that you own a side business private.

Rule #6: Leave when the time is right

If your side business is successful, it will grow to the point where it demands your full attention. Eventually, you must decide if you have to quit your job and work full-time in your venture. When you reach that point and are certain that your business is sustainable – consider quitting.

You won’t be able to keep your job and run the business at the same time, anyway. Ultimately, it’s not fair to you or your employer. Keep in mind that the transition to full-time self-employment is never easy, so be financially prepared.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

By Marco Terry

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