How to Quit Your Day Job and Start Your Dream Business
Let me guess, you were the kid who couldn’t stop drawing on his homework. Or the designated photographer on family vacations — even though you were only 12. Or the friend who styled everyone’s hair before a wild Friday night back in college.
Whatever your medium, you’ve always had skills and love using them. In fact, you would kinda (okay, really) like to start your own shop and actually get paid for your work.
The question is: how to start a business while you’re still employed full time?
We won’t lie to you, starting a business is hard, time-consuming, and fraught with risk. But it can also be incredibly rewarding, both emotionally and financially. If you have the drive, you can turn your dream into a reality. And it probably won’t take you as long as you might think either, if you follow our tips…
Keep reading to learn how to:
- Clarify your why
- Get your mindset right
- Choose the right business tools
- And much, much more
By the end of this ultimate guide, you’ll have the tools you need to start your business now, as a side hustle, and grow it into your full-time gig as quickly as possible. Sound good? Then let’s get started.
What this guide isn’t
We have TONS of practical strategies to share with you about how to start a business while you’re still employed. But before we unleash our metaphorical firehose of knowledge, we want to explain what you won’t learn from this guide — to make sure we’re on the same page.
This guide will *not* teach you how to apply for a business license or secure financial assistance for your new venture. Don’t worry, the internet is filled with blogs on those topics.
Instead we’re going to focus on more foundational concepts like:
- Choosing the right business
- Adopting a proper mindset
- Making time for your side hustle
- When to go full time with your venture
Basically, we’re going to cover the things that will really determine the success of your shop. Sound like a plan? Great, let’s get this show on the road!
How to start a service business
So, what’s your thing? Maybe you have Hollywood-level makeup skills or magic massage hands. Maybe you’re a fitness expert with a jacked bod and a knack for helping sculpt the physiques of your friends. That’s all great, we applaud you.
But if you want to learn how to start a service business and turn your talents into a sustainable income, you’ll need to acquire other skills as well.
Here’s a seven-step process you can follow to get your dream biz up and running now — even if you’re still tethered to traditional employment.
1. Choose the right business
We’ll begin at the very beginning. What kind of service business should you start?
Too basic? Stick with us for a minute. This is absolutely essential…
Most people believe that passion is everything. It makes sense. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time (think Steve Jobs) make it seem like “following your passion” is always the answer. And if you’re not successful, well, you just aren’t passionate enough — shame on you.
We call bull.
There’s nothing wrong with passion. But if it’s the only thing driving your business, you’re destined to fail. This is because passions change on a regular basis.
If you want to successfully learn how to start a business while you’re still employed, look beyond your passions and ask yourself the following four questions:
What am I good at?
Just because you’re passionate about music doesn’t mean you’re destined to become the next Beyonce or Harry Styles or whoever else the kids are listening to these days.
Take an honest look at team YOU and assess your skills. Which of your talents can you realistically build a business around? Chase your talent, not your passion. You’ll make more money and experience less stress this way, guaranteed.
What do I enjoy?
Building a business is difficult. You’re going to have to work long hours (at least in the beginning) and make sacrifices. Plus, you’re probably going to have to do things you don’t enjoy. Most tattoo artists aren’t crazy about managing their appointment [c][d]calendar, for example. So if you don’t like delivering the service you plan to deliver, you might as well keep your day job.
Now, don’t misunderstand us. We aren’t saying you need to have a raging passion for your service business. But you do need to like it.
What’s my why?
Why do you want to start your own service business, anyway? Some people want the freedom that comes with being their own boss. Others crave a bigger paycheck or the chance to spend their “on the clock time” doing something they enjoy.
The only wrong answer in this regard is *no* answer. Knowing your why will get you through tough times and keep you grounded as your business expands.
What will sustain me?
Finally, assess whether your service business idea can sustain your desired lifestyle. You may be “The Pooch Whisperer” and love taking care of your fur baby. But making a strong six-figure income as a dog walker could be difficult.
If you need to reach a certain financial threshold, make sure your chosen service business will get you there.
Roughly 50% of businesses fail within five years. Answer the four questions above and build a successful service-based enterprise that will stand the test of time.
2. Get your mindset right
A proper mindset is vital if you want to learn how to start a business while you’re still employed. Here are five tips to help you bring your A game to your head game:
1. Stock up on sweat equity
Have we mentioned that starting a business is hard? We don’t say it to scare you. We just want you to be fully prepared before you start your new venture.
Plan to work on your business in the evenings, after you’ve already put in eight hours at your day job. And on the weekends before your kid’s soccer game. And pretty much every other free moment you have to spare. That’s what it takes.
But don’t worry, your efforts will be worth it. Eventually you’ll be able to walk away from your day job and pursue your venture full-time. Heck yes!
2. Plan for growth
Carol Dweck, an American psychologist, is credited with developing the theory of fixed and growth mindsets. A fixed mindset believes in innate traits that can’t be changed. You’ll never become more intelligent, hardworking, etc. than you are now.
A growth mindset, on the other hand, believes that these traits can be improved through open mindedness and a commitment to learning.
As an aspiring business owner, it pays to have a growth mindset. This mentality will help you turn challenges into opportunities and treat failure as a step towards success. It will also empower you to plan for growth in the future.
If you don’t believe your current skill sets can be improved upon, you probably won’t be open to trying new business strategies or investing in tools like online appointment scheduling software either. Why would you? They won’t be able to help you anyway.
Adopt a growth mindset, then adopt strategies to help you maximize your shop’s potential. This is key when learning how to start a service business.
3. Don’t play the comparison game
It’s been a pretty good day so far. You got off work early, picked up the kids from school, and then cut the hair of three long-term clients. Now you’re eating dinner at your favorite local restaurant. Because, in the immortal words of Tom and Donna, “Treat yo’ self!”
As you sit at your table waiting for the check, you whip out your phone and start scrolling through Instagram. Buh bye good vibes.
Suddenly you feel jealous, because Tanya, another hair stylist in town, just bought a shiny new car. “I wish I could afford that sweet ride,” you think. You keep scrolling and realize that your sister’s down in Cabo right now. “Must be nice,” you mutter under your breath.
Before you know it, your good mood is gone, baby, gone and you’re wondering why you thought starting a new business was a good idea.
It NEVER pays to play the comparison game. Your journey is different from Tanya’s and your sister’s and everyone else’s. Measuring yourself against their social media highlights is a recipe for depression. And it will definitely keep you from creating a business you love.
4. Kick perfectionism to the curb
News flash: nobody is perfect. We all know this. But still, so many of us put our mental sanity on the line to achieve something that’s unattainable. When we inevitably fail, our self-worth takes a huge hit. It’s really hard to build a business when your ego is in the dumps.
That’s why we need to fight against perfectionism. Aim for good, not perfect and learn to enjoy the journey, not just the outcome. This will empower you to build a business that’s successful and a joy to own. Trust us, you want both of these things.
5. Run from imposter syndrome
It’s not just the comparison game and perfectionism you have to look out for. Imposter syndrome is the third member of Team Terrible and it’s a doozy.
In fact, if these three conditions started a band, the imposter syndrome would be the lead singer. Every single one of us (yes, even your super awesome, super successful idol) has felt like an imposter at one time or another.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, imposter syndrome is a mental state in which an individual questions their achievements and fears being exposed as a fraud. It makes us feel like we lucked into our success and everyone is about to notice.
Left unchecked, imposter syndrome can lead to depression, anxiety, overwork, perfectionism (see above), unhappiness, and other harmful mindsets.
It’s common for imposter syndrome to rear its butt-ugly head when someone takes initiative and decides to start a business. They’ll think, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” or “Maybe I’m not that talented after all,” or “This will only work if I get super lucky…”
When you have these kinds of thoughts, kick them to the curb. They’re not true and they don’t deserve a second of your valuable time. Instead, remind yourself of your successes, keep working hard, and pour your energy into satisfying your clients.
3. Start now
At this point, you’ve chosen the correct business and got your mind right. What’s next? It’s time to dive in and start. Yup, fire up the engine and get your show on the road.
This is an exciting time. You’re heart’s probably like “Whhheeee!!!” and we totally understand. But remember, we’re teaching you how to start a business while you’re still employed. “While” is the key word here. So don’t go quittin’ your day job yet.
Unless you’re a trust fund kid, have wads of cash in the bank, or have a significant other that can pay the bills while you build your dream, your new business will start as a side hustle.
This is actually GREAT news because it means you can grow your business without many of the financial strains that accompany a new venture. It will also allow you to focus more time on important things like investing in the right tools.
When we say the “right tools” we’re talking about:
A killer website is a must in this day and age. If your homebase on the interwebs isn’t eye-catching, informative, and easy to navigate, you’ll have a hard time building your client list. Fortunately, tools like WordPress and Squarespace make it easy to build a professional website — even if you’re technically-challenged.
A basic email service like Gmail is essential. Without this kind of tool, your clients will have a hard time contacting you. But we also suggest investing in email marketing software (MailChimp is a popular option) so you can send automated newsletters. Doing so will keep your business top of mind and boost bookings.
Social media marketing
You’re on social, right? Many hair stylists, tattoo artists, freelance photographers, etc. use social media platforms like Instagram to reach potential clients. But social media can be a giant time-suck — especially for those with full-time jobs. That’s why we recommend using an app like Buffer to schedule your posts ahead of time.
Online appointment scheduling
It’s the 21st century, but plenty of independent shops act like it’s 1954, booking appointments via a pen and paper system. This is, shall we say… less than ideal?
Online appointment scheduling tools like Bookedin allow clients to book appointments on their own terms. That way you don’t have to rush to the bathroom every time a potential client calls you at your day job[e][f]. These apps will also send your customers automated appointment reminders, freeing you up to focus on the service you provide.
You’ll notice that most of the tools listed above involve some form of automation. Use the technology available to you to get more done in your limited amount of time.
Your client list
Want to learn how to start a business while you’re still employed and ensure it’s successful? Take this time to grow your client list above all else. If you can build a collection of customers who LOVE what you do, your transition from part-time to full-time will be much smoother.
4. Prepare for the future
Most people who find entrepreneurial success are forward thinkers. Meaning they make plans and take steps with the future in mind. Here’s an example:
Kelly just started working as a tattoo artist in her free time. She’s been at it for six months and has worked on a few projects, gaining experience and referrals along the way. Yesterday, Kelly landed her biggest project to date: a full sleeve that will bring in thousands of dollars in revenue[g][h]. Once the project is completed, Kelly has two options:
- Kelly could book a trip to Vegas with the money she’s made. Between her full-time job and her side hustle, she’s been working a lot of hours and definitely deserves a break.
- Or, Kelly could take her earnings and reinvest them in her business. She could buy better equipment, make a marketing push… there are plenty of options.
Kelly is entitled to do whatever she wants with her money — it’s HER money, after all. But a forward-thinking business owner would reinvest the money they’ve made. That way they can achieve their goal of full-time entrepreneurship sooner.
Your money isn’t the only thing you’ll need to invest to get your business off the ground. You’ll also need to invest your time to deepen your industry knowledge, develop important business skills, network with other professionals in your area, etc.
Just remember, when it comes to investing your money and time, all work and no play is rarely a recipe for success. It’s definitely okay to reward yourself now and again.
It’s also important to set boundaries and spend time on non-work related activities. An online appointment scheduling app can really help in this regard. These kinds of tools make it easy to section off time for family, rejuvenation, and other pursuits.
Think about your business goals and then plan your finances and free time accordingly.
5. Evaluate your approach
The final step is evaluation. Are you getting closer to your goal of full-time entrepreneurship? If so, double down on the tactics that work the best. If not, adjust your approach. Just don’t get caught up in someone else’s version of success.
So what if your mom’s best friend’s husband thinks you could make more money if you opened a second location? He’s not the ones who’ll have to work 60+ hours a week.
You need to determine what success looks like to YOU. If that means a second location and extra hours, go for it. But don’t feel bad if you’re happy with a smaller, more manageable business. The venture you build should facilitate the life you want to live. Don’t let it become another “job” that you have to drag yourself to, kicking and screaming, every morning.
When evaluating your business, keep your goals in mind and stop worrying about growth for the sake of it. You’ll be MUCH happier that way.
When do you know?
As in, “When do you know it’s time to go all in on your dream?”
Side hustlers have asked this question since… well, since side hustles were first invented. That’s right, Great Grandpa Caveman spent many sleepless nights in front of the fire, wondering when he could ditch berry-picking and hunt Wooly Mammoths full-time.
The truth is, no one can tell you when to quit your day and job and give your service business your full attention. It’s a very personal decision that you have to make for yourself. But you definitely do *not* have to make it in the dark.
Keep an eye out for these four signs that you’re ready:
- You dread your job: Does working your day job make you sick to your stomach? Do you catch yourself daydreaming about your side hustle on company time? You might be ready to resign. If, on the other hand, your day job is still fun and challenging, you might consider holding onto it for longer.
- You have room to grow: Let’s pretend your part-time gig is bringing in an extra $2,000 a month — not bad! But unless you plan to live on that amount for the rest of your life, you need to make sure your business has growth potential. If you’re tapped out in that regard, definitely keep the day job on lock.
- You can’t do both anymore: Have you had to turn down work because you didn’t have time for it? It’s frustrating when your job keeps you from accepting new clients. But it’s also exciting. Why? Because this is a clear sign that your side hustle has the potential to grow into a full-time profession. Whoop whoop!
- Your finances are in order: In most cases, the money factor will determine when you resign. Are you making enough from your side gig to sustain your current lifestyle? Or can you adjust your lifestyle to accommodate your fledgling business? At the very least, make sure you have a decent amount of savings in the bank. That way if cash flow becomes a problem, you can still pay the rent and buy groceries.
Again, only you can determine when to give your two-week notice and wade into the wild waters of entrepreneurship. But consider the four signs above before making a decision.
If they can do it, so can you!
Every aspiring business owner needs encouragement and motivation. Guess what — we’ve got it for you in spades! Meet Uptown Barbershop, owned and operated by Mr. Eddie Murawski in sunny Naples, Florida.
In 2018, Eddie was working multiple dead-end jobs (his words) and cutting hair on the side. He’d dreamed about owning his own shop since he was 15 years old. But coming from a poor background, he didn’t have the funds or know-how to get started.
Fortunately, Eddie’s story doesn’t end there like it does for so many other people with a dream. He took initiative, read business books, grew his YouTube channel.
In 2019, Eddie made the leap and started his own shop. He now has six other barbers on staff and a host of happy clients who love the services he provides. Even better, Eddie’s invested in appointment scheduling software which allows him to find an ideal work-life balance.
Eddie’s story is a triumph, but here’s the thing: you can do it, too. With dedication, a solid plan, and the right tools, you can turn your dream into a reality.
Build your business
Now — like, right now — is the perfect time to start and build your business. Why? Because you still have financial security from your day job. This means you can grow your venture on the side, free from many of the pressures that accompany entrepreneurship.
Starting with a side hustle will also allow you to clarify your why, get your mindset right, experiment with tools like online appointment scheduling software, and implement the other tips outlined in this article.
But we all know that eventually, you’ll need to make the leap and give your side gig your full attention. Don’t worry, when that time comes, we know you’ll be ready!