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How to Manage Your Career When Starting a Business

Alley Team
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an illustration of what it takes to start a business

Perhaps the only thing more stressful than starting a business is starting a business while managing a career. In many ways, waiting to quit your job until your business is well-established is a smart move. Of course, finding the balance between the two in the meantime can be quite difficult. Luckily, there are many resources available to help you if you find yourself juggling a career and a business. Following these important rules can enable you to find success in both and stay sane while doing it.

1. Set Clear Goals

When you are starting a business, it is important to ask yourself a few questions and set some goals. Why are you starting a business, and why are you doing it now? Do you ultimately want to work only for your business? When and how will you quit your day job? Where do you want to be in one year? How about five years? Ten years?

An effective way of answering these questions and setting goals is to make SMART goals, or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely goals. Write down SMART goals regarding your career and business, and then refer to them frequently. Remember that you do not want to be doing this delicate balancing act forever. Use these goals to help you decide when you want to scale back on your job and ultimately devote yourself to your business full-time. Make sure your actions correspond to these goals.

2. Stay Organized

This advice is important for everyone, but organization is especially important for business owners. It can be the difference between success and disaster. Have a system in place for everything from taxes to inventory. Use a planner (or a planner app) so that you do not forget important appointments and deadlines. Have specific places for materials such as receipts and business cards from networking events. Set aside time to work on your business and time to work on your career.

Don’t forget to organize your free time too! You can’t be all work and no play or you will burn out. Set aside specific times to relax and engage with family and friends. Otherwise, work will continue to grow to take up all of your time.

3. Learn to Say “No”

This follows from the previous point. It is important to take advantage of as many opportunities available to you as possible when you are starting your business, but it is also important to make sure that the projects you take on are realistic. If you take on too many projects while also working, you are going to be exhausted and deliver subpar results. In the end, that will ultimately set your business back rather than help it grow. Many people will find it difficult to say “no” at first, but, with practice, it does become easier.

Saying “no” does not only apply to business projects. If you are planning to work and start a business, you may need to temporarily scale back on social activities and volunteer hours. This balancing act will involve some sacrifice, and this is why it is important to look at your goals. Remember why you are doing this, and remember that it will not last forever.

4. Never Stop Learning

Continuing education is a great way to improve your business and your career. Do research on the internet about similar businesses and about managing your career while starting the business. There is an abundance of resources available online. Take advantage of them! (If you are reading this, you are probably on the right track in that respect.)

Also take advantage of educational opportunities that are available to you. An obvious way to do that is by taking classes at a local college. Also be on the lookout for seminars, like those offered by coworking spaces such as Alley, community centers, and libraries.

5. Get Help

You are not the first person to start a business while working.  Seek out a mentor who has done this before. You may be able to find great candidates at your work or at your shared office space. It is important to have someone who has gone through this to talk to you and to remind you that you can do this.

Also make sure you talk to a lawyer because there are many ways they can help a small business owner. While it may seem like your career and your business are unrelated, you still want to be careful not to violate any stipulations of your contract. You may also just want to make sure that there are not too many similarities between your current workplace and the vision for your new business. The lawyer can make sure that you are creating a good foundation while also making sure you don’t accidentally set yourself up for a lawsuit.

If your business is growing rapidly, consider hiring freelancers or even hiring someone to help you out regularly. In fact, this may be the best way to get back some of your time. For example, hire someone to make your website if that is not your specialty. You will have more time and a better website for it. If you are hiring help though, make sure you keep track of your budget!

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