One Foot in Each Camp ... Making the Break from Workforce to Full-Time Home Business

Posted on January 7, 2000

By Elena Fawkner

You have a full-time job but secretly you yearn to break free of the corporate shackles and strike out on your own. You have a great idea for a business but you need the income from your job to pay your mortgage and to feed yourself while you get it underway. Sound familiar? This article considers this dilemma and suggests how you might make the break from paid workforce to your own full-time home business when financial necessity dictates a regular and uninterrupted monthly income.

This may be obvious but it bears restating: if you need a regular paycheck to survive, DON'T give up your day job until you have another regular, consistent income stream to take its place. This applies even if you are absolutely convinced that your business idea is a surefire formula for financial success. It may be, but even the most successful businesses take time to get of the ground and most have a few false starts before they finally take off.

If you can't afford to give up your paid income while you build your business, then you have no choice but to start your home business as a side project and run it alongside your job. To make any sort of progress in your home business, plan to devote two to three hours a day at an absolute minimum to your business.

Because your time is extremely limited, you need to be ruthlessly efficient with what you do with it. For example, can you find spare pockets of time during your workday? If you are running an internet-based business and use a computer as part of your day job, this MAY be a possibility but be careful here. Don't risk your job for your business if you can't afford to lose that income. I'm not suggesting here for a second that you conduct your business on company time, at least when you have work to do. If you have some downtime during your day, though, then do look for ways to use that time productively.

Other ways to squeeze time out of your day include foregoing TV in the evening and/or getting up an hour earlier. In other words, get your priorities straight.

If your home business is related to your paid job, be extremely careful not to create a conflict of interest for yourself. In particular, do NOT deal with your employer's clients as part of your business. Not only is it unethical but, when the time comes and you make the break from workforce to full-time home business, those clients may well follow you and your employer would have every right to take legal action against you for breach of your employment contract.

Another difficulty you can get yourself into in this area is where to draw the line, if challenged, between what is confidential information and what is just general knowledge you carry around in your head. You cannot use confidential information you obtained in the course of your job in your business. Your general knowledge is not considered confidential information. Examples of confidential information include customer lists, knowledge of the systems and procedures of your employer's business, trade secrets and the like. For these sorts of reasons, it really is advisable not to choose for your home business what you do in your job.

It is a good idea to be discreet in the workplace about your extracurricular activities. Don't go out of your way to advertise the fact that you have started your own business. At best you will expose yourself to the increased scrutiny of your boss who may be concerned you will conduct your business on company time. At worst, you may jeopardize your chances for advancement if your outside activities convey the message that you are only a temporary fixture who will leave as soon as your business starts generating enough income for you. Although you may not be particularly concerned about career advancement because you plan to leave to run your own business, at least consider your position if your home business dreams don't pan out the way you hope. It is very difficult to resurrect an ambitious image once you've let it slide.

Finally, and especially during this 'double duty' period be sure to allow sufficient time each week for relaxation and taking care of yourself. This means paying attention to your nutrition, exercise routine and getting adequate sleep and well as allowing for pure downtime. The demands on your body during the double duty period can be pretty intense. You don't want to be taking on this challenge if you're rundown, unfit and aren't getting enough sleep. All areas of your life will only suffer if you're in this state. So, stay ahead of the game by eating right, exercising and getting plenty of sleep and relaxation.

After some time, your business will begin to generate income for you. As you start generating more income, you will begin to turn your mind to deciding at what point it becomes uneconomic to continue your day job. This is because, at a certain point, your business will reach 'critical mass', the level at which it becomes uneconomic to continue your day job because the return you get for your time and effort is greater from your home business. This is because your salary doesn't vary according to effort and results (at least not directly), but your home business income does.

As a general rule, you will need to wait until your business is consistently generating the same level of income on a proportionate basis to the time you spend on it before you start seriously considering quitting your day job. Once you get to that point, test the elasticity of your income. If you double the number of hours a week you spend on your business does your income increase commensurately? If so, your income is elastic. If you double your time input but your income only increases by half, then your income is somewhat inelastic. You need to calculate how much time and effort you need to expend to generate in the form of business income what you are currently generating from your paid job. If this is 'reasonable' by your standards then you can begin to seriously consider quitting your day job. If not, you need to find ways to leverage your business so you can generate more income from a more acceptable commitment of time and effort.

Only when you have satisfied yourself that you can generate from your business sufficient income on a CONTINUOUS and REGULAR basis, should you consider quitting your day job. That's only the threshhold question, though. Behind it are a whole host of other issues to think about before making the break. For example, how will you fund time off? As a self-employed person you can forget about paid vacations. Even if this doesn't concern you financially, consider what will happen to your business if you're not around for two weeks. Also, as a corporate employee, you probably enjoyed comprehensive medical benefits at your employer's expense. Again, these are gone. Be sure you take out your own insurance and think about income protection insurance as well. If you contract an illness that puts you out of action for a month, again, what happens to your business? You will need to take out normal business insurances as well such as public risk. Consider here whether clients will be visiting you at home. If so, ensure your insurances cover injuries to business clients. This is something that probably won't be covered under your general homeowner's policy.

Build up a network of contacts before you quit your day job. Not only will they be an important asset to your business in the longer term, they can also help alleviate the feelings of isolation that you can expect to experience early in your home-based career. Something else to do before you quit your day job is to prepare yourself mentally for the realities of working from home such as the need for self- discipline, feelings of isolation, your tendency to procrastinate to name a few. Educate yourself by reading about what running a home business is REALLY like to minimize the culture shock when it happens to you.

Prepare your family too for the changes that they can expect. They need to understand that although you are at home, you are still working and they need to respect your limits during worktime. Of course, set up your home office as if it were a corporate office. Make sure you have two telephone lines and dedicate one to your business telephone and the other to your fax/internet connection.

And one final piece of advice, when you first start working from home, establish a "going to work" routine, at least to start. This will get you into the routine of working even though you are not leaving the house and you won't develop bad habits (such as procrastination or lack of direction) that will be difficult to break later on.

Elena Fawkner is editor of the award-winning weekly ezine, A Home-Based Business Online, a down-to-earth publication containing practical home-based and online business ideas, telecommuting job listings, original articles, free e-books and much more. She also runs the A Home-Based Business Online website at at You can subscribe to her newsletter at the site.


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