You have an idea and you’re serious about starting a business.
So what can you be doing while you’re still in the corporate world (or your version of the 9-5)?
How can you set the foundation for future success before quitting your job?
I’m no stranger to ’starting up on the side’ and planning for success while in full time employment.
I wrote the book plan for my first book between 8-9 every morning for 3 months before work at a digital publisher in London.
I wrote my second book and what would become the foundation of my first digital information product while working at a agency in Sydney. I’d focus on my weekly newsletter (my list building strategy) on Wednesday evenings, and write the chapters between 9am – midday every Saturday.
The most impactful things you will ever do for your life and work require quality of effort, not quantity of effort.
And the best time to do this is while you still have the structure of a day job and the regular income it provides. If you can leverage both you’ll set yourself up for an easier transition to a full-time focus on launching your ideas.
Here’s your 6-month plan for starting a business before quitting your job.
Schedule Yourself for Success
A system you’ll want to put in place is your Startup Calendar. It’s something I mentioned in the 5 Tools You’ll Want When You Move Beyond the Safety Net but I’ll keep hammering it home.
Decide when you’ll focus on your ideas, projects & business, then schedule it and fiercely protect that schedule.
Whether it’s an hour every day before bed, every Saturday, or every single weekend, create dedicated space on your calendar for specific work on your ideas.
At first you’ll begin with your vision, planning & validation, then move into the making, creating and selling.
Regardless of what stage you’re at, these windows of focus are what makes the magic happen.
Your ideas and epiphanies will percolate between those sessions.
And you will be amazed at what you can achieve in showing up consistently in only 2 hours a week over 3 months.
I dedicate an entire lesson to scheduling yourself for success in The Freedom Philosophy Classes. It’s that important.
2. Visualise the Bigger Picture of Your Life & Work
It’s easy to get caught up in your grand vision for changing the world or the prestige of commercial success, but what many of my clients forget to do upfront is ask: “What do I really want and how can I build a business that will support that?”
In my first book Absolutely on Purpose Yogi Ragunath asks:
”Is your ladder against the right wall?”
Meaning, once you get what you think you want, will the view AND experience from the top be what you wanted, too?
I knew from the outset that the freedom to travel and make independent decisions about my ideas, projects, products and services was going to inform the DNA of my future business.
For me building a location-dependant business, having a business partner or investors would never have been a good idea.
I put together some questions in my What Kind of Life Do You Want? which you might find very helpful in figuring out exactly what you want from life.
Clarity about your life is a powerful foundation for a business that supports it.
3. Define Your ‘Who, What, Why’
You’ll hear these words a lot in the startup world, but instead of developing your clichéd elevator pitch, put together you entire business plan and model on a one-pager that serves not only to shape a greater vision for your idea, but fill in some of the details around how to make it happen.
It’s a moveable goal post, but a powerful kick starter.
Included in this one pager should be:
- Who will buy from you and why?
- What is your product, service or offer?
- How will you make money? Aka what is your business model?
- Who is your perfect customer and what’s the size of your ‘market’?
- What makes you stand out in your category amongst your competitors?
- Who is in charge?
- How much money would you like to make?
- How much will it cost to create, launch and deliver?
In Forget How to Write a Business Plan I share my one-pager for The Freedom Philosophy Classes so you have an exact idea of what it might look like.
4. Have 20 Conversations With Your Customers
The most simple, powerful, and FREE step in business is speaking to your audience.
The people whose problem you’re solving, or fantasy you’re delivering — the REAL people most likely to pay you REAL money for your idea — can be found in your family, friends, workplace and social settings.
If you can’t find 20 people who would benefit from your idea and be willing to pay for it you’ll be forced to question whether you want to invest further time energy and money into it.
When you ask these 20 people they will tell you everything you need to know to make your offering incredible and your offer a no-brainer.
It will inspire the creation and first iteration of your idea, the copy for communications & marketing, and help define the sweet spot between what you want to do or create, and what people are happy to pay for.
This is the step that takes your idea from imagination to impact.
I simply started with the question(s):
Have you ever thought about starting your own business? Yes. No.
If yes, what has stopped you from starting up?
If no, why not?
Allow your curiosity to ask more questions and find out more until you’ve exhausted the conversation.
When you’ve compiled the responses of 20 people core themes and threads emerge, the knowledge of which will give your products & marketing more depth and greater resonance with the people who will benefit from them the most.
5. Plan Your Runway
When you’ve built a strong foundation for your business and are ready to go all in, decide exactly what you need to do next and what funding you’ll need to do that.
As I talked about in Before Your Run Out of Business Funds, your runway it’s smart to have a milestone, a deadline, a backup plan AND enough funds to cover your life & business for the duration.
Even this step isn’t the point of no return.
There is no ‘point of no return’.
You don’t have to quit your job and never go back.
You can do specific business building tasks and actions in specific time frames and leverage your corporate career and 9-5 experience to grow your business milestone by milestone.
Just do what you need to do within the time you have with focused attention.
- You could write your book under a palm tree by splitting your 5 weeks holiday a year into 2 x 2-week blocks for writing and 1 x 1-week block for editing.
- You could take all your holiday in one go and spend 5 weeks in India sourcing fabrics.
- You could take 3 months non-paid leave to find shoe makers in Hong Kong.
- You could take a 6-month sabbatical and use the time to re-envision your goals for your life and work.
- You could quit your job and move to Mexico for a year to create a course, build an online classroom and launch the beta test version.
Define the next action you need to take to bring your idea to life, give it a timeframe and make it happen.
Once you know what it costs to do your next step, you can start saving a Startup Fund.
If you’re finding it tricky to decide on your next steps, that’s exactly what I can help you with.
Starting your business while working full time is smart and strategic.
You get to build a strong foundation for your life and work, and test your idea while earning a regular salary, and making all the small changes and tweaks you need to shift into full time self employment.
Nothing will test you or inspire you more than spending time with your ideas on your precious evenings and weekends.
Working 24-7 is not uncommon when you first start your business anyway, so you’ll be getting the full flavour of self-made entrepreneurship almost immediately when you turn your kitchen table into your very first ‘virtual’ office.
Image: Brenda Godinez