Sometimes, having a part-time job while you’re working 9 to 5 is an exciting way to make extra cash and do something you love. It can also lead to a more rewarding career opportunity if your side gig starts generating enough income that you’re able to quit your day job.
But aside from simply quitting your day job when the money starts pouring in, what else must you do to ensure the success of your new endeavor? Here are some things to consider when trying to turn a side job into your new full-time career.
1. Review Your Current Job’s Employee Handbook for Any Conflicts
Many employers have addendums in their handbooks that restrict their employees from engaging in outside work. Pay close attention if the job you’re interested in doing part-time directly conflicts or competes with your current job.
For example, if you work in computer programming and are also writing code part-time for your own clients, your employer could make the case that you wrote some of your own code while “on the clock” or that your full-time job informed the code you wrote for your part-time clients.
If you find any wording in the employee handbook (i.e. statements regarding your own inventions or intellectual property) that implies your employer will have a right to your intellectual property, be sure to sit down with Human Resources and/or your boss to discuss options.
This can be very tricky and delicate, especially if you work in a small office, as the implication may be that you are interested in leaving your current job. However, if the option exists for you to have an open and honest conversation regarding your part-time job with your current employer, do it. The sooner you bring up this discussion, the better; it’ll make things much easier in the future if there is ever a dispute. For more details on the legal implications of doing side work, click here.
2. Understand to What Exactly Your Employer Has the Right
Some intellectual property or invention clauses are broad and require that the employee surrender any inventions or ideas to the employer if they are conceived while working for the company. Other clauses are less general and only refer to physical inventions or products you have created while working. Keep in mind that if your side work is closely related to your current work, it will be more difficult to prove that the conception of your idea was completely independent of your full-time job.
3. Consult with an Intellectual Property or Employment Attorney
Once you have a full understanding of what you may have already signed, as well as an overview of what your boss and/or company think about you having a part-time gig, it might be best to meet with an attorney who specializes in employment law or intellectual property.
Make sure to bring all of the documentation you have from your employer, including the employee handbook, a non-compete and invention assignment, or any other clauses you may have signed upon being hired, so that he or she can adequately advise you on your options. It may be possible to protect your inventions, but it’s best to fully understand your predicament first.
4. Write a Business Plan, and Plan for Success
If you are truly looking to parlay your part-time gig into a full-time job, then you’ll want to treat it like any new venture and plan, plan, plan. The best thing to do is write up a formal business plan that includes your revenue goals, sources of capital, projected timeline and any competitive analysis. Revisit your business plan often, and keep track of your progress, especially if you experience success a little earlier than anticipated; be sure it is success you can prolong and not just a growth spurt before handing in your resignation.
5. Consider Your Finances
Working for yourself means that you need to financially support yourself and your business. If you’re lucky, your side job will grow quickly enough to support you, but in most cases, this will take time. Consider how much money you currently make off your part-time gig, and try to project how much your revenue would grow if you dedicated yourself to the job full-time.
Let’s say you act as a consultant on the side of your regular job, and you have so much demand from potential clients that you can’t make time to see them all. If you quit your job and had enough time to fulfill all of your requests (and to seek clients yourself), you could easily see about four clients a week. Based on your going rate, this would bring in enough to support yourself and to reinvest in your business. This is a good circumstance to turn this side job into a full-time gig.
If, however, you don’t have a lot of demand or a solid customer base established yet, it’s important that you have a big nest egg of savings to both pay the bills and invest in growing your business. Make a six-month projection of the money you will need to survive and to grow your business, and compare this cost to your revenue. If your projected revenue falls short, consider staying at your job until you’ve gotten more interest or seeking business loans, capital investment or support from family if you have faith in your ability to scale.
6. Leave on Good Terms
If at all possible, leave your full-time job on good terms. If your product or service might help them, you may even offer them a free subscription, consultation or sample to help their business. You never know when your new business might need a boost, and having business contacts who might be able to provide an endorsement or referral will be a huge advantage.
It isn’t impossible to maintain the rights to your own inventions and creations when working for someone else, but employers have become savvier in protecting their own assets by requiring their employees to sign over the rights of their inventions, thereby keeping competition down. It is also worth checking with your state government, as different states have different provisions regarding employers and what can and cannot be enforced in relation to their employees’ inventions.
The fact is that making your part-time gig lucrative enough to call it a full-time job will require a lot of discipline, focus and time. However, it is possible to turn what you may do as a hobby into what you do for a living with some careful planning and precautions.