Part-time Business Pitfalls

The start of a New Year is invigorating. It’s like starting with a clean slate and it feels as though anything is possible. The past few years have been tough for businesses of all sizes, and no matter what size company you work for, you may have gone with little or no pay increase and/or no bonus.

The tough economy has many unhappy workers dreaming about becoming their own boss. However, it’s not easy to let go of a full-time job, especially if you have good benefits. So what I’m seeing is more and more employees are starting businesses on the side. They’re testing the entrepreneurial waters without jumping over-board. In an Elance Global Business Survey released at the end of last year, 40 percent of the 1,500 respondents said they were doing some sort of freelance work while holding down a full-time job.

A part-time business is a smart way to begin to build your business dream and supplement your income, but be careful. There are a number of pitfalls you need to watch out for.

Current Employer’s Policy. First check with your current employer to make sure “moonlighting” isn’t prohibited. Some companies don’t want their employees working on the side and it could be a cause for termination. I also recommend checking with some of your colleagues who have been with the company for a while. Sometimes there are informal rules of which you should be aware.

Don’t Compete. Don’t take business away from the hand that feeds you. And it should go without saying, but don’t align your outside venture with your employer’s competitor. Directly competing with your employer and/or working with a competitor not only could get you fired, but might also create additional exposure to other claims, such as stealing trade secrets or proprietary data.

Don’t be Sneaky. Honesty is always the best policy so never try to hide from your employer what you are doing outside the company. In fact, it is a good idea to fully disclose your outside business venture so there aren’t any surprises down the road. Being open and honest upfront can limit problems in the future.

Don’t utilize company time or resources. As harmless as it may seem to make a few copies at work for your business or send a fax, don’t do it. When you are at your full-time job, stay focused on the work you do there. Don’t be tempted to make a phone call or send a quick email. You are being paid to work for your employer. And utilizing company time and/or resources is a big “NO”.

Be careful about email. Did you know businesses can legally monitor their employee’s emails? So don’t make the mistake of using the company’s email system for your personal business endeavor. The email system is for your employer’s benefit only.

Keep up your job performance. Don’t let your job performance slip at your full-time job. By adding additional work hours for your own business, you’re increasing your workload and stress level. Make sure you continue to produce results at your full-time job. Otherwise, you may find yourself without a regular paycheck.

Have a “Plan B” in place. Even if you do everything right, there is always the risk your employer may decide it isn’t working and release you from your employment. Make sure you have considered that option and have a plan B in place.