Starting a Business on the Side? Don't Do These Things If You Want to Keep Your Day Job

Knitting in the office
GettyIt's probably not a good idea to work on your Etsy shop while you're on the clock.

You're starting a business on the side while working full time? Join the club. You're in good company. MBO Partners research shows "30 million Americans (are) already...self-employed -- either as a main source of work (17.9 million solopreneurs) or by using self-employment as a way to augment other income (12.1 million side-giggers)."

Running a business on the side can be a great way to supplement your income, but you want to be careful not to jeopardize your day job while you start your own business if you're not ready to quit and be on your own full time.

Here's a list of what not to do when you start your business if you want to be sure to keep your job:

Do not work on your side job while you are on the clock at your full-time job. This is a big "no no." While it is challenging to accomplish everything you may want to do for your own business after hours, if you use company time, equipment or resources, you are asking for trouble. Use your lunch hour wisely and consider taking advantage of your vacation or leave time to manage important tasks for your side business that cannot be done after hours.

Even if you use a company phone or computer for personal use, do not use it for your side business, or you may be in legal hot water in the future.

Do not ignore non-compete agreements. Assuming your new business is related to what you do at work, be aware of any legal agreements you have with your current company. In the future, if your consulting business takes off, it's best to make a clean break and maintain your relationship with your employer; you don't want to gain a reputation of building your business on stolen clients. If you are lucky, the company where you worked will become a client, especially if you're an essential employee they can't do without.

Don't forget to familiarize yourself with company policies regarding side businesses. Read your company's manual. If there is a rule against having a side business, even if your business is not related to your current work, be prepared for the consequences. If you choose to move ahead and your new business is successful, it may be difficult to keep it a secret. On the other hand, if your side business does not compete or seem to interfere with your day job, you may face no resistance at all. Even if there is no rule against it, if you are building an empire similar to your current employer's, and you can't make a case for how your personal success helps the company, be prepared to be shown the door if your employer accidentally runs across your new website or reads an article about you online.

Never share proprietary information from your current company to grow your own business. Can you say, "lawsuit?" You don't want to launch your new business with the prospect of legal action against you. Be mindful of ethical rules as well as specific guidelines your current company expects you to adhere to so you won't be in trouble later.

Don't forget you can still look for opportunities to learn new things at work to help your future business. Plan ahead. It may be a long time before you are ready to leave your day job, or you may choose to continue to work for someone else while you maintain your business on the side. Think about how you can learn new skills while on-the-job. Volunteer for projects and position yourself to meet people who will be good contacts for you in the future.
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