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Can You Be a Part-Time Entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur will take on as much as they can handle to make their business a reality. But if they have to work a 40 hour “day job” on top of all the day-to-day activities that goes along with their business, will they really be able to make it happen? There will undoubtedly be stories on both sides of the table, but I think for the most part, the answer is no. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to go all in.

“…it’s one thing for you to live on ramen and coffee for awhile, it’s quite another to have your kids do the same.”

I put this little theory to the test for the better part of a year. During that period, I was working a full-time job, taking classes part-time in the evenings, all while writing a business plan and trying to market Ucraft Brew. In fairness, I was working with three other people to write the business plan, but it was still a ton of work. This lasted about 8 months, but let me tell you, exhaustion kicked in much earlier. Once you hit that certain point of exhaustion, that point where you wake up tired even after 8 hours of sleep (I had one or two nights), things start to give. I wasn’t performing my “day job” as well, school work was becoming exceedingly difficult because I didn’t have time to complete my assigned reading, and Ucraft Brew wasn’t going where we wanted it to. This might ultimately be why we didn’t get funded, and why Ucraft Brew might just be a pipe dream now.

You might be thinking, is this just one guy’s sob story of a failed business, or is there some truth behind it? In his most recent book #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness, entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck answers this very same question. While I’m paraphrasing here, Gary says the same thing – if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you’ve got to eat, sleep, and breathe it, there isn’t time for anything else. Entrepreneurs will never be comfortable working for someone else, so if you you’re happy with your job, you might not be an entrepreneur. His advice is that if you want to be an entrepreneur, do it while you’re young and don’t have big commitments. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to rely on savings or downsizing your life and having the other spouse work.

When I first read this advice, I kind of just shrugged it off as one guy’s opinion. The more I thought about it though, the more it made sense. When I think of successful entrepreneurs I’ve personally known, they have typically fallen into one of three categories: they were young with few commitments (mom and dad were still kicking down), they had a spouse that fully supported them, or they were old and had enough savings/retirement to help fund them (you might be interested to know that boomers aged 55-64 represented 25.8% of new entrepreneurs in 2015 – entrepreneurship may just be the new midlife crisis). I bet most entrepreneurs you know would also fall into one of these categories.

Photo: pastemagazine.com

Let’s be clear, when I’m talking about starting a business, I’m not referring to the weekend photography gig you do to make an extra $15k on the side. I’m talking about a full-blown business with a full clientele, employees, making at least a few $100k in sales. If your definition of a part-time entrepreneur is the former, then it’s totally doable.

So if you’re on the fence about whether or not you should take the leap and start your own business, or dip your toes in the water first, know this: starting a successful business isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. You’ve got to want your business to be successful more than you want vacation (because you won’t get any), more than you want security, and pretty much more than anything else you’re doing with your life. You really need to do some soul-searching and think about these things. If you have a family, you need to bring them into the conversation because it’s going to have a big impact on them – it’s one thing for you to live on ramen and coffee for awhile, it’s quite another to have your kids do the same.

I learned a great lesson during those 8 months of trying to start a business. It helped me to better understand the things I want in life, and how I want to go about getting them. I am fortunate enough to say that I thoroughly enjoy my job. If I truly wanted to start my own business, it would have to be for an idea that I have more passion for than anything my job could ever provide. Only then would I be able to make the leap.

Have you tried to start a business while keeping a full-time job? Do you disagree with what is said here? Please share in the comments below!