You’ve hatched the bright business idea and you’re ready to ditch your day job. Before you do, you may want to think about the small question of funding.
Cameron Smith launched his digital production company Virtual Connexion a year ago. For the first five months, he juggled it with his job as Melbourne bureau chief at A Current Affair.
It was an exhausting time and Smith recalls feeling like a “walking zombie”.
“I think I’d have enough qualifications to be a juggler in a circus after the juggling act I did while setting up my own business,” he says.
“My day job at A Current Affair was waking up at 4.30am and getting home at 8.30pm at night. I’d have a quick bite of dinner and then start work on my business until one or two in the morning.”
Despite the difficulties of holding down a day job and setting up a completely new business, Smith says it’s the safest way to launch yourself into the unknown.
“As long as you don’t conflict your full-time work, it’s important to try and hang in as long as possible doing your day job, because once you receive your last pay cheque, it’s totally up to you to generate income and it’s not easy.
“For me it was important to test the waters and make sure that I would be able to earn a living with my own business. I was earning about $175,000 a year in my job and my wife was at home looking after our young daughter, so it was important that I could leave my job knowing I would be able to keep our house and have food on the table.”
Luc Wiesman comes from a family of entrepreneurs and always knew a nine-to-five job was not for him. When his men’s style blog D’Marge began to gather momentum, he recognised his ticket to starting his own business.
“I went from posting once a month to posting every day, from 5000 visitors a month to 10,000,” Wiesman says.
He continued to work in his advertising job for five years before quitting to work full time on D’Marge.
Knowing when to leave the security of a full-time paid position was a tough call, he says.
“My biggest concern was leaving a job that was very comfortable, where I was well paid and working for a great company. I agonised over it – especially the possibility of eating baked beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But I knew there was this great unknown and I had to go there, otherwise I’d die wondering.”
Recognising the right time to quit the day job is all about timing and, of course, the funding. Some entrepreneurs aim to reach a financial target before handing in their resignation, but for Wiesman it was a matter of judging which workload was more demanding.
“There’s a tipping point where you realise the hobby is encroaching on your nine-to-five job,” he says.
“That’s when you know your head is in another space and it’s time to make the move.”
Wiesman’s leap of faith has paid off. In the past six months, since he has worked on his business full-time, traffic to his site has grown by 100 per cent. Wiesman’s moonlighting has also built him a healthy nest egg to fall back on.
His advice to entrepreneurs who are leading a double life is to come clean with the boss.
“My employer knew about D’Marge and they supported it 100 per cent,” Wiesman says.
But honesty proved not to be the best policy for Sydney entrepreneur Christophe Hoppe, owner of Bausele watches.
Hoppe dreamed of being his own boss while working in the finance industry. He decided to tell his previous employer about Bausele at the interview stage.
“I chose to be upfront and told them I had something on the side,” he says.
“It was a mistake because they didn’t understand. When my phone rang, they would think it was about my business and it was a challenge.
“My advice is keep it quiet.”
Another important lesson for any ambitious entrepreneur, Hoppe says, is to secure the understanding of family and friends about your chaotic working hours.
“It was crazy,” he says. “I would wake up at 5.30am to reply to emails and work as much as I could at night.
“But I was fortunate to have a supporting wife who understood what I had to do.”