I've come over from Stack Overflow. I'm currently working full time as a web site developer, and like many people have got a bit fed up of working for someone else and want to set my own business up. I'm in the planning stages for a site that I can build myself. The more I research though, the more I'm not sure it's something I can run properly while working full time. We're currently living off my income as my partner is still on maternity leave. She'll be starting back at work soon but only part time. She has to go back as for 13 weeks as stated in her contract. Her wages will just about cover nursery fees (don't get me started on those).
How can someone balance a new start up with a full time job?
The good news is it can be done. I have 3 kids, and I managed to squeeze out 10-15 hours per week to work on my latest project. I've also tried and failed at a previous startup idea that I spend 6 months working on in a similar capacity. I work alone as I've yet to find a co-founder that will put their weight (I've tried believe me).
The things I learned from the failed venture that I am currently applying to my latest one:
One other thing I would recommend is try to optimize your time with your job to your advantage. If you have downtime at your job use some of those spare cycles on your business (on your own laptop or at home though). Make sure your employer is cool with it, or think about a contracting gig if your current job is too demanding of your time.
Finally just realize you are not alone. There's millions of us developers sick of working for someone else, in many cases working on code we'd rather not.
I'm also a web developer, its been a year this month since I went full time working for myself. My business has however been going for about 4 years now in some capacity.
You absolutely can do it. The beauty of web development is that its low barrier to entry (you already have a computer and thats pretty much most of what you need) and if you're working on projects then you can work whenever you can. I started with smaller projects, and working evenings and weekends building a reputation and banking the money until I had enough to be able to feel confident about supporting myself for 6 months without a job. Now i'm full time, I work on larger projects and some of my own stuff too.
Depending on the specifics of your job, they might support you or they might not. I was pretty open about taking on project work (not about actually leaving until I was ready to do it though) - I simply put to them that almost all web developers take on side jobs for extra income, and all the time i'm coding, i'm honing the skills which I bring to work everyday anyway, so i'm spending my own time learning new techniques and they were benefitting too.
If its a system you're building, even better in some ways - just take your time with it, as frustrating as it might be not to have more than a few hours a week to spend developing your idea - starting a business should be seen as short term pain, for long term gain.
This blog: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/03/20/running-a-software-business-on-5-hours-a-week/ is a great source of info an inspiration. If hw can do it in the hours he had spare then itis indeed possible.
Have a look around his blog, there are a lot of great posts and tips for fledgeling startups.
My 1st child is now 8 months old. I am getting a little more "free" time than I did in the first ... um, 8 months so rest assured it gets a little easier. A little,. As others have said or hinted at here, explicitly manage your time but do it intelligently.
Friday is my main code-at-home day. I take my daughter to daycare at 9am and pick her up at about 3:30-4pm. I actively structure my day around that. There's a dreamfeed at about 5am. If I'm not too tired I stay up and get some work done. I make sure that I have some quiet time to contemplate what I am doing today. Enforce this. Last week I spent a few hours coding a feature. I got it 90% finished when I asked myself WTF? Will anyone want to use this? DELETE. It's in source control if I ever need it but my point is - think about what you're doing. Does it have a use-case?
oh, and DO IT! I have been working on my "startup" for years now (YEARS), in the "planning stage" and I haven't shipped a damn thing yet. I look back on the time I wasted (not all of it but about 1/3 of it) and kick myself. Every day counts. Every hour counts. Manage yourself. Try Pomodoro or things like that.
Having said that, a lot of my original ideas now seem too far-fetched to the clients I am aiming at so not all planning and contemplating is wasted.
Spend your time working rather than meta-working. Blogs and the like are nice but you're never going to know everything you need to know, at least until you realise you need to know it. JIT - Just In Time is not just for compilers.
A little disjointed but I hope you get something out of it.
You'll have to decide what the sacrifices are and whether or not you can make them.
Put your schedule on a calendar, representing an average week. Then create events during the week that represent when you'll work on your new project. Figure out exactly how important and how rewarding the new project would be, and start to make sacrifices. You might be able to eliminate things like dining out (travel time plus waiting for service makes meals take longer), watching television, going to some regular events, etc.
Working less at your current job would be one way to find more time for your new project, but this is very risky. If your company expects you to work fulltime and finds out you want to work less in order to start a new business, they likely won't support you.
(I recently left my job to start my own company.)
You can do a lot of the groundwork outside of work. Assuming you have spare time (which is incredibly challenging with a newborn around), you can be designing, developing, planning and setting up the infrastructure whilst keeping the day job.
Come launch time it's then up to you to decide the right point to cut free from work.
Only you and your savings can answer when that time is right, but personally I'd be hesitant to leap with a partner and newborn unless I'd at least got far enough to have it bringing in something.
Also, depending on whether you have a co-founder, you may be able to agree that one continues work to support the development of the business, whilst the other works in it.
Where's the point that makes it not manageable whilst in work? 2 users, 100 users, 1000?
Can any of that workload be outsourced via friends, partner answering support emails, or freelancer sites?
In summary, personally I'd be taking a slightly more risk-averse approach than usual due to the new family.
You have one huge advantage at the moment. That is cash flow. Assuming you are not overextended on your monthly expenses, you can start channeling some of that cash into the development of your company by outsourcing a lot of the work.
This has two advantages. First, someone is developing your product even though you are working for someone else and taking care of your family. Second, it puts you in the mindset of a business owner as opposed to a professional. Michael E. Gerber's E-Myth mantra is "Work on your business, not in your business." Continuing with Gerber's thinking, you will be focused more on creating a system to run your business rather than you trying to run the business by yourself. In order for it to be successful, you will need a system.
Don't discount some of the advantages that you have right now. Good luck.