If you’re reading this, you’ve likely got a fantastic idea for starting an online business.

One little problem: You already have a full-time job.

Meshing a brilliant side hustle with your standard 40-hours-a-week bread-winning occupation might seem like a strong mixture to concoct. But done with careful planning, just enough transparency, and a commitment to a lot of hard work, adding another revenue stream to your life can open up lots of fantastic possibilities.

So how to get it that online business started and how do you keep it growing without eating up time or effort from your full-time profession? It’s a real tightrope to walk between the two, and if you aren’t careful, you might take a massive fall. Here are eight steps to keep your feet firmly ingrained in your 9-to-5 world while you’re reaching for the stars with your online business.  

Start your online business slowly

The fable about the tortoise and the hare isn’t just for kids; it’s a great reminder that slow and steady wins the race, no matter what your ambition is. Whether you’re baking cupcakes for kids’ birthday parties or doing graphic design in a freelance capacity, there’s no rush. You don’t want to rush into making a dumb mistake.

Make a serious commitment

Any business takes a lot of work and effort, assuming you want it to succeed. When you commit to developing an online store, you’re going to start sacrificing time previously spent for relaxing, hanging out with family and friends, and doing the fun things that most people your age are engaged in after work and on the weekends. That’s no longer a person you get to be for a while, maybe for years. Make sure you still take some time to relax and rejuvenate during the week but realize that your time gets a lot more precious when you’re working two jobs.

Make sure your business idea has paying customers

Your extended family might love the fact that you do their taxes for them every year, but that does not mean people in your community will pay for the same service when they have their accountants or good old TurboTax. If you can’t first prove that are going to be paying customers for your business, there is no reason to start it up. Starting an online business is going to take your time and your money to get going. If there is no money coming back your way at the end of the day, your product or service is not what people are looking to spend money buying.

Flesh out your competitive advantage

Let’s say you do 9-to-5 work as a graphic artist for a major company in your hometown. You decide you could do work for other clients remotely with your own set of tools at home. That thought process is, and it gives you a very low overhead, but why should clients choose you instead of the next guy? Is it your experience? Your portfolio? Your cost? Your turnaround time? You need to determine what the deciding factor for a customer to choose you over the competition is and build it into the foundation that makes you and your business special.

Never work on your business at your job

It can be ever so tempting to use a few minutes working on things for your side business on your work computer, or maybe stock up on notepads or make a few copies of things you need. Who’s going to notice, right? The answer is your employers. Even if you finish your work at 3:30 p.m. but don’t get off work until 5:00 p.m., you are under every obligation to find something to do related to your contract job. It’s effortless for employers to track your browsing history online these days, and if something triggers a red flag for you, there will be trouble ahead.  Most employers don’t care what you do with your time outside of your working hours; but when you’re on the clock, focus on what’s important.

Make sure there are no clashes between your job and your business

If you’re a professional writer who wants to do some freelancing on the side, you’re obligated to clear this with your employer. The same goes for any industry where starting an online business might blur the line between your outside life and your job.  If you’re a creative or you have a particular skill, some companies might have language in your contract stating that what you do in that realm is their proprietary information and should not be contracted out to other sources. If you are unsure about the subject or you don’t have a copy of your contract in reach, reach out to someone in your firm’s human resources department to get your questions answered honestly and discreetly. If everything checks out OK, you’ll know you can proceed without worrying about crossing any lines.

If you can’t do something, don’t be afraid to outsource it

You might have a great idea to start an online business, but what if you have no idea how to build a website?  You could go through some online tutorials and slowly teach yourself Javascript or CSS, but that would eat away at the hours you have to grow your business. Another option is to budget some money to hire a freelancer to build a site for you. It’s OK not to be the Swiss Army knife of your new business; there are very few people who excel at every single phase of constructing an enterprise.  Work smart, not hard, to achieve your business goals.

Start saving for capital expenses

Even if you’re planning on operating your entire business from the desk in your home office, there are bound to be some expenses popping up along the way. Whether it’s digital advertising costs, new software, cloud services to make your business scalable, or the eventual exciting costs of a brick-and-mortar location, it’s better to have the money on hand than be scraping for it should your business take off. That rainy day fund your mom and dad were always mentioning to you? This is it.

About the Author

James is an avid investor in real estate and the stock market. He has found an edge in his real estate investing with digital marketing.