Your Next Career:  Moonlighting

Moonlighting usually refers to a second job to supplement your “regular” job for financial reasons. It can also mean your own part-time business.  Moonlighting can be an excellent way to “try before you buy”.  You can:

  • Learn by working in someone else’s business
  • Establish the business without being dependent on the business to pay the bills (mortgage, etc.)
  • Learn “how-to” do the business at a slower pace because you aren’t on a make-or-break timeline (not dependent on the revenues to live)
  • Fund the business with your day job
  • Reduce risk by reducing the pressure to succeed rapidly.

For instance, you may want to open a retail craft store and have never worked in retailing.  You could get a job working a few evenings or weekends in a craft store to gain “insider” experience on everything from handling the cash register to merchandising and buying.  You learn from someone else, before you invest your first dollar.

Whether moonlighting to learn or to launch the business (or both), this is a step that many entrepreneurs skip.  Many view this step as a delay, instead of an investment in success.  The time you invest in moonlighting can make the difference between success and failure.  It can save you time, money, and frustration in the long run.

In my book Out of the Cubicle and Into Business, I recommend that before you start your business you take time to observe other businesses and learn how they do business.  Through observation and asking questions of business owners you can define and refine your business concept.  Moonlighting takes observation one step further.  You move into “doing” business within the safety of someone else’s business.

Entrepreneurs go into business because of their passion for an idea, a product, a service, or a desire for financial independence and control of their future.  The very passion that drives them to start a business can also blind them to the realities of what “doing” business means.  Success is determined in the “how” and “what” of business.. To succeed, entrepreneurs need broader knowledge and experience than simply the depth and breadth of knowledge of their product.  It takes strategic, tactical, and operational business knowledge, skills, and experience (direct or acquired through team members) to achieve maximum success.

Entrepreneurial moonlighting is an education in business.  It enables you to learn with less risk. You are able to act with more logic and less pressure to get something going when you have financial resources from a “day job”.  The transition from employee to business owner is less dramatic.

Every entrepreneur has lessons to learn. None of us can know everything or have experienced every situation.  Moonlighting can reduce some of the risk by finding opportunities to gain skills, knowledge, abilities, and experience while not completely dependent on our businesses ability to support our standard of living.

One final point, you may be have a day job that consumes every daylight hour and more.  If this is true, then moonlighting or starting a business while in that position may be impossible. To be able to moonlight, consider:

  • Changing jobs to a less demanding job which provides more time (move from full-time to part-time)
  • Changing jobs to a role where you can acquire needed business experience
  • Negotiating with a spouse for his/her salary to support the family while you start a business
  • Acquiring ownership in an existing business and ease into the running of the business as time allows
  • Starting a business and hire an experienced manager or have a business partner who can run the day-to-day operations until you can make a transition

Moonlighting can be one of the most important phases in developing your business.  If you view this step as an investment in your future success, then you are on the road to entrepreneurial success.

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