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16 Steps to Starting a Business While Working Full Time — STEP 6: Know the Rules
June 13, 2024
Man peeking eyes over cubicle wall in office

Are you trying to start a new business while keeping your full-time job? This route is not only possible, but it can offer several advantages. We developed the “16 Steps to Starting a Business While Working Full Time” eBook to lay out the tasks to get your startup going and manage your full-time career.

In step 6, you will learn how to stay on your current employer’s good side and know the rules.

What are your terms of employment?

Did you sign an employee agreement or contract when you started your job? This is the time to closely review it. Also examine your employee’s handbook, if you have one. Look for the following details in the documents:

  • Are you allowed to start a competing business?
  • Can you solicit your current employer’s clients?
  • Can you claim ownership of your business or product if it was developed during company time, using company resources or while you worked for the company?

Breaching any of these terms of employment could put both your current job and your startup at risk. You may want to consult an attorney to protect yourself.

Should you tell your boss or coworkers?

In most cases, it’s wisest to keep your plans to yourself. You may be on great terms with your boss, but he/she may:

  • Assume that you’ll quit soon
  • Think you’re less dedicated
  • Feel that you’re expendable since you have your own business

You may feel safer telling your colleagues about your startup, but this may become a sticky situation too. You never know whether word will travel up to your boss. Never ask coworkers to buy your products or refer clients either.

Other best practices

Creating a business while working full-time takes diligence, commitment, and respect for your current employer. Remember these tips:

  • Don’t use your employer’s time or location to develop your startup.
  • Even if you’re off the clock, don’t work on your business at your desk
  • Don’t use employer-provided technology, such as computers, tablets, or smartphones. This includes your employer’s networks or email accounts. Your employer has legal access to these devices and emails.
  • If you’re at work, don’t use your personal smartphone to answer emails related to your startup. You’re still on company time.

When and how should you work on your startup?

To protect your current job and your business, work on your startup on your own time and in your own space. This way, no one will see or hear you working on a different business. You want to keep both worlds separate.

If you want to work during your lunch hours, use your personal laptop away from the office, perhaps at a coffee shop.

Remember that you’re still a team player at your existing job, and you want to maintain a strong reputation and connection with your boss and coworkers. They may even give you referrals and references when you leave. Maybe they’ll become customers too!

Read the remaining steps to creating your startup in the “16 Steps to Starting a Business While Working Full Time” eBook. Becoming an entrepreneur can seem overwhelming, but you have a team behind you—find your free business mentor at SCORE. Good luck with this exciting journey!

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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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