Have A Part Time Business? Why Moonlighting Can Suck

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2009-07-1513

When I read this piece from Happy Rock called “29 Reasons Why Being A Part Time Entrepreneur Sucks”, where he details the roadblocks to solo entrepreneur success, I was compelled to add my 2 cents. I completely identify with this article — it strikes a chord! It’s hard enough to be a full time entrepreneur so this list makes me wince (almost).

The Pitfalls of Running A Part Time Business

I can identify with this because I started out as a part time entrepreneur, and I can attest to the fact that many people who want to transition from their full time employment to entrepreneurship have these very concerns. Juggling your day job with part time projects — be it home projects, hobbies or even part time business endeavors — can really tire you out, and before long, add a lot of stress to your life. I wrote about my own dilemmas in this series of posts on time management and lifestyle changes some time ago, when I was still planning to make those changes:

part time business


Moonlighting or maintaining a part time gig does entail a lot of sacrifice and discipline, and it’s not easy. Having lots of things going on takes some juggling that can eventually wear you out. Somewhere along the way, something’s going to give (eventually) as status quo becomes tough to maintain indefinitely. But the hard part is having to make the decision: whether to make that leap into the unknown to escape from that status quo or to stay with what’s familiar.

Depending on how demanding your part time venture is, you may realize that losing the balance in your work, time and life is a big risk and may become a real possibility. In my case, I decided to focus on doing a good job with one thing on my plate. Plus I didn’t want to endanger my health any further; over time, I literally had grown sick of the daily grind.

So I eventually made a decision: I chose to leave the daily grind for the time being to take the self-employment route. I still remember the moment when I opted to take the risk and make that move — it was a “crossing my fingers” moment. But I’m glad I did it because my new work and daily life has allowed me to become healthier, (generally) happier and less stressed. How did I make it work? By planning and working to live on less income than what I’d been used to. Those are some of the tradeoffs we make!

Most bloggers I know are part time entrepreneurs and many are holding up pretty well. But reading Happy Rock’s list does hit home, and assures us that we’re not alone in facing the challenges of self-employment. If you work part time on your business, how are you coping?

Copyright © 2009 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

The Happy Rock July 15, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Wow, great response SVB.

I have the “live on much less than we make” part down, although we could live on less if we needed to. In that sense I am ready, although having a family that relies on you makes it all the more tough. Also, I really don’t mind my job at all, although I don’t love it.

I am not sure I have the skills and discipline to make being a solo entrepreneur a viable option yet. I have some dross that needs to be burned away yet.

The fact that you focused on one thing and did it awesomely catches my eye. That isn’t my normal mode of operation.

Finally, a question. How much income did you have replaced or did you truly make a leap of faith?

Scott Lovingood July 15, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Until this past year, I was 1) full time at working for a company 2) part time entrepreneur 3) Full time single dad 4) part time teacher.

Coping was learning that not everything would get done. Understanding the concept of Pareto’s law. That 20% of our time will generate 80% of our results. The key is learning which ones are which :). Systematizing your business to make things more routine and easier to outsource where possible.

Mentoring or coaching is probably the most overlooked way to help balance things out. An hour with a good coach or mentor can accomplish more in streamlining your thinking and helping to pull you out of the thickets that we often get ourselves into. The problem has always been finding a good one. You need to determine the area that needs the most work and find a good coach for that area. It could be in time management, accounting, networking, etc.

Finding balance takes work and effort just like succeeding in business.

Great post and look forward to more.

Funny about Money July 15, 2009 at 9:42 pm

That post actually is about a part-time job…sort of. Adjunct faculty are employees and not employees. In actuality we’re contract workers, but we get few of the benefits of contract workers and few of the benefits of employees (all our taxes are withheld as though we were employees, but we get no office space, no computers, no phone; and there’s not a chance they’ll pay our corporation so that you can take advantage of your contractor status).

I cope with the freelance editing business (which is a separate activity from part-time teaching) by doing most of the work during down-time at the day job and by reading page proofs on the two-hour round-trip lightrail commute. The latter’s pretty nice: I get about $50 worth of work done on the $1.75 ride.

No way could I make a living with either of these endeavors. When the day job ends in December, the only way I’ll be able to get by is by cobbling together Social Security, a drawdown from savings, the pittance from teaching, and the even smaller pittance from editing.

When I did try to make a living as a freelance journalist, I found myself working 10 and 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, and earning exactly the average pay for full-time freelance writers: $10,000/year. One reason for that is that just about anyone can write a magazine article, and many wannabe writers crave so much to see their names in print, they’ll work for nothing. My conclusion was that to earn enough to live as an independent contractor, you need to have a skill that’s in demand and that is difficult enough that people who are willing to work for little or no pay can’t do it.

Silicon Valley Blogger July 15, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Thanks for such in depth responses! It’s interesting to read about where everyone is coming from. To answer Happy Rock’s question, when I first started, I have to say it was partly a leap of faith to do what we did, but we also had a workable plan before we went for it. Both my husband and I decided to become self-employed virtually at the same time (it was not something I wanted, but had to, because of a variety of reasons). We felt that for the sake of our family and health, we had to make these choices. They were definitely hard to do, as our finances suffered for a year or two during this transition.

We were able to work things out using a variety of strategies: we had enough savings to tide us over for a while, but also, we simply HAD to cut down on our expenses in order to stem the “bleeding” in our budget. We were making 30% to 40% of our previous household income, so we had to make serious cuts if we were going to do this and had to make the adjustments to make it work.

Definitely have a plan before deciding to do anything drastic.

jason July 16, 2009 at 7:11 am

Good article, makes me want to go back to entrepreneurship. I personally could not handle it, working a full-time job and running a small business. I sold mine after a year.

Kim July 16, 2009 at 7:41 am

i believe the reason why one starts a business is the determining factor on your attitude towards it. being entrepreneurial in nature i have had three businesses one of which failed because of lack of capital and little time because of school. the other two are developing slowly and i am learning a lot about business and investing- much more than i have learned in those boring lectures (seriously considering dropping out). i love the challenge and the unpredictability of everyday. i hope to develop them into multinational companies and franchises but am taking it all slow and savoring it all… :)

Money Funk July 16, 2009 at 12:52 pm

I currently am trying my hand at a variety of ‘entrepreneurial potentials ‘, hoping that one will grab. Where I can quite my FT job and live on my own standards. I am willing to cut down on my living expenses. And although I am waiting until I pay down my debt…

does anyone have the magic self run business idea that will enable me to do all this??? ;)

Kevin@OutOfYourRut July 16, 2009 at 1:37 pm

In this economy one big advantage of having a side venture though is that if you lose you’re primary employment, you’re side venture can become the full time effort, at least until a new full time situation arises. In the meantime, you might be able to move the side business much farther along than would be the case when trying to juggle two situations at the same time.

That period of unemployment in that case may turn out to be the springboard that moves the side business to full time status.

Savings Accounts Girl July 16, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Very good insight – I’m currently working but I would love to have my own business eventually when I can save enough money.

For those that are just blogging for work – how tough is it to generate income?

Silicon Valley Blogger July 18, 2009 at 7:47 am

For those that are just blogging for work – how tough is it to generate income?

It’s tough. Takes a lot of hours and dedication. And it takes a long time before you see any rewards, if at all.

Jeremy July 23, 2009 at 10:27 am

I’m a web developer for a university full time. I’m also a classically trained violinist. We’re debt free, and tomorrow we’ll be debt free except mortgage. I plan to keep it that way, and refuse to finance anything. Lately, I’ve been feeling a calling on my life to give violin lessons. I’m thinking to give half hour lessons for four hours on Saturday mornings. My lovely wife is concerned that it will leak into evenings after work, and make me unavailable to her or our baby (due in Feb.). I plan just to do the Saturday lessons, but not have it take over evenings.

I’m planing to charge $18 a half hour lesson, which would be $36 an hour (more than I make at my day job), but fear that taxes on earnings and income may not make it worth it — not to mention that it could possibly put us into the next tax bracket. Aside from the trouble of getting students, what other factors am I missing? What are the tax implications of a sole proprietorship?
Other thoughts?

Silicon Valley Blogger July 23, 2009 at 10:57 am

If you run a business, you may be able to deduct your business expenses from your taxes. Maybe you can pick up a book on this or read up on the tax implications of sole proprietorships. I wouldn’t worry about being bumped into the next tax bracket if you expect to make only a few thousand dollars more a year. You are taxed on a marginal basis, so only a portion of your income above any tax bracket or threshold will be taxed at the new rate.

If you’ve got expenses related to the business, you can deduct those. If you use your home to conduct business, you may even qualify for a home office deduction. But you need to check with a tax expert about how this would apply in your case.

Tom leys February 27, 2010 at 3:26 pm

I am in the same boat that you were – setting up my startup part-time. I blogged about it too, see my story here.

It really is a struggle, but it is a great chance for my start-up to grow its wings before I push it out of the nest.

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