Running a business in your spare time - 5 top tips

The number of people in so-called 'precarious employment' is rising - and many Britons are setting up businesses in response.

One of the less well documented effects of the recession has been an increase in the number of people who are 'under-employed', or who work on contract or other insecure arrangements. In a bid for security, many of these individuals are using their spare time to set up businesses of their own.

Running a business in your spare time is a huge challenge - but it can provide the valuable opportunity to get your venture off the ground while still maintaining some stable income. We have compiled some top tips to help you make the most of your time.

1. Set boundaries

Most people work best when they set themselves a routine. While your routine is likely to be the inverse of that adhered to by most people, and while you will be working very hard, it is important that you set yourself boundaries in order to ensure that you are working as efficiently as possible, and that you still have a life outside your work.

2. Be realistic

Although many of the world's biggest businesses started in their founders' spare time, it is important that you set realistic goals in the short term. Think carefully about the amount of time you actually have. Rather than persuading yourself that you will have a million pound venture by the end of your first year, think realistically about what you can achieve. A good business plan is one of the most important ways in which you can plan for the future. This document will help you understand the nature of your business, and will ensure that you set achievable goals.

3. Involve your family

Even if your family do not have a hands on part in helping you build your business, it is still vital that they are kept in the loop. You may, for example, need to ensure that you are given the time to work in the evenings or weekends without interruption, and you will need to negotiate this with your family.

It is worth remembering, though, that your family may well have skills that you can use. Many of the most successful spare-time businesses are family affairs, with individual members working together to build something sustainable.

4. Involve your employer

Many of the most successful '5 to 9' businesses operate with the support of the entrepreneur's employer. Indeed, many small business owners take the skills and knowledge they have developed in employment, and apply them to their own ventures. However, even if you are working in an entirely different field, you should consider telling your employer about your new idea, as they may well be able to accommodate your needs in the event that you require flexible working patterns.

5. Embrace the internet

Finally, it is important to understand that the internet is your friend, particularly when it comes to spare tim businesses. There is a range of time saving and organisational tools that you can use to ensure you make the best use of the periods during which you are working on your new venture.

You might consider using one of the many online project management tools that are now available to help you keep track of the work you need to do. Cloud-based software like Basecamp or Freedcamp allow you to divide up your tasks efficiently, keep on top of the amount of time you are dedicating to each, and see an overview of your progress. Similarly, if there is more than one person involved in the running of the business, collaborative tools like Google Apps provide a simple way for multiple parties to contribute to documents and projects.

Further reading

There is a wealth of resources online to help you start and grow your new business. Here are some handy guides from the Simply Business Knowledge Centre.

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