There’s a myth that starting a business means that you need to quit your day job, take out a business loan, purchase a store front, hire some staff, and lose money for 5 years before you start to make money. It’s a bad idea to dive head-first into anything, let alone a big pool of risk like that. Thankfully, this isn’t necessary for a service business. Thanks to the information age that we find ourselves in, it’s easy to test the waters by moonlighting first.
Moonlighting is the term used to describe when someone has a regular 9-5 job and does additional freelance work in their off hours. This allows you to start small and establish an income stream while you continue to work at your day job, thereby reducing your exposure to risk.
You’ll want to make sure that you’re not violating your company’s non-compete agreement or any other company policy, but ordinarily if you’re engaged in a field outside of what the company you work for does they won’t say anything. For instance, if you’re a construction worker by day and doing freelance writing in your off hours, it’s not likely that you’re doing anything that is contrary to your employment agreement. It’s a good idea to check any paperwork you received when you were hired or to check directly with your supervisor to make sure, otherwise moonlighting could be exposing you to more risk than you would have encountered had you just quit.
Moonlighting doesn’t even have to be a path to full-time self employment. There are many people who, for a variety of reasons, are content with keeping their normal 9-5 and enjoying the vacation plan, 401(k), health insurance, or other benefits that their employer offers and moonlighting on the side for a little extra income. There are many more who give it a try, find out they hate it and ditch the idea. If that happens to be your case, that’s perfectly fine. Freelancing is about personal freedom, not erecting self-imposed prisons.
There are several platforms available to get started such as Upwork.com, freelancer.com, guru.com, fiverr.com, and textbroker.com. These websites allow you to sign up for free and start bidding on projects. The risk is low and if you establish a reputation and start building a client base, the potential rewards are great!