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A Bit On The Side: How To Run A Business Alongside A Full-Time Career

You have a great idea for a start-up, but when is the time right to make the leap? In these uncertain times, many are choosing to run a business ‘on the side’ of their existing career. We caught up with three business owners who have chosen to make money from home to explore the ups and downs of their double life. 


A shoe-in

Kate Owen, 39, works in Wealth Management. However, since 2013, she has also been the proprietor of Sargasso & Grey shoes – designing and retailing stylish, comfortable shoes, with a wider-fit. “I’m not a born entrepreneur,” she confesses, “but in my job, I come into contact with so many dynamic people; it’s inspiring!”

The idea for the company was born after Kate’s feet became slightly wider during pregnancy. “I had to throw half of my shoes away. It was depressing. And I couldn’t find any stylish shoes to fit.”



After careful research, and attending a shoe-making course, Kate set herself up as a limited company. “People ask why I didn’t set up as a sole trader. But I always had bigger ambitions; and whilst I don’t employ anyone directly yet, I intend to in the future.”

As Kate started her company on her return from maternity leave, she made sure that she discussed the move with her employer. “I think it’s important to be upfront. And I always make sure that when I’m at work, I’m 100% committed to what I’m doing.”

And Kate has found advantage in starting her business ‘on the side’ of her existing employment. “It’s crazy to take a leap of faith, especially with a mortgage! I’ve gone part time at work, so I have made financial sacrifices, but having a regular income means I don’t have as much pressure on profit straight away.”


Whistle while you work 

Rosie Parkes, 28, runs jewellery brand Whistle and Bango as well as working as a Marketing Manager in the food industry. Starting the company enabled Rosie and business partner Ania – who also has a regular job – to engage their creativity. “I did art at school, and love jewellery. I wanted to produce something unique,” says Rosie.

“For the time-being, we’re keeping things small – we do as much as we can for ourselves, including marketing, modelling and photography. We built our own website, using online platform Weebly.”



Whistle and Bango are currently known for their ‘postcode’ bangles – accessories imprinted with popular postcodes.

Running a business alongside a full-time career is difficult at times, “we’re sometimes short on time,” explains Rosie, “we’d love to spend more time meeting clients and stockists, for example,” says Rosie. 

However, she has also found that building a business ‘on the side’ has its advantages. “You have a reliable income for a start,” she says. “We can take more risks without worrying that the company will flop, which makes it much more exciting.”


The next level

Having run his ethical clothing label ‘The Level Collective‘ on the side of his employment as a web designer Mark Musgrave, 28, has now handed in his notice to focus on his brand. “I started in January 2014 during lunch-hours and evenings,” he says. “Then in the July, I began working one day a week on the business.”

Now, having handed in his notice at work, Mark is aiming to spend three days per week on The Level Collective as well as picking up some freelance design work. 

Whilst his business is still in its infancy, Mark has great plans for the future. “Initially I registered as self-employed. I was able to complete my tax returns and make sure I set money aside. As the business grew, I registered as a limited company in April 2016.”



Although now keen to focus on growing his business, Mark feels that starting it on the side of employment was the right decision. “I’ve had lots of “mini failures” in the early days. I was able to take my time and consider my direction carefully.”

“It’s important to choose something you’re really passionate about to maintain focus. I know that my work is supporting families in Romania, for example.  Everything is design-led and ethical.”

We can take more risks without worrying that the company will flop, which makes it much more exciting.

Rosie Parkes Whistle and Bango

Legal considerations

According to David Smellie, Partner at B P Collins LLP even if an enterprise starts off small, it’s important to do proper groundwork. “My advice would be to enter into the venture wholeheartedly, no matter its size,” he says. “Decide where you want the business to go, and choose your model accordingly.”

“If you are collaborating with family, or using investment from friends, make sure you put any agreements in writing – even a simple email exchange is fine. It’s often the case that when a business takes off, what seem like small issues can become larger.”

“I’d also advise being open with your employer, even if your business is entirely different from your regular job. You need to ensure that, at work, you devote all of your time to your role and don’t allow your secondary interest to distract you.”

“Finally, be mindful of notice periods – if your company takes off and you decide to pursue it full-time, make sure you are able to give adequate notice.”


Tips from the top

Carl Reader, one of the UK’s Leading Start-up Coaches shares his tips on running a side business.

“When starting a business on the side, it’s important to check your employment contract to make sure that there are no restrictions on you doing so.

“Remember, that your tax allowances will have been taken up by your regular job – you will need to ensure you put enough aside to cover your tax bills.

“One of your biggest challenges will be time; it’s always worth considering outsourcing smaller tasks where possible.

“Whilst it’s useful to have a wage to cover your personal bills, try to approach the business as a fresh start and plan for any funding requirements; this will enable you to be more competitive.

“If your intention is to eventually concentrate solely on your business, be careful that your regular job doesn’t become a comfort blanket.

“Commit to a date when you will give up the day job, and make yourself accountable, perhaps by arranging an official launch party.”


Have you thought about…

Home insurance Anyone setting up a business from home needs to be sure that their insurance covers them for operating a business from home.
Council Tax Ensure you take advice from your local council as you may need to register for business rates.
Capital Gains Tax If an area of your home is used exclusively for business, you may become liable to Capital Gains Tax on moving home.
Work-life balance You need to make sure that you have enough distinction between your living space and working space, otherwise, you might have no escape from the grind!


Fancy running a bit on the side? What are the pros and cons?

Pros Cons
Less financial pressure Division of focus and time
The chance to be (safely) experimental and creative The need to negotiate with existing employers
Career progression in your original field – no CV gaps Less impetus on success may lead to reduced drive
Possible transfer of skills Potentially slower start


For a comprehensive guide to getting your business up and running, download our how to start a business in 20 days eBook

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