How To Start A Business While Working Full Time - Interview With Ryan Robinson

Yana Prokopets
August 31, 2016
Last updated: December 3, 2018
Ryan Robinson is a content marketing consultant to the world's top experts and startups.

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Despite the common belief that freelancing is not a “real” job – late waking up, working in pajamas and being your own boss, this career path is still perceived to be risky. Could you talk about pros and cons of starting a freelance career?

RR: I treat my freelance business with a crazy amount of seriousness. Despite being self-employed, I still force myself to wake up by 5:00am most mornings during the work week so that I can get a jump start on my client projects and give them my best creative energy since I know my best thinking and writing is done in the first half of the day. To me, the biggest pro is that I'm the one person who's solely responsible for bringing in an income each month - if I fail at generating enough revenue in any given period of time, there's nobody I can point to for blame. I'm responsible for my own successes, and my own failures. The biggest con for me is that at the end of the day, I'm still working for somebody else even as a freelancer. Sure, I'm an entrepreneur with my freelance business in the sense that I employ myself. However, when it comes down to it, I have to work closely with my clients to ensure that the work I'm doing for them is well-aligned with their goals. For someone who's fiercely independent when it comes to how I spend my time, the feeling of creating for someone else is a constant struggle for me.

Many people believe that they have a great business idea and if only they started their business, the success would be inevitable. What are the best ways to validate your ideas prior to taking a jump?

RR: I always advise entrepreneurs not to spend any money until they're already making some from their new business. First things first, your business idea needs to solve a problem that you care about. On top of that, you need to make sure you're solving a problem that (1) a sizable number of other people have and (2) that they'll be willing to pay for your potential solution to their problem. Start by creating value, that's completely free. You don't need to build an app, launch a website or manufacture a product to provide value to someone's life. Once you identify some potential solutions to the problem you're seeking to tackle, take the time and put in the effort to solve that problem manually. Can you hand built a prototype using your own expertise & skills? If not, you might not be creating the right type of business for your own unique interests and skill sets. Check out my free course on Finding a Profitable Business Idea for much more.

Having a job and a business is obviously very time consuming. What tips do you have for balancing your work as an employee and as a boss of your own business?

RR: From my own experience in growing four different side hustles into full-time businesses over the years, I've learned that there's never really a true balance between your side hustle and your day job. When you notice that one isn't getting the attention it demands, you need to correct course, though your day job responsibilities come first because that's paying the bills. It takes a lot of rigorous self-evaluation and prioritization to identify areas of your life where you're spending time that you can redirect toward working on your side business. I talk a lot about this and walk entrepreneurs through this process of time optimization in my course, The Launch While Working Formula. For me personally, I've always found the biggest pockets of under-utilized time by optimizing my sleep schedule, reducing time spent watching tv, on social media, at events, in meetings, sending emails, and social commitments. Your side hustle will only be as successful as you allow it to be, it'll require a lot of time and hard work and that takes significant sacrifice & discipline up front.

You once said that successful freelancers compete on value, not price. But the road to success can be long and bumpy. What would you recommend to novice entrepreneurs who have neither convincing experience nor capital to compete on value?

RR: As a service provider, selling yourself and convincing potential clients that you're worth the upside you can deliver is a major part of your day-to-day life. It can be a struggle to confidently position yourself as an expert if you don't yet have the credentials, portfolio pieces or success stories to back it up. What worked incredibly well for me when I started freelance content marketing, was creating the types of content that I wanted to eventually build for clients, on my own website first. By developing massively in-depth and detailed pieces of work on my own blog, I've been able to attract a lot of attention (and freelance clients) who want me to replicate the quality and results I've driven for my own blog content. As a beginning freelancer or entrepreneur, you need to just start creating. Hone your skills by doing, not studying or watching videos about your craft. If you're a writer, you need to write a ton. If you're an aspiring designer, the quickest path to getting better is by spending a significant amount of time building your expertise in your craft. Take the best samples of your "practice" work and highlight them on your website, whether you got paid to create them for clients or not--they'll serve as powerful portfolio pieces for the potential clients who eventually come across your work. Once you're confident in your abilities and have a few samples of work to back yourself up, start tracking down and pitching the types of clients you want to work with.

Additional resources from Ryan Robinson:

101 Side Business Ideas You Can Start While Working Full-Time
10 Steps to Starting a Freelance Business While Working a Full-Time Job

Thank you for the interview.


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