6 Reasons to Start a Part-time Business

10/16/2013 02:53 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

When I first started telling people that I was starting a part-time business, the reactions I received were less than positive. Many friends and family members didn't understand why I wasn't content with the six-figure job I had at a Fortune500 company. And many of the full-time entrepreneurs I met actually snubbed me. I was told that since I was only doing it on the side, I couldn't really call myself an entrepreneur. So like many employedpreneurs (employed entrepreneurs), I only told business friends and clients about my day job when I was asked directly or if it was going to impact a project. It wasn't until 2011 that I fully came out of the cubicle and started talking boldly about launching my business on the side while working full-time at my day job.

With the recent government shutdown, I've started thinking about how smart it is to have a part-time business, or at least a skill you can use to make money on the side. Three people in my family have been impacted by the shutdown, including my husband who consciously chose a government job because of the predictable stability and security of being a federal employee. A lesson learned by the nearly 500,000 employees impacted by the 2013 shutdown and many others that have sown their talents and years in corporate America is that there are no guarantees.

My experience in the world of work, in both profit and not-for-profit organizations, has taught me that there is no such thing as stability and security when someone else controls your paycheck. Changes in management and employee turnover were common. Annual raises or even cost-of-living adjustments were never guaranteed, even for those with performances that exceeded expectations. Even if you weren't laid off, organizational reorganizations could force you into a role that you were ill suited for.

We've come to expect and even accept swings and shifts in the corporate world, but now waves of instability and insecurity are sweeping through jobs in the public sector. Since 1998, close to 700,000 public jobs have been lost, including the jobs of approximately 300,000 teachers. Chances are the numbers of public sector jobs lost will continue in a downward trend. And even though private sector employment is slowly increasing, the earning potential is no longer the same. Bottom line: solely relying on one or even multiple employers can be risky -- just as risky as starting a part-time business.

It's a smart idea for enterprising professionals to take matters (and their financial well being) into their own hands by starting a part-time business, especially factoring how technology supports virtual work across global markets. Here are six reasons why:

  1. You can choose to do something you love. Not only are there books, coaches, and websites devoted to turning your passion into a profitable business, there are countless success stories. Examples that come to mind are Shark Tank success stories like I Want to Draw a Cat for You and The Painted Pretzel or Etsy top sellers like ZenThreads.

  1. You can put your skills, experience, and education to use. Do you belong to that growing number of people who spent close to six-figures on an education you hardly use in your day job? Taking on consulting projects on the side can give you a chance to stay engaged with your intended field and keep your practical experience current.
  1. Side businesses are scalable and can be location independent. Since you are the master of the business plan for your part-time business, you can take on as many or as few clients as you need. Unless you are providing a physical service like landscaping, you can work on projects and meet with clients from anywhere. Should you experience a lay-off or government shut down in the future, having the ability to take on a few more client projects to replace lost wages can be a huge weight off your shoulders.

  1. There's a growing community of freelancers and independent contractors. Recent numbers show that there are roughly 17 million self-employed professionals in the U.S. This community includes those who work in highly creative and knowledge-based fields like consulting and sales, as well as more manual fields like construction. Virtual communities and resources for this group like the Freelancers Union are making this work and life style more appealing and accessible.

  1. There's a good chance it can help you "keep" your job. A study by Intuit in 2010 predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of the working population would be contingent or independent workers. Your current employer may not be able or willing to keep you as a full-time employee, but they may be able to hire you as a contractor or for temporary projects.

  1. Your part-time business may have the potential to become a full-time million-dollar business. After being snubbed by a few full-time entrepreneurs who didn't take people with businesses on the side seriously, I started doing some research. I found several examples of people that had successfully started their businesses while working a day job. I even found examples of six and seven-figure success stories including, Daymond John of FUBU, Mary Ellen Sheets of Two Men and a Truck, and Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx -- the world's youngest self-made female billionaire.

Even if you aren't looking to completely ditch your day job, start thinking about a set of skills you can use to earn additional income. If you have the least bit of entrepreneurial spirit and are willing to find the right problem to solve with your talents and experience, starting a business on the side just makes sense. While you can't control legislative decisions or the labor market, you can take control of your earning potential by starting a part-time business.