For those of us who are entrepreneurs at heart, and are antsy to build and innovate, often daydream during their normal 9-to-5 day jobs about doing their own startups. Perhaps a great idea comes to mind, and you have a colleague who shares your passion for creation and to be your own boss, so do you quit your day-job to focus on this startup idea? A risky proposition that many likeminded people tend to grapple with, leaving the comfort and convenience of their day jobs, for the cut-throat thrills of working in a startup, where the cash isn't there for a long time (if ever).
Before you can answer whether its worth taking the dive, you have to put a few things into perspective, and see both sides of the fence. In order to work on your startup you need capital and resources, and having a day-job helps sustain that, puts a roof over your head, so you (and even your colleagues) would be hesitant to jump ship, without anything tangible on the horizon.
On the other hand, working part-time on your project will take significantly longer to get anywhere, and attracting other employees is difficult when they see you as a part-time CEO, let alone any investors looking your way. So what do you do?
Line up your ducks first
The good thing is, you can transition from your day-job into your startup job gradually. Start laying the foundations and ground-work, speak to colleagues, create a project plan (or rather roadmap to MVP), start speaking to investors early on (especially angel investors). You can do this at night-time, weekends, use your vacation days, and start preparing the groundwork for your startup.
Use this opportunity to test the water, see what others think about your idea, validate your idea out in the wild, without risking your main income. If things don't pan out the way you expected, at least you aren't out on the street pan-handling.
Make the most of your down-time
Weekends, night-times, public holidays, vacation leave, or even during business travel, you can use your down-time to work on your startup. Of course having one or more co-founders would accelerate the amount of work you can do. Start working on your prototype, design some graphics and screens (or perhaps work with a designer on that) and get everything in place.
If you are an engineer, start doing some coding towards your MVP. While you won't be able to get as much done in part-time as you can full-time, and understanding that you are at a disadvantage because of that, scoping your MVP correctly, or even get it to a stage where you can demonstrate some reasonable fidelity to investors is good enough.
It will be hard to sacrifice your down-time, but mitigating financial risk and stability while hedging your bets means you get the best of both worlds.
Bootstrap your startup with a lean model
The essense of this article is the philosophy of bootstrapping, which "provides a strategic roadmap for achieving sustainability through customer funding (i.e. charging customers), lean startups provide a more tactical approach to achieving those goals through validated learning from customers.", according to leanstack.
Racing to deliver value through bootstrapping means raising a small seed round, building an MVP with minimal number of developers (yourself even if you have the capacity and know-how), work from your garage, which will then set you in place to secure early down-payments from early adopters, which will help accelerate your prospects of raising a significantly higher round and a commercial-level production.
Pitch to your employer
For the ambitious-at-heart, turn to your boss to pitch your idea. If your company is in a related field, perhaps your employer would be keen to be an angel investor. Or maybe, your boss would contemplate having you change your existing job to consulting, and get paid as 1099, or as an employee, let you plot out hours during work-times to work on your project in lieu of equity.
Save up some money
Of course, nothing beats having a nest-egg, and saving up money to put aside for a rainy day. Well you will have rainy months working on your startup, and when you do decide that its the right time to jump from working on your passion part-time to working on it full-time.
Saving money and having a bit of your own personal capital (and even your co-founders) means without diluting your shares, you can either hire someone to work on your project, or you can use it as a buffer for you for when you do quit your job, to make the transition to getting seed fund, and eventually self-driven money.