Given the crazy economic scenario and the numerous layoffs happening these days, it’d take a great amount of faith and gut instinct to make the leap to a full time entrepreneur. Current times are challenging enough for experienced entrepreneurs to rethink their decision about launching a new venture. It’d be an even more daunting and uphill task for first time entrepreneurs.
Taking that into account, now’d be a great time to moonlight your entrepreneurial idea. Moonlighting (if doable), would be a great strategy during healthy market conditions as well, but considering that holding on to your day job has become even more important today, you might want to seriously consider moonlighting your entrepreneurial idea first. A lot of people feel that moonlighting doesnt work – it distracts and affects your day job and at the end of it, your moonlighting effort may go nowhere.
Well, moonlighting isnt difficult and just requires some additional discipline, effort and motivation on your part. At the end of the day, you have nothing to lose — if the idea doesnt work out, you got a quick proof of concept and you get to move on. All you end up “losing” are a few evenings and weekends of not hanging out with friends or watching TV or dining out at a restaurant. I say losing in quotes, because the way I look at it, even if the idea doesnt pan out, you still end up getting some great insight and experience while building the product. You might acquire some new skill or two along the way also.
Some quick thoughts on how to go about moonlighting:
(1) Identify a small opportunity – some service or application that you’ve personally felt the need for. For example, Buxfer was born out of the founder’s needs to keep track of their expenses. Any such small app or utility that you feel would make your life a bit easier. Thinking small in this aspect is important for a couple of reasons -
(i) With limited time, you want to get to a working prototype as soon as possible.
(ii) you want to keep the idea tractable. If you set your goal to build the next Facebook while moonlighting, I’d say you’re more than likely to fail
(2) Keep the design and feature set as simple as possible. You dont really need to have a full featured app that does everything. Just stick to the KISS principle. Fancy AJAX effects and scalability can be addressed later – that is, if your app takes off.
(3) Keep small, daily goals for yourself. For example, I’ll implement the site registration / login module today. Accomplishing such small goals will work wonders towards keeping you motivated
(4) Familiarize yourself and if possible use any of the web frameworks like Django, CakePHP, Ruby on Rails. They can be a huge time saver and you can focus on getting things done. Additionally, Django and RoR have lots of reusable apps as well. Make use of these reusable apps in your code. This saves you time and gets you that much closer to a working prototype
(5) Probably this point needs to go first – Discuss your ideas / plans with your friends. If you can convince any of your friends to hop on, that’d make your life much easier. Having a cohort will not only help in the division of labor but you can also bounce of ideas / designs etc with your friend. Additionally, one can keep each other motivated and going.
(6) One of the biggest challenges you’d face is to stay motivated and disciplined in your effort. Do some sort of activity to keep your sanity – be it any hobby or any sports or anything that can help you blow off steam.
Any additional ideas that you can think of ? Are you currently moonlighting as an entrepreur ? Do you plan to ? Do share your thoughts.