Reader's Question: How can I market my new business while I'm still employed?

Q: I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on how to manage that transition to self-employment whilst still in employment. Often, starting a business happens alongside staying in employment.

How do you market and develop your personal brand in a business whilst still being employed without risking your boss finding out?

What if you don't want to tell anyone at work? Is it practical to use social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook to promote your business as anyone can identify you?

What's the best way of creating a side hustle whilst keeping it 'secret' at work? Is it possible? Or am I overthinking this and courage is all it takes?

M, London

It’s pretty common to start your own business alongside working as an employee and this can be a great strategy to test the market and get yourself established while still having a stable income.

As M points out there are a few things to think about including whether to tell your employer and how you build your personal brand and market your business while you are still in your 'day job'.

Should you keep it a secret?

It depends on your contract – if your contract requires you to tell your employer then I would recommend letting them know.

Assuming your side hustle isn’t putting you in

competition with them or creating a direct conflict of interest it should be easy to put an employer’s mind at rest. All they really want to know is that your focus is 100% on your work during work time, so make sure you are very clear about this when you talk to your manager.

If your employment contract doesn’t say anything about telling your employers then there's no need to do so unless you want to.

What I would recommend though is this: if you plan to talk about your side hustle with your colleagues then mention it in passing to your manager first. This cuts out any situation where they hear from it second-hand and think that you’re promoting your business sneakily.

What if I’m applying for jobs?

I happen to know that M is applying for jobs at the moment, so what should you do about your side hustle in the application and interview process?

In a challenging recruitment market like today, it’s best not to proactively give someone a reason not to put you through to interview. My recommendation would be to avoid drawing their attention to the fact that you have a side hustle during the application and interview stage unless they specifically ask about it.

Instead, wait until you are successful. Then you can review the employment contract and, if it requires you to tell your employer, tell them then. By that point as long as you reassure them that you’ll be 100% focused on your job with them during working hours it’s unlikely to be a problem.

Could they find out online anyway?

Yes, of course…and if they ask about it, then be open about it.

Yes, you have a side hustle BUT you are 100% committed to the job and totally focused during work hours. You can also use this opportunity to explain how running a small business allows you to add value to the role you’re applying for: it shows that you are proactive, have commercial awareness and aren’t afraid of hard work!

What do I do with my social media and branding?

If you’ve been open with your employer (or your contract doesn’t require you to tell them) then this becomes pretty straightforward – you can use your social media without having to worry.

For those, like M, who are looking for a new job consider whether you can keep your side hustle to more ‘personal’ social media like Facebook & Instagram while using LinkedIn for your full-time job search.

But I have to use LinkedIn for my kind of side hustle…

This is definitely the most complicated situation – where your side hustle depends on using LinkedIn and you’re searching for a job at the same time.

There's no beating around the bush here - you're going to have to make a hard decision. Assuming that you need your ‘day job’ to pay the bills while you build your side hustle I’d recommend that you use LinkedIn for your job searching.

A few recommendations to make this easier:

  • If you can, try to move your customers over to another form of social media – a Facebook group can work well

  • Over a week beforehand create some posts explaining what is happening and why – people completely understand that many businesses are started as a side hustle, this will help them understand that you’re still open for business and how best to contact you rather than you simply appearing to ‘shut up shop’

  • Consider contacting your followers on LinkedIn who are interested in your business for their mailing details so you can keep in touch by email

I hope that helps…I’m interested to hear in the comments what your thoughts are!

Have you been in this situation yourself? How did you approach it?

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