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Taking a Sabbatical or Time Off from Work to Work on Your Side Business

When I wrote about taking time off from work to work on your side business, I talked about ways to create time for your side business while still employed at the same time.

I didn’t realize at the time that some readers interpreted this as literally taking Real TIME off from work to work on the side business, an absence or sabbatical almost.

Thanks to reader insights, I was made aware of this and I thought this would make a good topic for a quick post on work-life balance and entrepreneurship.  My two cents are as follows:

Why Take Time Off from Work to Work on Your Side Business

Though not everyone’s cup of tea, many entrepreneurs choose to take some time off work to focus on their side business or businesses.  There are several reasons why many entrepreneurs choose to go this route.

Often times the toughest part of starting anything new is simply to get started. The answer is the same whether we are talking about doing dishes, working out or starting a new business.

Those who already have businesses understand that momentum is a key component of growth. With a full time work load and other priorities outside work, it is difficult to gather momentum and push through with no interruptions.  The answer is often taking time off to grow the business.

Different Stages of a Business Venture

While the ideal situation is to run a side business parallel to your full time career (for me at least), some businesses require more time and focus at certain stages of their life cycles.

It is possible that this requirement precludes some from starting it up, thus leaving no other option than to take some time off.  But for others, for example bloggers and internet marketers, each stage can be juggled along with a full time job.

The Business Idea – the initial stage of idea generation or brainstorming is a relatively light activity and one that can be done during nights and weekends.  One can certainly manage to draw up potential business ideas in parallel to their full time jobs.

The Launch – I am involved in several business ventures, many online and several offline as well.  Although some are more taxing at the launch stage than others, the launch phase as a whole is the one that takes the most amount of time and concentration.

Business Growth – depending on the heights you want to take your business in, this phase can be executed either way, whether in parallel to your job or by taking time off from work and fully focusing on growth.  The nature of your business also dictates how you manage this phase of your business.

For example, a real estate investor can take weekends to scope out properties and execute deals during the week on lunch break.  On the other hand, the new absentee owner of a Dunkin Donuts shop may have to dedicate weeks and months training new managers to run the business so he or she can open another location or move on to something else.

Maintenance – once a business is up and running, maintenance is arguably the least time consuming activity, and one that you can definitely run in parallel to your career. Think about a well established website or blog. After you have worked to grow it to a level where traffic is consistent, all you have to do is maintain it with periodic updates, correspond with your readership and put off small fires here and there which are far and few between.

You control and dictate how you want it to evolve and how much you want it to grow. A ton of options will open themselves up to you once you have an established business that is in maintenance mode.  The best part of it all is that you have the flexibility to call your shots.

You can continue to plug away at your business part time, or leave the “man” to work on your business full time. The important thing to realize is that you have options, but these options don’t appear magically. You have to earn them by starting it up first, and then putting in the time and resources that it takes to grow it.

Why Not to Take Time Off from Work to Work on Your Side Business

Sure it all sounds fine and dandy, but not everything is as practical as it sounds in theory.  Not everyone is in a position to jet off work, but there are steps one can take to get there.

For example, if you are worried about paying the bills, you can perhaps take a more prudent and planned approach to taking time off by starting to save early for the time you plan to take off.  There is obviously some sacrifice involved here, but that goes without saying. There is no free lunch in this world, but if you are reading this you are a go-getter and you already know what it takes.

Another example is getting your spouse’s buy-in if you are married.  You can take steps to prepare your spouse for what is to come. Convey your reasons for doing what you want to do genuinely and hopefully you will get their support.  This can either be effortless or painful depending on who you are married to, but it’s a necessary step in the process if you want to maintain your saneness and family well-being.

The point is that although some may be able to pull these off, many others can’t and have to resort to options B, C and so forth.  Personally, I think the little bit of sacrifice upfront is well worth it.

Getting started early gives you a chance to plant seeds beforehand and watch the plants and trees grow over time.  It’s like getting a job, or anything else for that matter.  You need to spread your brand through networking and handing out resumes before you get hired.  You have to build and market your blog content today to get traffic and revenues tomorrow.

The most challenging part of the process is getting started.  Once your business is set up and running, maintaining it and working on its growth can be an incremental process that you can dictate given your capacity.  It’s much easier to grow an existing stash of cash than to create one from nothing to begin with.

Best Times to Shift Focus on Your Business

Opportunities often come dressed in overalls, therefore hard to recognize.  That saying is very true.  Some of the most successful businesses have resulted from a perceived inopportune time in the entrepreneur’s life, such as a job layoff.  More people start it up when they are unemployed.  Others take advantage of their time in between jobs to experiment with their ideas.

Other options to take time off from work include vacations, taking an unpaid leave of absence and going to a part time schedule in the short term.  Many companies also offer formal sabbatical programs that you may take advantage off.

I understand that not all of these situations apply to everyone.  We all have varying commitments and priorities.  For example, you may get away taking vacation time to work on your business when you are single or have a girl or boyfriend, but I dare you to try doing so when you are married and have kids, at least without everyone’s buy in.

When I was single, I took 4 weeks of accrued vacation to work on a couple business ideas. Those 4 weeks proved to be worth more than many subsequent months that I put in afterwards. Not everyone can do that.  For example, some people can say goodbye to health insurance from work for a little bit, while others can only hope to downgrade to a part time schedule at best providing they can keep the health benefits.

Concluding Thoughts

Taking time off from work to work on a side business is not for everyone.  Many are simply not in the position to do so. For those fortunate ones that are, it might make sense to consider a short term sacrifice now to build a better tomorrow.

Have you ever taken time off from your job or career to establish or grow a business? How did it go? Are you in a position to do so now? Will you? Why or why not?

What do you think of others who have taken some time off to work on their businesses? Any stories you can share with our readers?

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7 Responses to “Taking a Sabbatical or Time Off from Work to Work on Your Side Business”

  1. Robert says:

    Hello Sunil!

    Your blog is very refreshing and informative, and I like the fact that you write in a very honest style. Thanks!

    I have a technical question for you if you don’t mind. I currently have a blog, and would like to get hosting for it and possibly have 5-10 blogs in the near future, with e-stores, affiliate links and videos. Can you recommend a good web host for this? I am not into flashy stuff, as I will be relying primarily on solid content to draw traffic. HostGator appears to be able to meet my needs, and is pretty reasonable in cost, but I thought you might have another suggestion.

    Thank you Sunil, and I wish you continued success!


    • Sunil says:

      Robert – welcome and thank you. My intentions were just like yours are now. I have also gone through the creation and sale of an ecommerce website. I have found GoDaddy to be a good partner, specifically their customer service as I am not too technical myself. I have not used HostGator in some time so I cannot attest for their services and mainly their support. At the end of the day, most hosting providers provide the same commodity. It is the service that differentiates one from another. In the event you decide on GoDaddy, note that the links on my website are affiliate links. I get a modest commission from every sale.

      Here are some articles I have written on the topic in the past if you want to read my thoughts on the various online business models and the appropriate hosting for each:

      If you interested in reading about the sale of my ecommerce website:

      • Robert says:

        Thank you Sunil, I will check those out. I just read your guest post at, well done!

        Quick question: At GoDaddy, is the cost the same whether you have one blog/website or 15? Most webhosts offer “unlimited domains”, and I interpret this as “unlimited websites.”

        Thank you again and best success to you…


        • Sunil says:

          Yes – the cost (what you are paying for) is for the space and therefore you can host multiple domains or websites within that space. You may have read/heard the term shared hosting. I know that most host / server providers work in the same manner. Once your website becomes popular and starts getting heavy traffic, you can move to a dedicated server. Hope that helps.

  2. Hi Sunil,

    I’ve just read your other great article on Ana’s blog and here I am. You’ve got quite a great piece here. Taking time off work to work on my online business it’s what I’ve done a lot back in 2006 and it was all worth it.

    Of course, it’s easier said than done for people who can barely afford it, but if the time is used very wisely it can really pay off in the end and that day off can be compensate greatly just a bit later.

    • Sunil says:


      Welcome to the blog and thank you. You are correct, working hard now is the key to reaping the benefits later in the long term. It is necessary and there are no short cuts around it. The sooner we start the better.

      Looking forward to getting to know you better..

  3. andra says:

    thanks sunil… i like it…
    visit back to my blog..

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