“I would like to start a consulting business while I maintain my full-time position with my current employer. Do you have any suggestions on the best way to not only start my business, but how to do this without jeopardizing my current position?”

Miriam Salpeter, U-M preferred executive and career coach for alumni in Atlanta, has this to say:

Congratulations for planning to join the freelance economy. You’re in good company. MBO Partners research shows 30 million Americans are already self-employed, either as a main source of work (17.9 million solopreneurs) or by using self-employment as a way to augment other income (12.1 million side-giggers). In our book, Social Networking for Business Success, Hannah Morgan and I term these solopreneurs “MOXIES,” an acronym for people “managing other, x-tra income engagements. Moxie refers to someone who has “courage, nerve or vigor. Anyone planning to run a business on the side will require all three.

Here are some tips for anyone thinking of starting a business while currently employed:

Don’ts

Do not work on your side job while you are on the clock at your full-time job.
Even if you use a company phone or computer for personal use, do not use it for your side business, or you may be in legal hot water in the future. Take vacation time or use your lunch hour wisely for your side business as necessary.

Do not ignore non-compete agreements and company policies.
Assuming your new business is related to what you do at work, be aware of any legal agreements you have with your current company and never share proprietary information. If you are ethical (and lucky), the company where you worked will become a client, especially if you’re an essential employee they can’t do without. Be prepared to be “found out” if you have some unexpected success or publicity.

Do

Look for opportunities to learn new things at work to help your future business.
Plan ahead. It may be a long time before you are ready to leave your day job, or you may choose to continue to work for someone else while you maintain your business on the side. Think about how you can learn new skills while on-the-job; grow your value proposition. Volunteer for projects and position yourself to meet people who will be good contacts for you in the future.

Use social networks.
Use social media tools such as a personal blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ to demonstrate your expertise and meet new people. You can participate online at all hours of the day or night, which is helpful for people managing a full-time job, too. Join groups and participate actively to showcase your expertise. It’s not easy, but you don’t need a million fans; all it takes is a few great contacts willing to take a chance on you to launch a new business endeavor. Be aware that someone at your day job may find your online profiles. On the other hand, if you can simultaneously market yourself as an employee and feature the skills you will use for your business, take advantage of the similarities between your current gig and future business and use these tools to your advantage.

Learn more about Miriam and get a special member-only rate on executive and career coaching. For more career development resources, visit our Career Development website.