Wolf at NightMore people than ever are starting side businesses and “moonlighting” as freelancers while they already have full-time jobs. These “moonpreneurs” often start a business to earn supplemental income, while trying to build up a business to the point that it becomes a full-time job. According to a recent Elance survey, 36% of small business owners are starting a side business while they already have a full-time job.

“Moonlighting” no longer means working extra hours at a part-time job. Being a “moonpreneur” is about building a business during the hours of 5 p.m. – midnight (or later). Depending on your skills and productivity, “moonlighting” as a freelancer might pay significantly better per hour than your day job.

As an illustration of the “moonpreneur” trend, this article in Daily Finance profiles a few “moonpreneurs” who are starting online retail businesses, working as freelance marketing consultants, and doing other types of work. They offer several tips for aspiring “moonpreneurs” who want to start a business while still holding down a full-time job.

  • Don’t just do it for the money: The extra money that comes from being a “moonpreneur” is great, but if money is your only reward, you’re likely to get burned out from putting in all those extra hours. Make sure your “moonpreneur” business is something that you’re really passionate about. Ideally, you should want your “moonpreneur” side business to be the kind of work or the kinds of activities that you would happily do for free.
  • Make sure your spouse is on board: If you’re married, especially if you have kids, being a “moonpreneur” is going to take away from some of the time you spend with your family. Be open and honest with your spouse or significant other about the time demands that you expect the business to take – and don’t underestimate the time commitments; running a side business often takes much more time than people initially expect.
  • Decide what you’re willing to give up: As a “moonpreneur,” work-life balance takes on a new meaning, with more time spent on “work” and less time available for “life.” Think about what hobbies or activities you’re willing to give up – even for a few months or a year – while you get your side business up and running. Can you stop watching TV? Take a hiatus from Facebook? What are some time-wasting activities that you can become more disciplined in avoiding? All of these areas of your life need to be re-evaluated if you want to have enough time and energy to focus on your “moonpreneur” side business.
  • Make smart use of your cash: One common mistake that “moonpreneurs” tend to make is over-investing in unimportant areas of the business, while at the same time trying to “save money” by doing everything themselves. If you’re just getting your side business off the ground, the most important thing for you to do is make sales. Anything else can fall by the wayside – you need to focus relentlessly on finding and converting new customers and boosting your revenues. So don’t spend too much on fancy brochures or expensive office equipment – but do look for ways to delegate tasks and enlist the expertise of contractors who can help you do what you do best, and help your company sell more, faster.

I talked to CorpNet CEO Nellie Akalp about the “moonpreneur” trend, and she said that CorpNet serves many clients who are starting side businesses while still working at a full-time job.

“One of the things that we often talk about with moonpreneurs is that they’re concerned about the cost of incorporating a business,” said Nellie. “But the truth is, if you use CorpNet’s online incorporation service, people are often surprised at how inexpensive it is. We also make it easy for moonpreneurs to get a business started by offering some value-added services and free guidance. We have tools and checklists to help people choose the right business structure, and we also offer free business consultation to help people make the right choice and feel comfortable with getting their business incorporated.”

Being a moonpreneur is not easy – there are a lot of late nights and stressful, sleep-deprived days. But if you can get through the tough times of working two jobs, being a moonpreneur can be the best preparation for full-time entrepreneurship. After you’ve gotten used to the hectic schedule of moonlighting, running your own business full-time will feel like a paid vacation.