The start of a new year is invigorating.

It’s like starting with a clean slate and it feels as though anything is possible.

The past few years have been tough for businesses of all sizes, and no matter what size company you work for, you may have gone with little or no pay increase and/or no bonus. The tough economy has many unhappy workers dreaming about becoming their own boss. However, it’s not easy to let go of a full-time job, especially if you have good benefits.

So what I’m seeing is more and more employees are starting businesses on the side.

They’re testing the entrepreneurial waters without jumping overboard.

A part-time business is a smart way to begin to build your business dream and supplement your income, but be careful. There are a number of pitfalls you need to watch out for.

  1. Current employer’s policy. First check with your current employer to make sure “moonlighting” isn’t prohibited. Some companies don’t want their employees working on the side and it could be a cause for termination. I also recommend checking with some of your colleagues who have been with the company for a while. Sometimes there are informal rules of which you should be aware.
  2. Don’t compete. Don’t take business away from the hand that feeds you. It should go without saying, but don’t align your outside venture with your employer’s competitor. Directly competing with your employer and/or working with a competitor could not only get you fired, but might also create additional exposure to other claims, such as stealing trade secrets or proprietary information.
  3. Don’t be sneaky. Honesty is always the best policy so never try to hide what you are doing outside the company from your employer. In fact, it is a good idea to fully disclose your outside business venture so there aren’t any surprises down the road. Being open and honest upfront can limit problems in the future.
  4. Don’t use company time or resources. As harmless as it may seem to make a few copies at work for your business or send a fax, don’t do it. When you are at your full-time job, stay focused on the work you do there. Don’t be tempted to make a phone call or send a quick email. You are being paid to work for your employer. And using company time and/or resources is a big “NO”.
  5. Be careful about email. Did you know businesses can legally monitor their employee’s emails? So don’t make the mistake of using the company’s email system for your personal business endeavor. The email system is for your employer’s benefit only.
  6. Keep up your job performance. Don’t let your job performance slip at your full-time job. By adding additional work hours for your own business, you’re increasing your workload and stress level. Make sure you continue to produce results at your full-time job. Otherwise, you may find yourself without a regular paycheck.
  7. Have a “Plan B” in place. Even if you do everything right, there is always the risk your employer may decide it isn’t working and release you from your employment. Make sure you have considered that option and have a plan B in place.

Be sure to keep these pitfalls in mind as you plan for your part-time venture.

Do you have any other advice when starting a part-time business while also working full-time for someone else? What would you add to the list?