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How to Keep Your Job While Getting Your Own Business Off the Ground

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you're looking to get a small business off the ground, you know just how daunting a challenge it can be. From the long hours to the start-up costs, entrepreneurship isn't easy, and there's always the chance your business could be a failure. For extra stability and cash flow, many entrepreneurs choose to maintain their full-time "day jobs" while launching their businesses in secret -- and it goes without saying that most employers won't be happy if one of their employees is moonlighting with an eye toward leaving the company.

Even if you're careful not to use work time or company equipment in your efforts, experts warn that juggling two jobs is a risky proposition. Going in, it's important to be "very realistic" about the needs of your new business and the needs of your day-to-day job, says Jerry White, director of the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Cox School of Business.

"It is easy to think you can do two full-time things and then realize you've gotten yourself into an impossible position," White says. By the same token, "if you don't pay the bills, the whole thing collapses."

Before you begin, considerable thought should go into what kind of business you want to start and what kind of job you currently have, White says. For example, if you travel a lot for work, your new venture must be able to go on hold while you are away. If your business grows to the point that you find yourself filling orders while you're on a business trip or sitting at your desk, that's a problem.

"Using company time is a good way to get fired," White says. "The key is to format your business so that it fits around your day job."

It will become painfully obvious to your supervisors if you're not meeting your job goals or if things start stacking up at the office that you usually can work off, White adds. If you're serious about keeping your current employer happy you'll need to "be your own doctor and read the symptoms," says Marnie Swedberg, founder of B.U.S.Y.: Best Unique Strategies for You, a time management consultancy.