A Case for Jumping in Full Time When Starting Your RIA: What Would Arlene Say?

13 min read
April 11, 2019

A colleague of mine recently told me that as she speaks with new planners, there seems to be a growing trend: They think it’s in their best interest to continue working full-time while they slowly launch their financial planning practice.

I understand the draw of this idea. In today’s world, it seems possible to “side hustle” pretty much anything—even your future full-time business and career. Plus, working full time might give you the income you need to continue supporting yourself and your family while your business launches.

In theory, this idea works. However, “in theory” almost never holds up in the real world. As someone who has coached financial planners for years, I’ve seen this idea flop time and time again.

There are so many reasons why “side hustling” your financial planning practice just doesn’t fly, which is why I almost always recommend that people avoid continuing their current full-time job while trying to launch their practice (if at all possible).

Jumping in feet first can be scary, but it’s worth it. The vast majority of planners I work with who choose to keep working full time while launching their practice find it really challenging to divide their attention.

Nine times out of 10, they end up feeling burnt out and overworked (rightfully), and throw in the towel before they’ve truly given their business a chance to thrive. It breaks my heart.

Today I want to go over why I recommend diving into your new practice full time and what you can do to make it possible.

Momentum Is So Important

I can’t overemphasize the importance of momentum when you’re starting your business. This is true for any business that’s new to launch, but it’s especially true for financial planners.

Financial planning is a tough business, and being a solopreneur comes with its own set of challenges. When you dive into your business, you need a few things to keep you going:

  • A healthy savings account to get you through until you start taking a paycheck
  • Clarity around your “why” to keep you motivated
  • Time to dedicate to marketing, operations, and sales
  • A rockstar support system of friends, family, and colleagues
  • Momentum to keep pushing through even—or perhaps more appropriately, especially—when it gets tough

Momentum is the best way to keep yourself moving through admin tasks, marketing your new business, setting up your website, dealing with updates to your ADV, CE credit hours, navigating compliance as a new planner—you name it, you need momentum to get you through it.

When you start your financial planning practice as a side hustle, you lose a lot of the momentum you might need to push through your first year as a business owner. I’m not saying you lose motivation (we’ll get to that later), rather I’m saying that you lose the ability to keep moving forward, undistracted.

When your attention is divided, it makes maintaining momentum next to impossible.


Whether you’re focusing on marketing, client work, or any other project related to running your business (or your full-time gig that you’re working to move away from), it’s hard to split your attention.

It takes time and energy to rebuild your momentum after breaking away and focusing on different projects across your two career priorities. And that’s just thinking about your professional to-do list. Now add your personal to-do list on top of that and you have a recipe for disaster. 

Life offers a laundry list of things that will pull you away from your business and break your momentum; adding a full-time job or career to the mix only complicates things further. 

Routine Is Necessary

There’s a huge, often unspoken benefit to having a routine when you launch your business. You won’t necessarily have client work right out of the gate (or at least not very much client work) to keep you busy. You have so much time in the early stages to focus on all of the things that will help your business be a well-oiled machine once client work starts to pick up.

A routine helps you commit time to necessary tasks such as creating processes, working on continuing education in an ongoing way (rather than cramming it all in at year end), developing your marketing and sales strategies, and getting involved with your colleagues. With a routine in place, you can block off time for all of these tasks and find a rhythm that works for you.

Finding a routine as a solopreneur, especially if you’re virtual, can be tough. It’s even harder when you have another full-time job competing for your attention.

It’s true that you can get a lot done between the hours of 6 and 11 PM, or 4 and 7 AM. Any parent, entrepreneur, or goal-oriented person knows this. But the routine of running your own business will quickly require more and more of your time. You run the risk of shoving your business into the corners of your life…and that’s not where it belongs.

I’ve heard it said that there can only be one “most important” thing. If you have a full-time job, your fledgling business, a family, friends, faith, a community, and hobbies, you’re probably giving a lot of things the “most important thing” status right now.

Hit pause.

How much easier would it be to prioritize building your new business and being a present spouse or parent than doing both of those things and working full-time simultaneously?

Your full-time job takes up a lot of time (likely 8+ hours each day). If you’re only living life for a few more hours on the front or back end of your 8+ hours, how many of those are truly going to be dedicated to growing your new business?

How will that impact your mental and emotional health or your relationships? If you’re choosing to pursue a financial planning practice of your own while still working full time, you’ll eventually be forced to choose your priorities. Those decisions are never easy, and they often come with emotionally challenging compromises. 

Starting your business, and making it a full-time priority, leaves you with space in your life to still, you know, live. I’m not saying that entrepreneurship isn’t hard. It is. You’re probably going to have your fair share of late nights, early mornings, and long weekends trying to grow your business.

But tackling those things as a full-time priority gives you more time to get done what needs to get done and still have some time leftover to grow outside of your new business. 

Working “Real” Business Hours Is Helpful

Here’s a tough question: If you’re growing your financial planning practice as a side hustle, how do you plan to meet with clients?

Many planners who start their business alongside their full-time job end up meeting with clients after hours or on weekends. Then, when they’re ready to take the leap to full time and reclaim their nights and weekends for family, friends, and life in general, they’re surprised by the push back they get from clients.

Unfortunately, clients also have full-time priorities. If you give them the option to move their financial planning meeting to a schedule that fits with their full-time job, they’ll likely want to keep it that way.

When you work oddball hours or start meetings on weekends, you run the risk of those clients always wanting meetings during those times.

This works for some people. Maybe “banker’s hours” aren’t for you. Maybe you don’t love the idea of meeting people during the week when you’d rather be working on your business or hanging out with your kids. In these cases, weekend or after-hours meetings may work just fine for you.

However, clients aren’t the only people you need to worry about when growing your business.

Do you want to grow your team eventually? Even if you want to hire a virtual assistant or a part-time marketer, they may need to get in touch with you during traditional 9-5 hours. An employee will definitely want a schedule that meets their needs and you may be met with resistance if you require them to meet with clients outside of normal business hours. 

You’ll also have a much harder time networking with other advisors, business coaches, and colleagues in the financial planning profession outside of “traditional” business hours. For a start-up advisor, being connected to advisors with minimums is a huge opportunity that you can’t really afford to miss. If you’re getting your support from an organization like XY Planning Network, they’ll likely hold training calls or networking sessions during traditional hours.

So, although you technically can work non-traditional hours as an advisor, being completely unavailable during those times might have a negative impact on your business growth in the long run.

Cost Doesn’t Change Whether You Work Full or Part Time

I was doing some digging to figure out exactly why some people want to start their financial planning practice as a part-time gig. The resounding answer I found was that they felt like the income from their full-time job helped fund their new business. 

I completely understand the financial strain of entrepreneurship. When I started my own coaching business several years ago, making sure I had enough revenue to cover costs was stressful to say the least.

Advisors have so many additional costs that most entrepreneurs just don’t have. Financial planning software, compliant invoicing software, membership organizations, other odds and ends in your tech stack…the list goes on and on (and on). 

XYPN’s Benchmarking Studies have shown time and again that many financial planners don’t even turn a profit or start taking a paycheck until after year one or two of growing their business. For a lot of people, that’s a daunting statistic.

I know that there are so many different financial stressors that might make you hesitant to let go of your full-time income. Unfortunately, a lot of the costs you incur as a new planner will be there whether you work full or part time in your new business.

When you run your business part time, you lose valuable working hours. These hours could be used to network, find and sign new clients, focus on making your processes more efficient, market your business virtually and locally, connect with prospects on social media, and more.

It's reasonable to fear that taking your business from part to full time will result in loss of income. However, diving into your business full time also gives you more hours in a day where you can actively work towards growing your revenue.

Starting your financial planning practice as a side hustle doesn’t necessarily give you the hours needed to actually grow your revenue to a point where you can kick your business development off in a way that supports your expenses. 

Prospects Want a Professional

I don’t necessarily agree with this as a general rule, but unfortunately, many times businesses are viewed as more professional when they have traditional operating hours. A financial planner who can meet with clients Tuesdays or Thursdays at 8 PM doesn’t offer as many meeting times to new clients as someone who’s available 8–3 PM Monday–Friday.

I’m not saying that you always have to be available during traditional working hours to run a successful planning practice. You’re your own boss, which means you make the rules. But we can’t always control the perception of people who are considering working with us.

You have to be cognizant of what prospects see, even before you meet with them. They can see your scheduling tool. They know when you’re available, and if you’re less available than other financial planners, you may lose out on prospective clients without even realizing it.

If you need to work a part-time job on the side of your full-time financial planning practice, your prospects don’t necessarily see that.

They don’t see you delivering pizzas, picking up weekend shifts at the local coffee shop, or Uber driving like crazy after every local event.

Instead they see that you’re unavailable for them when they want to meet you, and that will cost you. 

Launching a Business Takes Time

Everything about launching a business takes time. When you first launch, you might feel like there’s nothing to do because you’re short on clients. That’s not the case.

Here are just a handful of things that are super time-consuming for new (and seasoned) business owners:

  • Social media management
  • Connecting with prospective clients online and in person
  • Content marketing and creation
  • Building your community of advisors and industry professionals
  • Client work
  • Continuing education
  • Business development
  • Operations
  • Admin work 

If you want to see how new financial planners actually spend their time, check out this article from Michael Kitces. It’s a perfect depiction of what advisor work looks like and all of the hours needed to get everything done. All of these tasks take dedication and momentum, and fitting them into 10 hours a week might mean that: 

Worst Case Scenario

You lose focus when working on operational tasks or, worse, client work, that needs to get done when you’re not at your full-time job. You might end up working longer than you had planned, working weekends, or falling behind. If you can’t fit it all in, your personal life might take a hit, or you may be unable to provide the top-notch client work you know you’re capable of delivering.

Best Case Scenario

You take longer to grow your business because you don’t have as much time to dedicate to it. You slow down your growth purposefully because keeping your full-time income and the side hustle income is nice and working any more than you already do on or in your financial planning practice might sound overwhelming and time-consuming. After all, you only have so many hours in a day. 

Ask any firm owner what they need more of and they’ll tell you that even more than they need more revenue or more clients, they need more time. Eventually, as your client work picks up, you simply won’t have time to keep growing because the hours you’ve allotted to grow your practice will go towards client and admin work instead.

When you run your practice full time, you can really commit to growing your practice and still have time leftover to keep growing your practice after you start signing on clients.

Losing Motivation

The reasons listed above are problematic for advisors who want to take their practice part time. But in my opinion, the biggest reason that part-time advisors end up throwing in the towel is because they lose motivation (and focus).

It makes me so sad to see a new planner who’s fired up and ready to grow their business slowly get burnt out trying to balance their full-time job with their part-time practice.

The burnout comes from unnecessary suffering. Full-time business owners still have enough hours in the day to take a breath, go for a walk, or take a vacation. Balancing two jobs that both require full-time work is exhausting and challenging. 

But even if you’re totally ready for the challenge, it’s so easy to lose motivation when your practice is part time. There’s no sense of urgency as you grow your business because you have a full-time income to back you up.

Many people push back against the “sink or swim” mentality of new business owners, but that fire that pushes new business owners to keep moving, signing clients, and growing their business comes from one underlying current: the simple fact that they have to.

For full-time business owners, failure isn’t an option. You have goals, drive, and a lot of time on your hands to get it done. When your practice stays part time, it’s possible that it will stay there forever and never graduate to the full-time status it deserves.  

And you deserve to have your firm as a full-time priority. Anybody who wants to launch a financial planning practice is clearly motivated to make an impact on people’s lives. Don’t let the rest of the world miss out.

A Disclaimer 

Part-time practices are not the same as lifestyle practices. There’s a difference between someone launching a new practice while still working a full-time job and someone who has chosen to work part-time hours but who makes their business their full-time career and professional priority. Building a lifestyle practice means enjoying life when you’re not working, not working more.

You Have Options 

I don’t have the cash flow or the savings to start my practice full time right now. What do I do? 

You have several options as you look to launch your financial planning practice:

  1. Save up. Don’t just dive into your full-time financial planning practice. Save up before you take the leap.
  2. Do all of your homework first. This is where you can definitely be “part time” in your financial planning practice. Setting up your business, researching how to market your business, connecting with potential prospects on LinkedIn, getting your compliance and tech stack set up…all of these are “to-dos” that you can definitely tackle while still working your full-time job and padding your safety net. Knock all of the “business setup” tasks first, research to your heart’s content outside of business hours, and then take the leap with confidence when you’re ready.
  3. Have both a business safety net and a personal safety net. Worried about cash flow or not being able to take a paycheck? Build a business safety net—and a personal safety net—before you start your practice. Have a reserve of cash for business expenses (possibly including your own payroll) and an emergency fund for personal expenses that might come up in your first year or two.
  4. Don’t spend all of your money up front. There are so many tempting things to spend your money on as a new planner. Weigh the pros and cons of every cost to keep your overhead low until you start bringing in revenue.
  5. Make a budget. I see so many advisors wing it when it comes to their business budget. Don’t do this! Make a clear budget for everything you will need in your first year, figure out how much revenue you need to bring in to cover costs, and start finding clients to meet that goal ASAP.
  6. Reverse the narrative. I’ve heard so many advisor success stories about people who launched their practice full time and side hustled to make ends meet. I’ve heard of financial planners waiting tables, working at the grocery store on weekends, doing admin work for other financial planners or a local church or community organization they’re involved in, ghost writing, and more. You have a lot of side hustle options to increase your cash flow. The important thing is that your side hustle is not your full-time priority—your practice is.

Feeling overwhelmed?

Take heart! The industries with the highest success rates for new businesses are finance, insurance, and real estate—58% of the businesses in these industries are still operating after four years.

Jumping into your financial planning practice full time is a stressful endeavor, but so many others before you have done it, and you can do it too. With proper preparation (and a lot of networking and prospecting when you launch), you’ll make great things happen in no time at all. 


About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach

Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.

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