It’s a question I’m often asked and one I’ve asked myself many times.

I hear frequently hear stories about people who quit their jobs to start small businesses says Paul Haarman. And I know first-hand how difficult it can be to create your own company — especially in today’s economic climate.

It’s natural for someone starting out on his or her own to wonder if they’re taking on too much risk as they leave their steady paycheck for full-time entrepreneurship. After all, chasing a dream comes without a guarantee, and certainly with no benefits. That said, the first question one should ask one’s self is: is this something I can afford?

Can You Afford It?

If the answer is yes, then carefully consider if the time is right to leave. Ask yourself these questions:

Have you been saving enough? If not, it’s time, because six months’ worth of living expenses — (ideally 12 months) — will be needed to help you make it through the tough times. Don’t underestimate how difficult it will be psychologically to go from having guaranteed income every two weeks from your full-time employer to earning absolutely nothing for a few months, a year, or even longer as you wait for business to perhaps grow large enough to provide a regular paycheck.

How strong is the local economy? Is unemployment is high, it may be tough to grow a customer base.

Do you have a safety net?

 If your spouse has an income, that makes being an entrepreneur much less stressful. Having grown kids also means having someone else’s paycheck coming into the household every month. making starting your own company somewhat easier says Paul Haarman. And if you’ve cultivated relationships with key people early on that might keep you afloat for financial reasons during lean times, then it might be easier for you to start up than someone who doesn’t have those sorts of connections.

Is This What I Really Want to Do?

If these questions lead you to a “no,” don’t quit your day job. If you’re truly unhappy, then starting a business may be an escape from that unhappiness rather than the solution to it. Whether you have a good or bad boss is simply not relevant when you consider whether entrepreneurship is right for you. In fact, I’d argue that the best bosses are also entrepreneurs because they understand what it’s like going out on your own and having all of the risk on your shoulders.

Don’t Start Something You Don’t Want to Do

If the answer is yes, then ask yourself this: Can I do something else while I’m working a full-time job? Maybe there’s some other business idea that will take less time to get up and running. If you quit your job now, are you prepared to put in the time needed to make it work? Do you have a realistic idea of how much time and energy starting a business will require? What are the potential financial rewards vs. the costs if it fails?

Do You Really Want to Start Your Own Company?

If you do want to become an entrepreneur even though no one is pressuring you, then I recommend that you start out part-time — say three days a week or 20 hours per week max. That way your current employer doesn’t see things as being any different at first. Eventually, however, that’s likely to change. I always found this approach worked well for me because if something didn’t work out with my part-time venture, I still had a good job to fall back on.

Next question: Will starting my own company takes away from my ability to be effective at my current employer? Starting out part-time at first will help you find your feet in an entrepreneurial setting while not interfering with what you’re doing day-to-day for somebody else. Before I took the leap, for example, I started selling baseball cards when I was still employed full-time elsewhere. It allowed me to learn about selling and marketing without taking too much time away from work explains Paul Haarman.

Conclusion:

If you’ve carefully considered all of the issues I’ve raised here and decided to make the move, congratulations on having the guts to go for it. But don’t give yourself too much praise. Even though there is no right or wrong answer, starting a business takes courage no matter if you quit your job or not. Just ask anyone who’s done it — including me!