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You want to successfully balance your day job with your side business. The good news it that it can be done! But it may not be easy.
Building a business on the side of your day job is tough for a variety of reasons. You not only need to develop superhuman time management skills, but you must also learn to manage your emotions as well.
This means keeping meltdowns to a minimum. It means not comparing yourself to others who are further along in their journey than your are (try learning from the experiences they can share instead!).
If you want to achieve your dreams of balancing a full-time day job and a business on the side, it takes work. And this means absolutely no whining about having to work hard.
Here’s how to successfully make room for your side hustle alongside your day job.
Manage a split focus with your day job
Yes, you will have to work hard. If you’re like most of us who have made the switch, you’re holding down a full-time day job as you slowly nurture your side hustle into a side business.
You’ll need to continue showing up to work for weeks, months, or even years before it’s time to make the leap into self-employment.
I know Carrie was working insane hours for months before she quit her job to develop and run her business full-time. I mentioned my 80-90 hour work weeks in a previous post about handling burnout. Your full-time job still requires attention and energy.
No matter how badly you want to ignore your day job in favor of your new side business, you still have to give it the time it deserves. You need to develop the skills to cope with your day job, even when all you want to do is quit and focus only on your own work.
Don’t like that? Toughen up, buttercup. It’s time to learn how to deal with your day job when all you really want to do is focus on building a side business.
Both your day job and side business matter
You won’t survive if you’re not passionate about what you’re creating. But losing the drive for performing well in your day job can kill your self-employment dream just as fast.
I know. As a budding freelancer this is not what you want to hear. The reality is, your day job is necessary to your future success as a freelancer or self-employed business owner.
Why? Your day job provides a steady source of income, benefits, and compensation for your work. And some of those benefits will disappear when you quit, so take advantage of them for as long as you possibly can.
Your day job matters as much as your side business because it’s removing the financial pressure to immediately succeed away from your creative work. In other words, you don’t have to pimp out your creativity in order to make a buck. You may carry a heavy workload, but that burden is preferable to dealing with crushing debt and other money problems.
Not to mention, many businesses — even bootstrapped, digital ones — need financial support to get off the ground. It’s difficult to provide your dream with the practical resources it needs if you don’t have any.
Money isn’t everything, but smart business owners know financial security is important to success in other areas of life.
Managing a day job alongside a side business provides better lessons than business school. You’ll learn a lot as you launch your own career and create your own opportunities.
If you can survive a few months as both an employee and your own boss, you can handle anything once you officially work for yourself full-time.
If you’re at the point where you feel like you’re working two jobs (one for someone else and one for yourself), think of this as your transition phase. Right now, your day job is serving as a bridge between two important pieces of your career. Your success lies in crossing that bridge, not jumping off of it as soon as you come to it.
Make room for your side business
There are two elements in life that most of us feel we will never have enough of. The first is money.
The good news for side hustlers and freelancers is that you don’t need to have much money to establish a side hustle alongside your full-time job (and some get the ball rolling without any upfront investment at all).
As a freelance writer and content manager, my startup expenses have been minimal. I paid for two websites, my portfolio and my blog… and that’s about it.
The total cost? About $300 for everything, which included two domain names, three years’ worth of hosting, and premium themes for my WordPress sites. Many people have beaten me on expenses and have gotten set up for far less.
The second element that we all feel we don’t have enough of is time. Finding the time to work on our businesses while having a full-time job is the biggest challenge that small business owners will have to overcome.
Which brings me to my next point..
Think of your side hustle as an investment
Time is trickier to handle than money. So I decided to view my startup costs were an investment. The first month of freelance writing brought in a return of about $600. Not only did I cover my initial expenses, but I was able to allocate some of my profit towards taxes. I also had a little left over to put back into building my business.
The initial time I put in, however, is not something I can make more of. Sure, the time I invested did pay off in the form of a growing business — but that simply means more clients, more connections, or more money. It does not mean more time.
If you want to take your side businesses full-time it’s crucial that you learn to manage your time wisely. You have to do everything within your power to maximize what is available.
We all get the same 24 hours in a day, and that’s it. So today, I want to share exactly what I did to free up more time to devote to my business.
Negotiate with your boss for office freedom
The number one time drain on any aspiring freelancer who is working to take their business full-time is the day job they already have. Working on someone else’s arbitrary schedule is, in my opinion, utter nonsense!
People are not machines. We don’t necessarily function at our highest capacities between the hours of 9am and 5pm with a one hour break slapped in the middle.
And yet, for most of us with desk jobs in someone else’s office, this is what we’re expected to do. We don’t exchange a job well done for our paycheck. (If we did, we’d come into the office when we wanted, get stuff done, and leave when we had satisfactorily completed all our tasks!)
Instead, we exchange time. The agreement is that we sit at our desks for at least eight hours per day and every two weeks we get a paycheck. And even though we’re all well aware it doesn’t necessarily take 40 hours per week to do a fantastic job.
I knew I had to do something to create a better schedule for myself in order to be more productive. Initially, I approached my boss and asked to work remotely full-time. I had a clear, logical argument that I presented that explained why it made sense for me to work at home.
Unfortunately, my employer is extremely old-school and thought this was very bad for “office unity.” Fighting to not roll my eyes, I stood my ground and worked to negotiate a deal that we could both live with.
Your dual role as employee & freelancer
Understanding why your day job still serves a purpose may help you find peace with saying goodbye to 8 hour workdays and leisurely weekends and hello to work that requires full steam ahead.
But it doesn’t explain how to deal with the crazy, stressful, and difficult situations you’re facing while in transition between your two positions. Try these strategies and ideas to help you make it through:
1. Get organized
Really organized. Setting schedules, maintaining a calendar or planner, tracking your ideas, and managing tasks are all essential to success while you still have your day job.
2. Ask for help with your side business
You may be 100% responsible for your position in someone else’s company, but you call the shots in your own business. Consider outsourcing any tasks you don’t like or can’t do, so you can focus on the big, important stuff.
3. Ask for help with non-work-related tasks
You can reach out to people to help you with more than just work, as well. Make sure you have a support group made of friends, family, coworkers, or like-minded folks in a similar situation that you can lean on when you need them.
This may mean having someone to talk to when you just need to vent, or it could be asking a friend to run an errand every once in a while or a significant other to bring you a meal.
4. Make use of all your time
Do you receive breaks or lunch periods at your day job? Consider taking that time to work on your personal projects. (Be sure you familiarize yourself with your company’s rules and policies first.)
5. Prioritize what matters
Just because you need to continue taking your day job seriously doesn’t mean you need to give 110% in every area. You don’t need to feel obligated to volunteer for extra work or assignments in the office. And don’t be afraid to say “no” to additional projects if you lack the bandwidth.
6. Look for alternative work arrangements
Ask your boss about setting a new schedule or allowing for some remote work. This can allow you to save time on commutes (or avoid wasting time sitting in the office when you’ve finished the days work, doing nothing but twiddling your thumbs until 5pm).
You may also want to discuss working 30 hours per week instead of 40 if that’s an option in your position.
7. Set goals and timelines
Keep yourself focused on what’s really important by creating a detailed action plan that contains specific goals and timelines. This can help you eliminate the noise and concentrate on progress.
And it can also signal when it might officially be time to hand in your notice and make the leap to working for yourself full-time.
Work remotely to boost productivity
While I am resigned to a set schedule in the mornings, I have the rest of the day to prioritize my own tasks. I’m always logged into my company’s system remotely so I can immediately handle things like emails, but I tend to focus on my side business in the afternoon and take care of my job’s assignments at night.
Now I work in the office from 7am to about noon, and then I go home to work remotely for the afternoon. I still have to work my full-time job, but working remotely brings several positive changes:
- I’m not a night owl, and am more energized and creative in the afternoon hours than I am in the evening — which is exactly what I need to do great work for my clients. My full-time job is data entry. I don’t need creative juices for that!
- I’m also not a people person. I hit the social anxiety jackpot: I’m not only introverted, but shy as well! This does not mean I hate people, but it does mean being around coworkers all day long becomes extremely wearing. Working remotely has re-energized me and I’m a million times more productive now that I have plenty of time to work independently and alone.
- I have the freedom to devote more time to my side business if I complete assignments for my full-time job ahead of schedule (which often happens).
- I’m happier in general. I learned that being forced to sit in an office day in and day out is really bad for my mental and physical health. Working in that office full-time on a schedule that made no sense for my natural productivity levels caused me to be more depressed, anxious, and stressed than I have ever been. And fellow office-workers will understand how physically draining it is to be shackled at a desk for more than 8 hours a day, forced to be stationary and confined.
How to balance a side business and day job
If you want to negotiate with your current employer for a more flexible schedule, keep these tips in mind:
Make sure you are doing absolutely outstanding work in your current position before you approach a boss to ask for anything. Prove your value and your worth, and they’ll likely be more willing to work with you to keep you happy.
See the situation from your employer’s point of view. In your negotiations, you’ll need to be able to tell them exactly why allowing you to do some work remotely benefits everyone.
Have your argument prepared before you ask for a change in schedule. This doesn’t mean you go in and actually argue with your boss! Simply take the time to be prepared and capable of answering questions, explaining why this is a logical step, and reminding anyone what an excellent, valuable employee you are. Don’t approach the situation like you’re asking for a favor. You’re not — you’re seeking a better work schedule for you so that you can perform at even higher levels for your employer.
Be ready to negotiate. Depending on how innovative your company is, you may or may not have to negotiate with your manager. Forward-thinking companies will likely be more open to non-traditional working arrangements.
Having more freedom to work on your own schedule is one of the best ways you can balance your side business with your current full-time job. Remember, this isn’t an excuse to get out of doing excellent work in your position for your employer.
You’ll still have a full-time job, but it should be a bit easier to work your side business’ needs into your day when you have more control over your schedule.
You can devote your best working hours to your own clients and projects, and you can spend more of your day in an ideal environment rather than in someone else’s office. We may not be able to fit more than 24 hours in a day, but we can put those hours to the best use possible.
That starts with freeing ourselves from the confines of the offices of our day jobs, and beginning to establish our own schedules and surroundings that allow us to do our best work possible.
What strategies do you use to deal with your day job while building a business on the side?