How to Run Your Side Hustle When You're Still In Your 9 to 5
For many entrepreneurs, starting your own business is not as easy as quitting your 9-5 and going out on your own. A lot of entrepreneurs start out by building their side hustle while keeping their day job – and whether this is for financial or other reasons, it can be a good idea to get your dream off the ground while still taking in a steady paycheck. Trust me on this one. As someone who DID NOT take this route – I quit my 9-5 and started my company two days later – I enviously admire those who had this luxury, because it gives you the time and financial cushion to test out your market, make sure you do want to be in this business and in general, get your ducks in a row.
Working a side hustle while keeping your 9-5 isn’t a walk in the park, though. Not surprisingly, holding down two jobs (plus family and personal obligations) can leave you emotionally and physically drained. So how can you do it without burning out? Here are my 7 best tips for juggling your day job and your side hustle without crashing and burning:
Tip #1: Have a Plan
There are some people who love having a side hustle alongside their 9-5 and can’t imagine living without either. If that’s you, great! But if you’re itching to drop the day job and build your business, have a really solid plan for how you are going to get there. It will be exhausting working on your business while showing up to your day job, so it’s important to have a concrete timeline sketched out so you know what you are working towards.
I like to think of the early life of a business in these four stages:
#1 – Idea (where you do your market research, sketch out your offerings, etc.)
#2 – Execution (where you make it happen!)
#3 – Testing (where you sell your products/services and tweak as you receive feedback)
#4 – Scale (where you’ve figured it out and now it’s about growing that business)
I generally think you should get through stages #1-3 before you quit your day job, if you can. So if your goal is to tell your 9-5 to shove it in the next year, work backwards and figure out when you want to have each stage completed by. This way, when you get frustrated and can barely keep your eyes open from exhaustion, you’ll remember your plan and have a really concrete goal that you’re working towards.
Tip #2: Schedule It Out
I’m convinced there is absolutely no way you can successful run a side hustle if you don’t keep a really tight schedule. Once you’ve created your plan above, now break each of those stages down into concrete, actionable steps and assign them to a timeline. Be realistic about the time you do have in your week, and how long each task will take (if necessary – go back and adjust your timeline on your plan).
Once you’ve figured out what you need to get done each week, schedule it out around your work time. Be honest with yourself about what you’ll do (Not a morning person? Don’t schedule work for 5 a.m.). Also, make sure to schedule in time for your relationships, family and personal obligations. These should be your #1 priority and you need to be disciplined enough to ensure they don’t get bumped for your side hustle. This will also ensure that you are keeping yourself emotionally and mentally strong (which you’ll need to get through the tough times!).
I personally use an Excel spreadsheet to map out my time each week, but you can also use your email’s calendar or any other online or paper scheduling tool. Every Sunday night, I sit down and map out what my week will look like and what I need to be working on in every moment. If this makes you feel overscheduled, build in some “flex time” where you can choose what you work on.
Want my weekly scheduling template? Download it here.
Tip #3: Don’t Sacrifice Self-Care
Building a successful business (with or without a full-time job) takes a lot of work and energy. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re going to crash and burn before you get there. So, even when it feels like your to-do list is never-ending, build in time for self-care EVERY DAY.
Yes, I really said it. Every day. I’m not suggesting that you get a massage every day (although, heck, that would be nice!). Self-care can be as simple as taking 5 minutes to meditate (or sit quietly) or going for a walk at lunchtime. Here are some of my favorite easy and quick self-care habits:
- Sitting quietly for a few minutes
- Taking a bath
- Taking a shower
- Listening to a favorite song (and singing!)
- Going for a walk
- Reading a book outside (usually at lunchtime)
- Burning a candle
- Snuggling with my dogs
Tip #4: Automate + Systematize
One of the tricks to running a successful business (and staying sane) is automating and systematizing everything you possibly can. This is even more important when you are running your side hustle. I am constantly on the look-out for ways that I can make something into a template, automate a process, or design a system to make it easier and more consistent. What you are able to do will depend on your specific business, but I generally recommend starting out by looking for tools in these areas, and I’ve listed below some popular options in each category:
- Email Marketing (MailChimp, MailerLite, ConvertKit)
- Email Templates for common email responses you write often (can be done through your email service provider)
- Social Media Scheduling (Planoly, CoSchedule, MeetEdgar, Tailwind + so many others)
- Accounting + Invoicing (QuickBooks, HoneyBook, Waze – all of these integrate with your bank + credit card to automatically download transactions)
Tip #5: Outsource
If you’ve automated everything you can and you’re still finding you’re overloaded, it may be time to consider outsourcing. I realize it may seem counterintuitive to hire someone to assist in your side hustle when you could do that yourself if only you could afford to quit your day job. I get it. But in some cases, hiring someone (such as a social media manager or VA) to take on tasks that are overwhelming you may free up enough time for you to work on more strategic work in your side hustle, and may cost less than you earn at your day job.
Whether or not you’re ready to outsource, I recommend creating an outline of every task in your business, whether or not you NEED to do it yourself, and any skillsets/tools/etc. required to complete that task. This will give you a big-picture overview of the work that needs to be done in your business and help you see areas where you could possibly outsource or even automate.
Want my business task planner template? Download it here.
Tip #6: Be a Master of Efficiency
Along the lines of outsourcing and automating, let’s talk about efficiency. The only way you are going to create the best business you can while working in your 9-5 is to be as efficient as possible. This means looking at everything you need to do in your business and asking yourself these questions:
- Is this something only I can do? (if no, consider outsourcing)
- Is this something that I don’t know how to do, or I know how but it takes me a long time and someone could do better (if yes, consider outsourcing)
- Is this something I do repeatedly? (if so, consider batching your work or seeing if you can automate it)
In addition to asking those questions, try to group your tasks across your entire life (day job, side hustle, personal) so that you are doing similar-minded tasks at the same time (helps maintain your focus!). This will also help if you have geographically-similar tasks (you need to see the dentist, which is next to one of your clients, so schedule them around the same time).
Tip #7: Prioritize
When you’re building a business, there are so many things to do and so many things you want to do. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’re growing your dream into hopefully a successful business that will last for a long time, so don’t rush it. I know you have a million fabulous ideas you want to implement, but hold tight. Get your feet under you before you start trying to grow and scale (remember those stages above?). Slow and steady does in fact win the race here – I read an article recently about how the majority of businesses that survive past 10 years are the ones who grew slowly. So don’t get ahead of yourself. Prioritize what really needs to happen to meet your goals in each of the four stages outlined above, and save the rest for when you quit your 9-5 and have a team in place to help you.
In the meantime, stay strong. Building a business you love while working in your 9-5 is not easy but there are very important reasons to stay in that 9-5 as long as you can (if you can).