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How to juggle a side business and a full time job

Updated: Mar 5, 2022

You may be here because you're thinking about starting a side business and want to know whether it's possible or you may already have a creative business and you're struggling to juggle it alongside your full-time job whilst also making time for yourself.

The very first step is to ask yourself, "what do I want from this?" as this will impact how you approach things. You may want to keep your business as a side business permanently or you may want to build it to a full time business; these different wants will impact how you continue in your biz.

Consider early mornings, even if you're not a morning person

I trialed getting up half an hour earlier to work on my business before I left for work and it was a game changer.

Please don't assume that I'm a morning person - I hate early starts but I hated working on my business in the evening when I felt exhausted even more. Getting up earlier feels like taking control of your time and not working in the evening gives you much needed down time after a long day of work.

If you really can't stomach an early morning, maybe dedicate part of your lunchtime to your business such as answering client queries. Don't work through your entire lunchtime though as having a break during worktime is important too.

If you're getting up early, make sure you've already planned out what you're going to be doing for that morning so that you can jump right into action rather than groggily working out a plan.

Have a plan

This one may seem kind of obvious to some, but it wasn't to me. "Do workshops" or "Do YouTube videos" both seemed like plans to me but they fell short.

I created YouTube videos for a few years without a plan other than reach 1k subscribers (which I have yet to hit) but looking back I sadly feel as though I wasted a lot of time on these. It was helpful gaining experience in front of a camera and putting together content but I didn't have any strategy.

YouTube could have been used as either

1) A sole income, in which case I should have niched down my content and put out better work more consistently

2) A way to promote and sell other offerings which I didn't do

I also didn't really do any promotion of my YouTube videos elsewhere. I spent hours each weekend creating these YouTube videos, time that I could have spent unwinding from work and then even didn't properly promote them, what was past Gemma doing!

Now why am I telling you this? Because your time is valuable and you should make sure that any work you do has a purpose.

With any activity in your business, ask yourself the "why". Especially for marketing activities such as Instagram. It can feel as though you're making progress when you're putting out Instagram posts regularly and your follower count is growing but what's the why?

  • Are you going to start promoting a product of your own or of another company's?

  • When will you do this?

  • Where would you like to direct your followers?

When you're making a plan, beware of overplanning. I say this as someone that has created a detailed action plan for the year ahead and then my business has shifted and the plan I invested time into quickly became useless.

I recommend setting a plan for each quarter. You can achieve a lot in three months but it's also not so long that your business is likely to change drastically.

Refine processes

When I started teaching workshops, I'd type out new messages for each event including reminder emails, and follow up emails. I'd use different supplies each time and nothing was particularly streamlined. I realised that was silly and ended up creating standardised email templates that were also automated.

My backend is now setup to automatically send these emails. I also have a page on my website dedicated to workshop next steps so that attendees can find helpful info about how to work with me again and calligraphy supplies/resources.

This is one example based on teaching, but this could be done for most elements of your business.

If you're a wedding calligrapher, you may want to create a pricing guide for standardised items which saves you creating quotes each time for brides who may or may not book.

Another example is if you use Instagram for promotion, create a schedule of which type of content you'll share and when. You could batch create content for the month ahead.

Refines processes is one of the most important ways to juggle a full time job and part time business.

Say no

No isn't a bad word, it's a valuable asset in making sure that you're taking on the right work. This is a reminder again, that your time is valuable. Saying no to work that you're not genuinely interested in will help you to niche down. Niching down helps to grow your business as your expertise in that area grows and you build more of a name for yourself in that area.

If you're unsure whether you'd be interested in a type of work, give it a go as long as you're not overstretching yourself. For example, after doing a few commissions I realised that I didn't want this to be the main focus in my business. I wouldn't have known this if I hadn't tried it out.

When quoting for custom work such as commissions, envelope addressing or anything that is time consuming, factor some personal time into your lead time. Sure, you might be able to customise 100 envelopes in one week with blood, sweat and tears OR you could give a lead time of 3-4 weeks and give yourself some breathing room.

After experiencing some rush orders, I'd recommend actually declining the work as in my opinion, it's not worth the stress and hand cramps.

If you are considering a rush job, price significantly more to compensate not only for the work done but the stress caused in completing the job. Again, I think saying no to these kind of jobs is a better idea.

Think of it this way - if you don't give yourself enough personal time in between completing the client's order and your 9-5 job you're working days on end without any/limited breaks and you deserve better.

Saying no to strangers is one thing, but it can be a much trickier word when it's for family, friends or colleagues. Creating a policy in advance could be the best way to go about things e.g. "siblings and direct household members will receive my services at cost, anyone else is full price" or "Because I have a limited amount of time outside my 9-5 I'll only accept paid work". Having this policy created in advance makes things less awkward as you've already made the decision.

Set a work cap

This mainly applies if you want your side business to remain that way. Have a think about how much time you're willing to give up and for what amount?

For example, I would run monthly workshops when I wanted to go full-time but it meant I was essentially giving up one weekend a month because I couldn't make many plans on those weekends. If you want your side business to be more relaxed, you may run one every few months. If you're a wedding calligrapher, you may cap the number of hours in a week that you'll do work for and only take on work accordingly.

This is really on a case by case basis and is something that you can shift dependent on how you're feeling.

Enjoy the freedom

When calligraphy isn't a full-time business you really have so much freedom and that's something that you should remind yourself of:

Feeling overwhelmed? Take a break.

Want some extra revenue this month? Take on some extra work.

Feeling unmotivated? Take a break.

Want to switch niches? There's nothing stopping you!

Enjoy the breathing room that having a 9-5 gives you. Yes, you may not have as much time, but you're also not financially dependent on your side biz.

Decide on your priority

Do you want lots of down time or is going full time more important to you?

Now it doesn't have to be a case of either/or but if you want to continue to grow your business to a full time level, you'll likely have to sacrifice some more down time in evenings/weekends to achieve this compared to running it with the side biz mentality.

The closer I got to committing my business full time, the more hours that were consumed. I was working early mornings, lunchtimes, evenings and weekends. It was lot.

Not everyone will want to sacrifice that much of their down time on their business and I completely understand that. Only consider doing this if you know that you're going full time shortly and want to set yourself up for success.

Before going full-time with your business, decide ahead of time when you would like to do this and whether there are any foundations you can set up before you make the leap. Dependent on your answer to these, you may can adjust how much of your personal time to put into business activities.

A round up of ways to juggle your side business and full-time job

To sum up, remember to use these strategies to help with the balance:

  1. Consider earlier starts - even 30 mins can make a difference!

  2. Have a plan to avoid wasting precious time

  3. Refine processes to save time and clear up mental space

  4. Say no to work that you're uninterested in

  5. Set a cap on work to reduce likelihood of burnout

  6. Enjoy the freedom that a 9-5 gives you

  7. Decide on your priority - free time or the speed in which you grow your biz

I truly hope that these tips help you in your biz journey, I know how juggling a business and full-time job can be challenging but it can be done!


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