balancing your 9-5 + a side hustle

When I first started my business I was working a normal 9-5. I guess it was more like an 8-4 because I worked out a different schedule with my boss to avoid rush hour traffic in Massachusetts. But regardless, a majority of my day couldn’t be spent working on or in my business.

normal schedule

7 AM – 8 AM: Driving to work

8 AM – 4 PM: Sitting in an office working (and sometimes just twiddling my thumbs because let’s be honest, we all have those days when our hearts aren’t really in it)

4 PM – 5 PM: Driving home from work

5 PM – 6:30 PM: Cooking, eating dinner and spending time with my husband

6:30 PM – 9 PM (or 10 PM or 11 PM): Working on my side hustle

I was normally trying to spend anywhere from 2 to 4 hours working on my business everyday. But, some days I just couldn’t bring myself to do anymore work in the evenings. Sometimes you just want to curl up on the couch and watch Netflix. (If that’s you, it’s totally okay! Burnout will kill your dreams faster than just taking some time off for yourself.)

So, how did I balance all of this without getting burned out?

remember what you’re working toward

After a long day of driving and working it’s hard to bring yourself to do more work if there’s no purpose. Especially when you have a significant other or pet at home or friends that you want to spend time with, it’s easy to put things off.

This is why you absolutely must KNOW YOUR PURPOSE. Know your why.

Why are you starting your business? Why do you want to work on your business? What will having your business be successful do for you?

For me, my goals were to have my business be a full-time gig instead of a side hustle. Why? Because this would allow me to leave New England and travel full-time. I would no longer spend 10+ hours every single week driving to and from an office. It was as simple as that. Freedom and travel were my whys.

Find your why. Know your purpose. Repeat it over and over again, especially when you don’t feel like working on or in your business.

have a plan and a Schedule

Every night that I worked from 6:30 PM on, I knew exactly what I was going to work on. There was never a time that I sat down and thought to myself, “what should I work on right now?”

Nothing kills motivation or wastes more time (time that you could be spending hanging with friends and family or just relaxing), than being unsure of what to work on. The most productive way to get work done when you have limited time is have a plan and a schedule. This may sound silly but trust me, it works.

Take an hour a week (heck, maybe even just 30 minutes) to plan the next 7 days. What are you going to work on? When are you going to work on what? Do you have deadlines you need to meet? Figure it out in advance, write it down in your planner or schedule it in Asana.

Then each night (or morning or afternoon) when it’s time to work, do what you had planned and cross things off as you go. It feels good to get things done when you’ve planned them out in advanced. And if you’re anything like me, you get added satisfaction by physically crossing things off a piece of paper as you finish tasks.

Take Breaks

Don’t overlook the importance of NOT working. You’re human, not a robot. You can’t expect that you can go, go, go and not burn out. Sometimes you need to go, go, STOP in order to see your plans through and reach that final goal you’ve been dreaming about.

If you burnout, you may begin to feel like the effort isn’t worth it or worse… you may feel like you’re incapable of accomplishing your dreams.

So when you’re planning out your schedule for the week, take into consideration that random day you may come home from work extra exhausted. Or that day you might randomly get a migraine and can’t stand to look at a computer. Or that night your friends want to do something you’ve been dying to do.

This requires you to be flexible. When you plan your schedule, set one or two nights a week aside for these unpredictable situations. But also know you need to be flexible in case those unforeseen things happen and you need to move your plans around!

So, remember… you’re human, not a robot. Take some TLC time for yourself and reaching your goals will seem more achievable.

reward yourself

I feel like I see this everywhere from entrepreneurs who have successfully been able to take their side hustle full-time but it’s something new entrepreneurs overlook.

When you reach a goal, a milestone, or do something you’re ridiculously proud of… REWARD YOURSELF! Go get that massage, buy that new yoga mat, or get yourself a margarita or two.

If you skip the reward phase, you won’t feel like accomplishing these goals means anything. You’ll quickly forget that it ever happened and you’ll move onto the next goal you’re trying to achieve. So stop. Think about what you’ve accomplished. And reward yourself.

Then, and only then, move onto working toward the next goal.

Some ways I’ve rewarded myself

  • Went out for a nice dinner with my husband  after landing my first client
  • Got a couple of drinks to celebrate leaving my 9-5
  • Bought myself new yoga pants (because I didn’t have enough already, right?)
  • Pierced my nose and tragus after making $7k in 48 hours

Some rewards I’m looking forward to

  • Getting another tattoo
  • Buying a new yoga mat and blocks
  • Getting a Thai massage (so much more expensive in the US and who knows if they’re even as good as they are in Thailand… fingers crossed!)

(I already have rewards planned for when I reach specific milestones and you should, too! This gives you something to look forward to and provides some extra motivation.)

don’t take on too much

When you’re balancing a full-time job and a side hustle you only have so much time to work on your side hustle. Remember that in order to take your side hustle full-time, you have to work both IN and ON your business.

What do I mean by this? Working IN your business means working on client work and finishing projects. Working ON your business means finding new clients, starting that email list, creating a freebie, and all those other things that will help with business development.

Without being able to work ON your business, you’ll be juggling your full-time job and side hustle longer than you would be if you set aside time every week to work ON your business. Moral of the story: don’t take on too much client work.

As a full-time web designer I take on 2 web design projects each month (on average). Sometimes I take on only 1 and sometimes I’ll take on 3. But when I was juggling my full-time job and my business, I couldn’t have imagined doing 2 web design projects each month.

Take the amount of time you have each week to work on your business and subtract the number of hours you want to spend on non-business related things. Then take those hours and subtract at the very minimum 1.5 hours a week to work ON your business. Whatever you’re left with is the number of hours you’ll spend on client work. The number of projects you take on will be dependent on the amount of time it takes to complete each.

NEVER take on more projects than you can complete in the amount of time you have available. You don’t want to risk missing deadlines because referrals from your clients are a great way to get new clients. If you get to the point where you have too much work, it’s time to start thinking about leaving your 9-5 and turning your side hustle into a full-time gig!


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