9 ways to balance a full-time job and a part-time side-hustle
“I’ve got a side-hustle.”
“I can’t go out for happy hours; I’m busy growing my side-hustle.”
Has anyone said this to you recently? The business of having a side-hustle is growing.
If you’re scratching your head wondering what a side-hustle is, it’s merely work you’re doing in addition to the work that pays your bills. Usually, this is in addition to a 9-5.
I had a few side-hustles for several years while I worked in management consulting. There are a few great reasons to do this, and many of these held true for me:
- A steady, regular, and predictable paycheck
- Testing out a new industry with zero risk—if you hate it, just stop
- Making extra money—hello Paris vacation, and goodbye collection letters from the IRS
- Ramping up to leave your full-time job
My first side-hustle was writing a vegan blog and sharing minimalist lifestyle tips. It was a passion project that turned into a paid side-hustle. The food blog turned into cooking workshops, private cooking classes, speaking gigs, cookbook features, and custom meal plan development.
I was having a ton of fun. Until I wasn’t. I was growing my vegan cooking business on the side with the hopes of someday leaving my consulting job and doing it full-time. I started feeling less and less excited about talking about food. I also stopped being vegan, so I’d either have to shift focus from tofu to bacon or drop it.
I chose to drop it.
I hadn’t quit my job, so steady money was still coming in. There were a few years in there where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew management consulting wasn’t IT for me.
This led me to do some soul-searching and reading every self-help book on finding myself and work I loved. At the same time, I said yes to projects at work that sounded interesting. These were always above and beyond my job. But saying yes to writing internal company communications introduced me to writing directly to people. I had to write things that people would want to read. When I hit send on a newsletter to 500 employees about it being national tortilla chip day, I knew what I wanted to do.
I wanted to be a copywriter for entrepreneurs and startups.
These were typically more creative people, or they were in tech and got to take a creative approach to their writing. I grew this side-hustle while I continued working my full-time job with the goal of one-day quitting. And that “one day” was roughly a year away.
There are so many wonderful reasons to side-hustle, but I have to tell you, there’s a lot to lose.
For me, this meant keeping my full-time job, running a household, keeping my school-aged kids happy and fed, and being a wife. I wish I could tell you I was successful at all of these things simultaneously. I learned a lot though, so I’m sharing this wisdom and experience with you to help make your side-husting feel good.
Here are my favorite practical ways to keep from losing my shit while having a side-hustle and a full-time (often demanding and requiring me to work plenty of evenings) job.
How to balance a full-time job and a part-time side-hustle:
1. Understand your why
Ask yourself some key questions:
Why do you want to start this side-hustle? Is it because you hate your day job? Is it sucking the life out of you? Or, do you crave time freedom, to be able to pick up your kids from school and eat actual food at an actual table?
What do you want it to look like next year? 5 or 15 years from now?
Do you want to quit your day job or is this just a passion project for extra money?
If you do want to quit your job, what will your days look like if you take your hustle full-time?
2. What’s your end goal?
If you’re planning to quit your current full-time job, when do you plan to quit? This question might feel a little scary as you imagine a totally different life than the one you’ve been building, but having something to work towards will give purpose to all the activities that come along with growing a side-hustle.
3. Use every bit of extra time with intention
If you have a commute, maybe you can work on writing your website copy while you sit on the train. If you drive to work, use this time to listen to audio books about building and marketing a new business or about your specific industry.
If you have some extra time between meetings or during your lunch break, use this time to do some research or some networking in your new business.
4. Plan some downtime
Especially if you’re a working mom, it’s all exhausting. Working a full-time job is tiring, as is everything that comes along with motherhood.
When you have a full-time job and commit to working a side-hustle, you need to ward off burnout before it even has an opportunity to take hold of you, grab you by the neck, and choke you to death. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic, but this is because I’ve been there. I’ve experienced burnout while just having a 9-5. It looks like insomnia, getting fat, not being able to think clearly, and blowing up on people you love and care about.
You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you’ll put both your day job and your side-hustle at risk if you’re not careful.
Schedule a day or two a week to do nothing. Yes, literally, plan nothing work-related. Unplug, have fun, stare at the sky and watch some cloud shapes float by.
If you typically work on your side-hustle in the evening, take some time to recharge first. Eat dinner with your family, go to the gym, watch some Netflix, read a few pages of a juicy book, take a nap, then get back to your hustle with renewed vigor.
5. Schedule everything
If you’re disorganized, you’re going to walk through your days feeling frazzled and scatterbrained. Don’t do that. Make a schedule and follow it.
Figure out how much time each week you can dedicate to your side-hustle, then put that time on the calendar. Even if it’s just 30 minutes a day while you sip your coffee in the morning, that time adds up over weeks and months and can help you create a thriving business.
You might need to log a few hours on the weekend and very likely in the early mornings and evenings. If you’re married, work with your partner to carve out a few hours on the weekend when you can run to Starbucks, or they can leave the house with the kids for a few hours. If you put this time on your family calendar and honor it, they will too.
6. Set the stage with your family and friends
For me, this meant having a conversation with my kids, “Kids, you’re going to see Mommy working on my laptop a lot more over the next few months. I’m doing this on purpose so that I can spend more time with you when I quit my job and work full-time from home.”
They nodded and said they understood.
7. Prioritize your to-do list
Time can either be your friend or foe. Make the most of every second by prioritizing your top tasks for each day. If you know you have an hour in the evening to do your work, what one or two tasks are “musts” to complete if you want to move your side-hustle closer to your end goal? List these out, and focus on achieving only your top 2-3 priorities for the day. I promise this will leave you feeling accomplished and like you’re making great progress toward your goals.
As you’re working, you’re probably going to have a dozen other ideas pop into your head. Keep a running list of all your to-do’s in Google Docs or Evernote, and pick items from that list as you have free time and make your way through your top priorities.
8. Use your full-time job to get better at your side-hustle work
In my case, I was very fortunate that I got to spend time in my day job writing internal communications and doing change management consulting. This meant I logged tens of thousands of hours working directly with clients and writing—the things I’d end up doing plenty of in my freelance writing business. Depending on your 9-5, see if there are tasks you can take on that will lend themselves to your side-hustle, or if you can take additional training or workshops. Maybe this means developing project management and planning skills, writing skills, time management, and networking.
9. Be grateful
While it might be tempting to grumble about your jerk boss or drama-ridden co-workers, or the never-ending flow of emails—don’t. Look at every opportunity as a chance to practice a new skill or interact with a new kind of person. Those challenging coworkers are practice for dealing with contractors. Your douchy boss is practice for dealing with less than remarkable clients. That 10-page report, million dollar proposal, or sensitive email are all chances to flex your writing skills. Something you’ll need a lot of skill in when you work on your side-hustle. And, at the very least, be thankful for your full-time job for giving you a steady and predictable paycheck that’s helping fund your dream.
Starting a side-hustle while working full-time is no easy task. But it’s so worth it.
Creating long-term goals, making time to rest, creating a schedule, setting priorities, and leveraging your full-time job will help you make the most of your time during this stage in your life and get you to where you want to be.