By Jacqueline Fisch
Interested in how to grow your business while working full time? Read on!
You’ve decided to go all-in on growing your business — congratulations!
You’re full of excitement for the possibilities that this new gig you’ve created could bring.
The only thing standing in your way — that full-time job.
I turned in my corporate badge after 13 years and went full-time in my business. But before I was ready to quit my job, I grew my business on the side for a few years. Depending on your level of risk tolerance, you might leave your day job and start a business the next day, or perhaps you love your career and your business and want to figure out how to do both.
Either way, balancing a business and a full-time job is no joke. There were many moments where I thought about quitting my job without a backup plan and even throwing in the towel on both. I had to learn the art of throttling the excitement of growing a business with the exhaustion of juggling jobs — and having a family.
For me, this meant keeping my full-time job, running a household, keeping my school-aged kids happy, fed, and in sports, and being a wife. I wish I could tell you I was successful at all of these things simultaneously. I wasn’t — and it’s ok to give yourself some grace.
I learned a lot, though, so I’m sharing this wisdom and experience with you to help make growing your business feel good.
1) Have a specific goal in mind. When I decided to focus on growing my business so I could leave my job, I had a goal of earning 50% of what I was bringing in with my corporate salary. I chose 50% because if I could generate that much business with 5-10 hours of client work per week, I assumed that I could easily double that to replace my corporate income with my business if I focused on it full-time.
2) Be patient and willing to pivot. Here’s a quick timeline of events that led to me quitting in 2017:
- 2009 – corporate layoff #1 when I realized that job security was an illusion and I needed to do something different (but didn’t know what).
- 2010 – started a vegan food blog as a passion project
- 2012 – corporate layoff #2
- 2013 – started teaching cooking classes and creating plant-based meal plans for busy people and brought in $1-2K extra a month
- 2014 – corporate layoff #3 — decided never again. I wasn’t earning enough as a plant-based cook to replace my income, so I got another management consulting job
- 2015 – I enjoyed many aspects of my career; I quit the food blog when it was no longer in alignment, and I started eating meat again, realizing the writing was the aspect I enjoyed most. I asked my then-manager about how I could do more communications work, and they suggested I find clients for the consulting company. I decided I’d make more on my own, have control over my time and who I worked with if I did it myself, so I started a done-for-you copywriting business and put up a new website.
- 2016 – went all-in on growing my business — writing new website copy, working with clients, and blogging consistently for my writing business
- 2017 – March — I hit my 50% income goal and gave my 2 weeks’ notice. Earned the same amount in revenue that year
- 2018 and beyond — matched, then replaced my six-figure corporate income working less than half the time and having more than twice the joy.
3) Boundaries for your boss and your business.
At work, I only said yes to the projects that sounded interesting and would bolster the skills I needed in my business: writing company newsletters, preparing communications plans, and writing proposals. For you, setting boundaries might mean blocking an hour for lunch each day and the last hour of the day to get out of there on time.
Consider how much effort you’ll put into your day job. If you plan to resign in 12 months, this isn’t the time to volunteer for extra projects. I delivered on the Minimum Effective Dose (MED) game (a term from Tim Ferriss) — the minimum amount of work I needed to do to keep my day job and feel in integrity.
4) Remind yourself why you’re doing it.
When you feel frustrated that your business isn’t growing as quickly as you hoped or it all feels hard, it’s helpful to have some reminders to revisit. Remember your passion — why you got into this business in the first place, what you set out to create, and stay focused on your bigger vision for the future.
5) Manifesting your end goal
Your thoughts are powerful — you can use them to support you in achieving your goals. Imagine how it’s going to feel the day you resign. Where are you? What are you wearing? Where are you sitting? What do you see around you? What does it smell like? Immerse yourself in this vision every single day — especially in those moments where you just want to quit.
6) Stretch time with intention
Figure out how much time you can dedicate to your side-hustle each week, and block it in your calendar. Even if it’s just 30 minutes a day before breakfast, that time will add up.
Then, make every minute count. When I was growing my business, I sometimes commuted by train, so I used that time to write my website copy and do client work. I squeezed in time during lunch, before my workday, or after dinner. I knew I wouldn’t log that many hours forever — it was only until I reached my goal. And then I’d create new goals. When I wasn’t working on my business, I was learning — taking online courses or listening to audiobooks.
And if you know you’ll have 30 minutes to focus on your business that day, decide on your top priorities. For me, it was the tasks that would get me closer to my end goal.
7) Plan rest and play
I’ve experienced burnout while just having a 9-5. But what I learned was that if you love what you’re doing, it’s way less likely you’ll burn out. This is why it’s key to keep the time you dedicate to things you don’t want to do to a minimum. Schedule a day or two each week to do nothing. Yes, literally, plan nothing work-related. Unplug, have fun, stare at the sky and watch some cloud shapes float by. For me, it meant working morning and evening some days just to have wide open space on the weekend.
8) Set expectations with people you love
Early on, I had a conversation with my then elementary-aged kids. I told them, “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 I can spend more time with you when working full-time from home.”
9) Use your full-time job to strengthen the skills you’ll use in your business
I’m grateful that I got to invest time in my day job writing communications for thousands of people to read and doing change management consulting. I logged tens of thousands of hours working directly with clients, writing, and selling — the same skills I’d use in my copywriting business. For you, perhaps it’s time management, planning, networking, or creating.
10) Big gratitude
While it can be tempting to gossip with your co-workers — stop. The energy you put into anything you do is the energy of everything you do. I was thankful for a steady paycheck (an obvious one) that would help finance my dream while not compromising on my standard of living. It provided me with the skills I’d need to be a business owner — communications, sales, writing, presentations, and being an all-around trustworthy human being. And, importantly, connections. Keeping in touch with cool people has always been easy for me — so when it was time to tell them about my business, it didn’t feel weird.
View 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 tricky clients. Mostly, be thankful for your full-time job giving you a steady paycheck that’ll help fund your dream business.
11) Practice telling people
Early on, I planted seeds with former colleagues who would become my first few clients. I was careful not to jeopardize my full-time job but still let people know what I was building. I told friends and family what I was up to and sent dozens of personalized emails to the network I’d grown over the past decade in the corporate world.
Growing a business while managing a full-time job, parenting, and looking after yourself is a dance. It can feel challenging at times and stretch a person in such expansive ways.
At the end of the day, making the choice to pursue what your heart desires, with your body and capacity in mind, makes the journey not only possible, but like my own, it will be worth every second.
Jacqueline Fisch is an intuitive writing coach and leader of the Write Like a MOFO community. She helps writers make progress on their passion projects, and creative business owners sound more human in their writing. Find out more about her work at www.jacquelinefisch.com