Trying to start and run a business whilst working a 9-5 is hard.
More so if you are not quite sure about what exactly it is you want to do and therefore need the time to explore your options. I started out as a full-time graphic designer and then transitioned to a freelancer still working full-time through agencies, to now working from home on my businesses and projects and consulting for select clients. The journey to this point has not been easy and I can fully empathise with those of you trying to work the 5-9 entrepreneurial journey after a long hard day at the 9-5. It is exhausting, often highly frustrating, but with a bit of planning, it can be done successfully. You just need to be committed to making it work and become super-organised to maximise the precious few hours you have. I found, and still find taking the following actions to be helpful:
1. Commit the time to work on your business or idea
Whether you have a couple of hours each evening or can only spare one evening a week, it is important to set aside a regular time to work on your business. Get into a proper routine. It may take you a while to find a schedule that works for you, so don’t give up. Working on your business as and when you feel like it is not going to help you progress and will often encourage procrastination. Maximise time spent travelling to and from work, if you use public transport that time can be spent drafting emails, newsletters or blog posts, doing online research, project outlines, editing text, sketching out ideas and more. Lunchtimes are also great for checking in, but do remember you need a social life too! It is important that you be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have. Trying to do too much will only result in burnout. Once you know how much time you can allocate to your business then…
2. Create an action plan
Don’t try to do everything at once, your time is limited. Instead decide what you want to achieve, an overall goal, and in what timeframe. Then break that goal down into long-term, mid-term and short-term goals. Your short-term goals are the ones you will focus on now to get you started. So take those short-term goals and break them down further into actionable steps – ones that you can realistically achieve in the time you have committed. These actions will become that tasks you will work on during the time you have allocated to working on your business or idea. Once you have identified your key tasks create a planner and add each one.
Just because you are not working full-time in your business does not mean you should not have a planner. I created an Evening Work Planner specifically for those of you working after hours to help you keep track of what you need to do. You can download it for free by entering your details below
3. Streamline your workflows
Admin and other tasks essential to developing and managing your side business can take up huge chunks of your time. This makes it a priority to find ways to make your workflows simpler and more efficient. As you progress in building your business you will start to notice similar tasks and actions. Make a note of the areas of repetition and overlap, and then create processes that help you to work smarter, freeing up valuable time to be getting on with other important tasks. Some ideas include:
- batching similar tasks, for example, researching and creating graphics for a group of blog posts then resizing for social media at the same time;
- creating email, letter or proposal templates that can be quickly personalised;
- creating how to’s and manuals so that you don’t always find yourself spending hours looking for the same information online each time you need it such as installing templates on your host or adding email accounts to your latest gadgets, tasks that I find can consume a whole day as I try to work out what to do all over again!
- If you get asked for the same information on a regular basis consider setting up a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on your website with the answers and direct your visitors towards it.
- Create PR and Media Kits containing press releases, images and other relevant information relating to your business and add to your website or a file sharing service like DropBox or Google Drive, then when requested for press info simply direct/send the link.
- Limit post office runs to specific days/times and make that clear on your website.
4. Join a peer group
You may be thinking how on earth will you find the time to go out and meet people when you barely have enough time to work on your business. However, a support network should be on every entrepreneur’s list, as connecting with others in the same boat can do wonders for your motivation, help to keep you on track and more importantly curb the feelings of isolation and insulation from new ideas and different viewpoints that can plague entrepreneurs especially if working alone. With options to network online or offline you can choose what works for your schedule. I have found that joining LinkedIn and Facebook groups and receiving the conversations in my inbox have really helped me feel connected. That said do make the effort to participate and comment on relevant conversations. This will help you to form deeper connections and will give you people to turn to when you need help. You can even create your own group inviting those you know and arrange to catch up maybe once a month or every two. Sign up to a couple of beneficial emails/newsletters that you can read in a few minutes. And in keeping time in mind limit your groups to a few, so that you do not end up being bombarded with too much content, conversations, and meetups that end up distracting you from your goal.
5. Acknowledge your progress
It can be easy to just keep going and not stopping to evaluate whether what you are doing is helping or hindering your progress. So make time to periodically review your schedule and make the necessary changes. AND REMEMBER TO CELEBRATE YOUR WINS NO MATTER HOW SMALL – if anything this will keep you going as you reflect on how much you have managed to achieve in your tight schedule.
Whatever your circumstances starting and running a business is hard, but with the right focus and organisation is not impossible to do it whilst working the day job. Are you managing a side business in your spare time whilst working a 9-5? What tips/advice do you have for those who are in the same boat reading this? Do share in the comments.