Side Hustles are one of my favorite methods of making extra money, and I love encouraging my readers to start up a side hustle. This blog originally began as a side hustle and l never imagined that it would become my full time job. (Click here to see how to start a blog, or here to learn how I made $160k from my blog side hustle.) But side hustles don't start from nothing. 99.9% of “side gigs” have to be actively managed (and grown!) “on the side” – often on top of full time work. Balancing a full-time job and a side business is not for the “faint of heart”, but it can be done. Below is my guide for how to make it happen and how to (eventually) quit your job and do your side hustle FULL TIME.
If that's what you want to do. Let me just say before launching into the rest of this piece: there's nothing wrong with working a full-time job, having a profitable passion project, or anything in between. #endrant.
That being said, it is through luck and hard work that I was able to grow my side business into a full-time endeavor, but when I went back to work full-time for another company in August 2017, the tips below were my saving grace.
Part One – How to Balance a Full-Time Job and a Side Business
Step #1 – Get Incredibly Organized
Whether it’s designating a certain room in your home for side hustle work or just keeping a desk calendar with both full and part-time deadlines on it, being organized will seriously increase your productivity.
It also allows you to separate the two different workspaces. For me, a home office kept me working instead of just lounging around the living room with my puppy. It was a space where I could focus and avoid distractions in my own home.
My favorite tip for staying on top of things in the “biz” while also working FT is to make a list of the three things that need to get done each day for your business. Then I'd only do those three most important things and not worry about the rest. I'd do more if I could, but really, my business was built with a million small baby steps.
Step #2 – Set Aside Time Each Week for the Hustle (Make a date with yourself!)
Do you work better at night or on the weekend? Are there days that you just can’t bring yourself to work on your side hustle? Finding out what times and days you work best can help so much with keeping motivated (as well as avoiding the dreaded procrastination).
I worked every Sunday afternoon and evening on my blog hustle, it still felt very natural to me to continue doing this. Even when I worked for myself full-time and had all week to get the work done. If you train your body into a habit, the desire to work will follow.
Step #3 – Create a Content Calendar
This step is more for someone who does online writing/blogging as their side business. For bloggers, a content calendar is a godsend and is something you should be doing every month (in my opinion.) If you run a small business or online store, calendars can help you complete priority tasks, keep up with email marketing and social promotions. Even if you don't blog, you need to have some type of calendar for all of the marketing activity you're doing to, well, market your business.
The concept is simple: make a list of what content (or marketing activities) you'll need and when it needs to be finished. As much as deadlines remind me of college, sometimes you just need to light a fire under your ass. The good thing about calendars is that they allow you to work forward instead of coming up with posts off the cuff or having to read through dozens of emails and orders to find what should be the priority. If you know what you need to accomplish you can get right to work.
Step # 4: Start a Separate Bank Account Right Away
When you own your own business it is important that you keep your business and your personal accounts separate. It can be tempting to deposit payments straight to your checking account, but what happens when tax season rolls around? What if there are business expenses to pay?
You don’t want to have your business earnings tied to your personal accounts or you could run into trouble if you are audited by the IRS. By separating your business earnings from your personal earnings, you’re creating plenty of records of your cash flow.
Before opening business accounts at your regular bank, take the time to research the benefits of other institutions. If you have an online business, an online bank may make more sense and have better benefits than a brick-and-mortar business.
Step #5 – Make a Budget (and Stick to It!)
Treat your business finances like your personal finances. You should be creating and sticking to a budget for both, allowing you to make your money work best for you. It's also important during this time to sock away as much extra money in savings as you can, to prepare for the transition from your full-time corporate job, to working for yourself. This is probably the biggest mistake I made, as I quit work in a huffy with only $3k in savings.
Creating a budget will also keep you from dipping into business income for personal expenses. I am super guilty of this, so it's important for us all to remember – you are not your business!
Remember: If you find yourself constantly borrowing from one account to finance the other, you may have a larger problem.
Related: How to Budget an Irregular Income
Part Two – Ramping Up from Side Hustle to Self Employed
Speaking from first-hand experience, taking the plunge from part-time side hustler to a full-time business owner is terrifying.
“If it was easy, everyone would do it,” as they say.
But being able to pursue your passions while also making money is just so genuinely satisfying that I want to help as many people do it as I can – I’ve written two workbooks, made a toolkit, and offer personal coaching to help others reach their goals! But this isn’t about me.
It’s about how you can get to a place where you no longer have to go to a 9-to-5; where you can follow your passions and pursue what you love.
Step #6 – Diversify Your Income
This may sound easier said than done. Some people have talents that naturally lend themselves to making enough money – artists can sell their art online, crafters can sell items on Etsy, etc. But if you don’t have a skill that translates to something someone buys, what do you do? It may be time to get creative.
Check out some side hustle ideas on one of my favorite sites, Side Hustle Nation, and see if anything sticks out as interesting or incorporates something you already enjoy doing. The great thing about the internet and how interconnected we all are is that there are people willing to pay for anything.
Even if you have an income stream that makes up to 90% of the money. When working for yourself, you'll need something different for that other 10%. This not only provides an outlet for creativity but diversifies your income in the event something happens with that primary revenue source. Again, this may not work for everyone but for ME and MY EXPERIENCE, being able to branch out into other ways of making money besides freelance writing made my time as a solopreneur a lot more bearable.
Step#7 – Keep Growing the Business
Ultimately, you want to be able to support yourself with your passion. This means trying to maximize your earning potential while still working the day job. Not only will this help beef up your safety net, but it will also give you a better idea of what kind of income you could expect to have when you do quit your job.
Hopefully, this production would increase once you quit your day job, but don’t assume that you’ll make more money. Everyone has their off days (or weeks, or months) where for some reason you just can’t get the money to roll in. Look to your side hustle support group for motivation and keep your goal in sight.
Step #8 – Aside from Transition Savings, Start An Emergency Fund for Your Business
But your business should also have a separate emergency fund that is completely separate from your personal savings. Got it? Think two bank accounts for both “people” – one for you, and one for your business entity.
Take an inventory of all of your expenses related to your side hustle and don’t leave anything out. Do you have to pay for shipping, materials, or other business expenses? You want to make sure before you quit your day job that you have the necessary funds to be able to support both yourself and your new business.
Step #9 – Quit Your Day Job and (Finally) Take the Plunge
Ah, the hardest part!
If you’re working on all of the above and aren’t totally burnt out, you’re probably a superhero. But for us normal folks, you’ll probably feel a little wary of quitting a stable, reliable job. When that thought creeps into your head, replace it with “I’ve been working towards this for weeks/months/years.”
Hopefully, you’ve had enough practice, enough resources, and enough patience to get this far. At that point it’s all a matter of making it happen.
What You Really Need to Know About Being Able to Quit Your Job & Take a Side Hustle Full Time
Now that I've been blogging for almost seven (!!!!) years, built the blog into my full-time job, worked for myself for two years, then went back to work, I can look back on the whole process and pinpoint what I did right and where I went wrong. This makes me the perfect person to tell you the biggest things you need to know when considering this kind of transition.
- You absolutely can do it, you just have to believe you can.
- No shame in starting small. Even if you can only start small-scale, you’ll have an idea what kind of money you can make just in your spare time.
- Be grateful. At any level, in any job, the skills and extra income benefit you.
- This is also a good time to reach out to other side hustlers and both promote your business and make new friends who are working towards the same goals as you!
- The most important lesson here is not to leave too early. Take it from someone who got all excited about her income potential and left a great job she probably should've kept working for a few more months. You not only want a healthy amount in savings for the transition, but you want to have a business that makes close to your same level of full-time income.
*This post was originally published in June 2016. It was lovingly updated in September 2018.