Starting your own business is hard enough. But trying to fit that business into nights or weekends after hours of full-time work at a day job can be downright exhausting.
It's tempting to give up or become disenchanted with the side hustle when long days sap the energy and creativity you need to build your business. When in doubt, try these tips to stay fresh and keep your business chugging along, even around a demanding day job:
1. Fit your side hustle in during your most productive times.
Do whatever you can to be in control of the hours you get to spend on your passion, rather than settle for cramming it in around your day job. Take advantage of whatever flexibility your day job offers. Can you cut down to just four days a week and use your super-productive Monday energy to complete freelance work for the week? Can you take a long lunch and schedule coaching sessions for your early afternoons -- or go into the office a little later if you're a morning person?
2. Take control of your off-work hours.
If you have absolutely no control over your day-job schedule, optimize the hours that surround it. Make your side hustle a priority to keep room and energy in your mind for it. Let your boss or manager know that you have to leave work by 5 p.m., no exceptions. Let your family know when your "side hustle" time is, and don't tolerate interruptions or requests while you work. For an extra reminder that this is work time, choose a dedicated space. Set up a home office, visit a neighborhood cafe, go to the library or rent a desk at a co-working space.
3. Utilize small windows of free time.
The most difficult part of running a side hustle is mustering the energy to do all that extra work after a full day. Instead of extending each day by several hours, regularly dedicate small windows to your side business. Wake up half an hour early each morning to work on client projects. Spend ten minutes of your lunch break polishing proposals. Keep your smartphone or tablet handy, and answer client emails during your commute, while you wait to pick the kids up from school, or during less cliché interim moments in your day.
4. Allow yourself time to rest and refresh.
You were up early, you used your brain all day, and you're worn out after a long commute. You want to eat dinner, crawl into PJs, and hunker down for Prime Time. No time for that in the entrepreneurial world. You probably have to get to work -- but you need to let your brain rest after that long day, like everyone else. Launching straight into your side hustle after a full day is a sure path to burnout. Instead of relaxing by shutting your brain off, though, refresh it. Go for a walk, do yoga, wash the dishes and listen to your favorite music after dinner, etc. Take your clear, refreshed mind and renewed energy to work on your side hustle before bed.
5. Know what's worth your time.
Not all opportunities are created equal. When you're brand new, taking whatever free work comes your way may be a smart way to build a portfolio and experience, but over time you have to weed out what no longer benefits you. As you gain experience, you'll have to let go of "lesser" work to make room for better opportunities. When a potential client reaches out to you, ask, "Does it a) pay better than something I do now? b) reach a bigger audience? or c) is the make-up of their audience a better fit with my goals?"
6. Manage your promises.
You've heard this one, but every go-getter needs the reminder: Don't make promises you can't (or shouldn't) keep. When managing around a day job, you only have so many hours and so much energy to work with. Use it wisely, and respect your right to time for family, friends and fun, too. You also have to respect a potential client's right to quality work -- don't cram in more than you can do well, or you'll not only burn out, but also burn your chances for good referrals and testimonials.
7. Love, love, love what you do.
You can so easily become caught up in the myriad tips, tutorials and well-meaning advice for running your business and making money. Before you know it, you lose sight of the passion that once drove your business. Don't let that happen. If you're not absolutely in love with your side hustle, why put that extra time into it instead of just focusing energy on your (probably less-demanding) day job? Whenever you're faced with a decision, ask yourself, "Will I love this?"
Related: How to Make Money As An Expert
Always choose the path you'll love, and the extra hours and energy you pour into this business will be exhilarating, not exhausting.
Are you managing a business on the side of a day job? What challenges do you face, and how do you handle them? Let us know with a comment.
Dana Sitar is a freelance blogger, author of A Writer’s Bucket List, and managing editor of WritersBucketList.com, a blog and community dedicated to the pursuit of happiness through writing. She shares resources, tips, and tools for writers in search of a path through DIY Writing and on Twitter @danasitar.