5 Ways to Kickstart Your Side Hustle While Leveraging Your 9-to-5

Your full-time job can actually help -- not hinder -- your side gig.

learn more about Erica Liu Williams

By Erica Liu Williams

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Jump-starting your side hustle is no easy task. Between managing your day job to carving out the time to work on your idea, it can feel like a constant uphill battle. When I decided to launch my healthy granola business gr8nola, I was working full-time at Intuit, managing a team of five and had a three-hour commute.

Related: 10 Side Hustles Ideal for Making Some Spare Cash In the Evenings

While many people see a full-time job as an obstacle to starting a side business, I took advantage of the resources, tools and my network to make sure I was positioned to succeed before taking the leap. For those of you looking to transition your side gig into your full-time career, here are my best tips for not just managing -- but actually leveraging -- your 9-5 to get that side hustle off of the ground.

1. Get customer feedback from your coworkers.

Make sure to get as much feedback as possible prior to launching your idea, and take advantage of the network you have at your day job. When I was formulating my initial gr8nola flavors for launch, I got tons of positive feedback from my family and friends, but I knew they were naturally biased and had similar tastes as me. I had to branch out, and leveraging my coworkers was the fastest way to get third-party validation for the product. Added bonus: Many of them became my first (and repeat) customers!

2. Take advantage of corporate benefits.

Become familiar with the corporate benefits your company offers and find creative ways to utilize them for both your full-time job and side hustle. Ask your HR department if they provide access or discounts to premium resources, business management tools or training. Some organizations offer education budgets; use those resources to get ahead in both your 9-5 and your 5-9.

Related: Are You Ready for a Side Hustle? Here's How to Know.

Not sure where to start? Pick up a few business books or enroll in an online course. Even if your company doesn't provide educational reimbursements, you can find plenty of online courses that are affordable or even free.

3. Leverage a friendly coworker's domain expertise.

When you're starting a side hustle, you're going to have to wear every single hat. I knew Instagram was going to be critical for building up the gr8nola brand, but I had no idea where to start. The first person I tapped for help was the social media marketer at work. Not only was she eager to help, but this drew us closer as colleagues and yielded another surprising benefit for my day job: Deeper empathy for that department and an intrinsic desire to help others in return.

4. Use your runway (benefits and salary) to prove your concept, save money and fund your business.

The nice thing about having a full-time job when you start a side hustle is not having to worry about your next paycheck. Use this as your runway to figure out what it will take to get your side hustle off of the ground. In order to take the leap, do you need to hit a certain number of customers, revenue or break-even? Or a specific amount of money saved or level of confidence to go full-time? For me, it was more of the latter, and I didn't take the leap until I hit those milestones.

Related: 10 New Ideas for Making Money on the Side

5. Borrow tools and processes already established in your company.

So many of the tools and processes I use in my business are from my corporate career. That includes everything from setting goals with OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to prioritization frameworks to specific collaboration tools I used at work. It's so critical to set up processes before you scale, and there's no better time than during your side hustle stage to take a page out of your employer's playbook when it's fresh.

This all goes without saying: Make sure to fulfill your responsibilities at your corporate job first, then crush the side hustle -- the last thing you want is to leave a poor impression with your (hopefully) soon-to-be-ex-employer. Also be prepared to endure this limbo stage for a couple of years, if not more, depending on your traction and risk tolerance. It took me over four years to go full-time on gr8nola, but looking back, I wouldn't change a thing because I know that all the experience, knowledge and the network I acquired from my corporate career is the reason why I've come this far with my business today.

Erica Liu Williams

Founder of gr8nola

Erica Liu Williams is a Stanford grad, Olympic Trials swimmer and ex-techie-turned-food-entrepreneur. She started her clean ingredient granola business as a side hustle and now supplies gr8nola to Silicon Valley's foremost tech companies like Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Slack, Netflix and more.

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