Do you look at your “successful startup” friends and wish you had the time they had to build a business even with a job? Do you wish that you didn’t have the debt, bills or responsibilities that keep you tied to your current job?
Many entrepreneurs start out building their businesses as a side hustle while keeping their day job. Some leave their jobs, some stay. Everyone’s path is different. But if you’re struggling with gaining traction on your business because you feel your job is holding you back, here are several reasons why that may be and some tips on what you can do about it.
When you come back home after a long day at work, there are only so many hours left to work on your business. After you factor in time for the gym, dinner, your family (if you’re married/with kids) and sleep, you wonder if there even is any time left to spare.
There’s even less time if you work in a job where working overtime is the normal (e.g. accounting and finance). With all of this working against you, what can you do?
Where time is concerned, there are two blocks in the way. One of them is commitment.
True, you may not be able to commit to much. But there is always a little bit that you can do. It may be half an hour a night. Or perhaps you can only spare ten minutes a night to work on your business. If you spend ten minutes a night every night for a whole year, that already puts you miles ahead of those wantrepreneurs.
The second block is focusing on yourself.
What’s important here is that you find the pace that works for you and that you stick to it. If 10 minutes a night starts to be easy, turn it into 15. As long as you keep stretching yourself, if whatever pace you choose works for you, then that works for you. Don’t worry about others! That would only distract you and compare yourself to people going through their own struggles with their own unique situation.
The most successful people in the world aren’t superhuman. What they did was find the right small tasks to repeat day in, day out. They didn’t try to copy every tactic of the successful people of their time. They picked one focus and one pace that was right for them.
The secret to consistency is focus. What is most essential to building your business? Marketing? Making cold calls? Pitching to VCs? Hiring developers? Find your focus and spend as much of your time on it, however little of it you have. If you get very skilled at that, whether by building systems to automate or just being faster at the craft, then you can start to add another focus. Then you master that and repeat this process.
Most business owners struggle with prioritization. They pursue different strategies or ideas, much like how a kid acts when presented with several new toys. They go after everything at once. But that is extremely distracting and you end up wasting all your energy with little to show for it. By focusing on ONE thing, you can go a lot further even if you have a day job.
Time is always a choice. Of course, you are choosing to stay at your job because of responsibilities that are important to you. That is perfectly normal. But what about the rest of your time? If you are spending time on things that don’t make a difference to your well-being or your business, are they really necessary?
Now, what if you have the time but you find it hard to keep going every day?
The other detriment to having a day job is that afterwards, you feel drained. You’ve been solving problems, putting out fires and dealing with coworkers/vendors/clients you may not like. That really takes it out of a person.
The first thing we must talk about is your health. I am not an health expert in any way but please TAKE CARE of yourself. I’ve known so many entrepreneurs who only realized how much they were killing themselves after their body literally gave out, sometimes even resulting in hospitalization.
That aside, what can you do to have keep yourself driven after a long day?
There are many articles, videos, podcasts and experts on productivity. These range from morning rituals, mindfulness practices, bio-hacking and several other ideas. These may work for or they may not. For example, no matter what people say, you may just not be a morning person.
While these are all important, there is one overarching theme to keeping your energy up. And that is your why. Passions come and go. But if you have a why that you really believe in, that you can never get bored talking about and that can excite you regardless of how much time has passed, then that is what will keep you going.
Many people want to start their own business to make money or get away from a bad boss. Those are their reasons. However, how long do you think people will last during the hard times if those are their reasons? They may be making less money for the longest time or deal with frustrating clients. Eventually, they start to think the struggle isn’t worth it.
I myself was like this too. I got into e-commerce after seeing how well a couple of my close friends were doing. However I couldn’t find a product that I was particularly excited about. So I picked one based sales potential criteria. What do you think happened?
It did fine at first actually. But soon more and more competitors entered the space. Combine this with my lost of interest and my answer was clear. I didn’t truly believe in that product. Running a business requires many administrative tasks and going through the motions made me realize I just didn’t care enough about this.
How do you know when you found something that excites you? The difference is that instead of pushing yourself, you instead feel pulled towards that purpose. Find that and you will be able to get through the inevitable hard times.
Now what about your day job? Specifically what if your boss and coworkers find out about your business?
This is a very common concern. After all, some people might not like the fact that you are focusing on something else. And if your boss happens to be one of them, that could hurt your career. How do you manage this?
First you need to consider the dynamics around compliance with your business and your career. Are you in the same industry as your employer? That could create some independence and compliance issues for your employer. This could depend on your title within your company and how much your business is making, If this is a concern, you must find out if you can still be employed and have the business that you do.
If this isn’t a worry, should you tell your employer what you do? That is a judgment call but you can ask yourself this: what would be my reason for letting them know?
Additionally, many people starting out are often scared of putting their business brand online because they don’t want their employers to find out. Let’s explore this scenario.
How you are seen as a entrepreneur will depend on how you are in your company. My friend works in a hedge fund while running several businesses. His boss was not pleased when they found out. But why did he not get fired? Simple, he is among the highest performers in the company and consistently brings high returns.
My situation was a little different. When my team found out, they were shocked. However why did they continue to trust me afterwards? Because I had always done good work and continued to do so. Their biggest fear was that I would mail it in and not care about my job anymore. However, my work ethic didn’t allow for that.
What’s the theme here? If you are a high performer and your team can trust you, then why would they doubt your future performance?
If your day job is the one paying the bills, you’ll need to place a certain amount of importance on it. Of course, there will be times when you may need to choose between the two. That can be tricky.
Think about the following questions.
- Where are you in your career?
- Where are you in your business?
- How much could this choice impact either area?
- What values of yours are at play here?
You should never always choose your business over your job or vice versa. After awhile, you get used to making these kind of decisions.
Having a career and a business is tough. Being in this position is often lonely and frustrating. Sometimes you feel like you’re not doing enough on your business. This is natural.
As a business coach, I see that all the time. Don’t kill yourself over this. Be compassionate with your pace but strict on what priority you commit to. If you ever need a partner to support you, I’m always open to talk to. Best of luck!