It’s never been easier to start a business, which is why so many people are joining the side hustle economy. But how do you manage a side hustle without leaving your day job and, by extension, that steady income you rely on, behind? The good news is that balancing both is totally achievable and increasingly accepted by employers – and you don’t have to sacrifice health or happiness to do it.
The average person spends a third of their life working – that’s 90,000 hours, which is quite a bit of time if you think about it. So what does that look like when you’re juggling a main gig and trying to make extra money on the side? We’re here to help you navigate your way through staying organised and avoiding burnout. Let’s take a closer look.
How the pandemic inspired a new generation of entrepreneurs
Since the onset of the pandemic, the creator economy has skyrocketed. Workers used the time gained during lockdown to explore the many ways they could monetise their passions, whether that be through selling goods, offering freelance services, or starting a business.
What that proved was that side hustles are by no means just a millennial phenomenon – in fact, 33% of side hustlers are aged 54 and over. Most of these new businesses couldn’t even exist in pre-internet times, as rapid advancements in supporting tools, platforms, and networks have made it possible for anyone to start their own venture on the side.
During lockdown, Alan Stein was inspired to build something that could positively impact others. Having helped friends and colleagues land work in several of the big tech powerhouses over the years (Amazon, Google, Microsoft), he realised how much insight he had around the job application process. After seeing what other career coaches were doing and reading the works of anti-racism activist Imbrim X. Kendi, Alan decided to use his expertise to level the playing field for underrepresented groups by helping them better navigate the job market.
“Seeing some of the coaching programmes that my wife was taking part in, I realised I had a business here where I could meaningfully help people land great jobs, negotiate more money, and succeed long-term at those companies.”
In July 2020, Alan launched Kadima, a career coaching business on a mission to accelerate one million careers, most notably those for people from minority and underrepresented backgrounds. Throughout the process, Alan has continued working at a large multinational tech corporation, and has learned a trick or two about balancing a side hustle with a main gig. Here is his top advice for anyone looking to do the same.
1. Get organised and keep things separate
Many portfolio professionals struggle with time management. When you have a side business, it can be easy for responsibilities to overlap and conflict. Alan’s advice? Separate your side hustle from your other work as much as possible.
Do you have a company laptop? Then use your personal computer for your side hustle. Create a separate business email rather than using your personal one – and don’t be afraid to go crazy when it comes to colour coding your calendar. In fact, we recommend creating separate calendars for your day job, side business, and general life. As much as you can, try to be the person who is in control of setting your own meetings.
Here are a few great products that help you organise your calendar:
- Calendly – This free tool is perfect for scheduling meetings. You can sync it with your work calendar and allow others to schedule meetings based around your availability, meaning there’s less chance of overlap.
- Google Calendar – This app is also free and is totally cloud-based, allowing you to access it from any device, anywhere. You can create multiple calendars, each with an assigned colour to help you stay organised.
- VaVa Virtual – Thinking of hiring a virtual assistant? This is the one Alan uses and it comes highly recommended.
2. Make time for the things that help you decompress
Juggling a side hustle and a main gig is no easy feat. You’re likely to get stressed and feel overwhelmed, which is why it’s important to give yourself the chance to decompress. Carve out time to focus on your physical and mental health – otherwise, you’ll end up on a fast track to burnout.
For Alan, decompression means getting outside and going for a long, leisurely walk. This is his chance to shut off from work, enjoy a podcast or an audio book, and give his mind a rest. Think about what calms you. Is it exercise? Or maybe meditation? Once you pinpoint the thing that helps you de-stress, make sure you dedicate regular time to it, even if it means putting it as a recurring event in your calendar!
3. Optimise your schedule
There are only a finite number of hours each day that you can realistically dedicate to work without burning out. It’s helpful to actually calculate what those hours are. How much time do you need to spend on your side hustle to keep it going and how many hours do you work a week?
Let’s say, for example, you work 40 hours a week at your day job and you need to spend 15 hours a week on your side hustle. Those 15 hours can easily be spread out – whether that’s 2 hours every day or 3 hours only on weekdays. Things are much more manageable when you break them down into chunks.
No matter how busy you get or how much work you have ahead of you, you should always make time for family and friends. It can be easy to let relationships slip when you’re focused on building a business from the ground up, which is where boundaries really need to come into play. Dedicate work-free periods that are just for family and friends. Then be strict about not letting these boundaries slide.
How to avoid getting into trouble
Not every employer is flexible when it comes to side hustles, so it’s good to know what the terms of your employment are before you start one. Here are a few of the common questions we get asked on this topic:
Am I allowed to have a side hustle?
Read your employment contract to see what is and isn’t permitted. Typically there are no outright bans on having a side hustle, so long as your day job doesn’t suffer, you don’t work with competitors, and you don’t give away company secrets or use company equipment, you should be fine. If there are bans, these are often illegal to enforce. However, if you have any doubts, it is better to discuss them with your boss rather than avoid the conversation.
Do I have to tell my boss?
Not necessarily. Technically, what you do in your spare time is up to you – provided you don’t breach the terms of your contract. However, at some stage there is likely to be a conflicting event or time crunch. If your boss knows about your side hustle, it makes it easier to discuss those conflicts when they come up. Also, if your boss finds out about your side hustle in another way without you telling them first, it might come across as suspicious.
How should I tell my boss?
In a perfect world, your side hustle is complementary to your day job – teaching you new skills, expanding your network, and keeping you happy. If this is the case, it’s easy to discuss. If not, you should simply explain how your side hustle won’t hurt your day job performance. In both cases, you should agree on boundaries to avoid confusion.
Remember to make each day meaningful
Life should never be solely about work. Launching a side business is immensely exciting, and if you’re able to grow that business into a main gig then even better. But in the meantime, don’t forget to look after yourself and ensure your focus isn’t being spread too thin. Some of us are lucky enough to have day jobs that are flexible with our time – in fact, a growing number of employers are even encouraging their staff to pursue their passions through side hustles. But if that’s not the case, just remember to be steadfast about your time.
For Alan, making time for family and health is a key part of organising his busy schedule. That’s why he evaluates what he achieved at the end of each day and sets a score for how accomplished and fulfilled he feels at the end of it. Think about your days – what does a good day look like? That doesn’t have to mean you’ve pushed yourself to achieve the unachievable; it’s subjective for every person. What’s important is that you feel accomplished and happy.
Think this sounds like the right path for you? Come along to our monthly Get started event for new members to find out what a portfolio career could look like and how The Portfolio Collective can help you take those first steps towards professional success – and don’t forget to connect with our community!