Do you have your own business – or have you ever thought about starting one? It seems like more and more of the people I talk to have side projects going on: they work a day job to pay the rent, but they’re doing what they really love in the evenings or on the weekends, hoping that eventually, they can make a career out of it.
It can be really tough, though, to keep up your motivation when you’re working long days in the office and coming home to work some more.
I spent months freelancing on the side, before I established a strong enough client base to quit my day job. It was tough at times, but I’m really glad I made it. Here are some of the things that helped me, and which might help you too.
Write Down Your Goals – With Dates
I’m sure you’ll have heard time and time again that you should write down your goals, and that you should put dates to them. It’s great advice – but many of us don’t follow it.
Rather than having a vague dream of being a self-employed computer programmer (or whatever it might be), set an actual goal down in writing. Maybe you want to get another client within a month. Maybe you want to write a business plan, or set up a website, or order your business cards.
Putting a date to your goals often helps them happen: it creates a sense of urgency. Without this, it’s all too easy to put off taking action until tomorrow (and then a year slips by, and you’re no closer to your goal).
Write Down Your Achievements
Something which I found very powerful when I was just starting my side business was to write down what I’d achieved each month. To begin with, these achievements were small (like getting my first client!) but they all represented progress towards my ultimate goal of being a full-time freelance writer.
It’s easy to feel discouraged when you don’t have much time to devote to your business: it can seem as though you’re not making any forwards progress at all. Keeping a record of what you’ve achieved (perhaps new clients, new projects, or passing a certain income thresh-hold) gives you something concrete to look back on, so that you can see how far you’ve come.
Find Regular Work Hours
Try to find a few hours in the week which you can consistently block out to spend on your side business. For me, this was 6am – 7am (ugh! But it worked...) If you’re even less of an early riser type than I am, you might choose to work on certain evenings, or even in your lunch hour, depending on what facilities and rules your day job has.
If you can devote some time to your business at the weekends, that will really help you to make progress. I personally prefer to work in the morning and then knock off for the rest of the day, but this is really a case of finding what best suits you.
Depending on your home situation, you may need to negotiate with other people for some uninterrupted time. For example, you could ask your spouse to take the kids out on a Saturday morning while you work (you can then return the favor in the afternoon).
Cut Down Other Commitments
If you’re working full-time and trying to establish a business on the side, you need to minimize your other commitments. This might mean putting a particular hobby on the back-burner for a while, or telling people in your community group that you’re stepping down as secretary.
You might also have the possibility of cutting down your hours at work. This is obviously something to be cautious about asking for in the current economy ... but depending on your circumstances, you may be able to approach your boss or line manager about the possibility of working a 4.5 or 4 day week.
As well as cutting down on your current time-consumers, don’t take on new ones! You might find it very tough at first to say “no” – but people usually take it surprising well. Don’t worry about giving apologies or excuses, simply say “I’m very busy at the moment, and I’ve promised myself I won’t take on any new commitments.”
Do you have a side business or a fledgling freelancing career? How do you juggle it around your day job, and how do you stay motivated? If you’re an established freelancer, what was it like getting started?
|Written on 6/27/2011 by Ali Luke. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life (get the RSS feed here). As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing.|