Running a Business with a Full Time Job

August 22, 2012

Some of you may already be aware of my story. I’ve written about it many times before. Gareth has even shared his side of my journey from full time shopping TV producer to full time wedding blogger. While, looking back it may all seem very idealistic and easy, it was far from it. Trying to kick start a business whilst holding down a full time job is hard.

There were times when I didn’t sleep. There were times when I cried. There were times when I was constantly sick. There were times when I wondered why I was bothering at all. And there were times that I wanted to pack the whole thing in and resign myself to selling crap on the telly forever.

It was a struggle, but looking back it was so worthwhile and I’m immensely grateful for the experience it gave me. This is a total cliché but I truly believe that the harder you work at something, the more satisfying it is when you finally reach your goal. If you’re stuck in that place, I just want to give you a big hug and remind you that it will all be OK in the end. I also want to offer you some practical advice…

Have set working hours

It’s so easy to think you have to work all hours of the day (and night!) to get things done, but baby, that just isn’t true! If you try work too much then your productivity will be shot. You won’t be able to concentrate, you won’t be at your best and you won’t have time to process anything properly… and you know that thing called ‘a life’? The thing you’re probably striving to have a better one of by running your own business? Yeah you won’t have one of those either.

I’m obsessive about my work. I’m utterly head over heels in love with my job but I’m so strict with myself on the hours I do and don’t work. When you’re trying to juggle your business with a day job it can be really difficult to get the balance right so my advice to you would be to have set working hours… and stick to them. If say, you work 9-5 and you get home at 6, maybe have an hour set aside for family/’you’ time and then work 7-9? Two hours of productive work a day is better than 5 hours of stressful not-getting-anything-done work.

You also really need to sleep.

Have a strategy

To optimise the time you do have to work on your business, get yourself a strategy. Write down exactly the things you want to achieve in each working session and how you’re going to do it. You might think that taking time to document things would be a waste of time but it’s so not! I’d imagine the morning commute being a good opportunity to do this. Write checklists obsessively to get anything you possibly can out of your head so you can focus on each task one by one.

If you’re a photographer, spend some time really honing down your editing skills. Set time aside for learning and improving your technique so you can do things quickly and efficiently. Go to a workshop or do your own research on the most streamlined and efficient way to edit your images (as a side note, the part of The Photography Farm where Lisa shares her editing system is always my favourite. The look of sheer astonishment on the photographer’s faces when they realise they can process an entire wedding in a few hours is amazing!)

If you’re a blogger, keep a notebook on you at all times and jot down any blog post ideas you might have. Don’t get to your 2 hours of work time and spend the first hour sat there, wondering what to write! Pre-planning is everything!

If possible try work in advance too (don’t leave things until the last minute!) This is something I always do and it stops me from going insane.

Ask for help & outsource

Listen, you know you can’t do everything yourself, especially if you have 2 full time jobs to do. So stop and ask yourself what you can palm off on other people! Book keeping? Accounting? Processing? Emails? Cooking?! Focus on the things that really need your personal stamp and pay someone else to do the jobs that are just a time-suck. I’d personally rather work harder doing the bits I’m good at, to earn more money to pay someone to do the things I’m rubbish at or don’t enjoy. This is probably why we go out for dinner and get takeaways so often (bad wife alert!)

Realise that it wont happen overnight

Give yourself a break. If you take just one thing from this article let it be this – allow yourself the time to grow and hone your skills before making the leap. Don’t feel like you’re failing if you’re still working full time a few years down the line. Take things slowly. Take one day at a time. Tackle tasks individually and don’t beat yourself up so much.

Ignore what everyone else is doing or even the advice they give you (you have no idea how many people were telling me to quit the day job waaaay before I did!) This is your life and your career, no one else’s!

Don’t quit your day job… yet

Small goals or big goals… I’m a big fan of having them. Whether it’s just “I’ll write this post and then have a cup of tea” or “I’ll quit my job by the end of the year” it’s always a positive thing to have tangible milestones to aim for.

When I got to the stage of thinking about the possibility of quitting my day job, Gareth and I sat down to properly discuss if it would ever work. I’m kind of impulsive. If it was just down to me I would have probably quit as soon as I made my first £100 but luckily for us, Gareth is a much more sensible and practical fellow. We discussed the possibility of me going part time… but only when I was earning enough to supplement that half of my salary. I was very lucky that my job were so accommodating and allowed me to do this (even though no one had done it before!)

It took time but having that end goal of going part time (and then quitting all together) was an amazing motivator. Plus having a hard and fast benchmark to reach (I had to be earning 50% of my salary through the blog for at least 3 months before I could go part time and then 100% off my previous salary for 3 months before I went full time) made sure I didn’t make any decisions too hastily. It might sound like the benchmarks we set were high… and yes they were… but it’s better to be safe than sorry right?

It was hard work doing two jobs but at least we didn’t have money worries on top of everything else. Not having to stress about where the next paycheck was coming from meant that I was able to really play around and experiement with how I ran my business, without always thinking in the back of my mind “is this going to make us any money?”

Oh gosh there were days when I just wanted to storm into my boss’s office and scream “I QUIT!” in a hugely dramatic fashion, but having an ultimate goal stopped me from doing this thank goodness!

I didn’t leave my day job completely until January 2011 – 4 whole years after I started the blog.

All Photography Credit: Zoltan Tombor for Fashion Gone Rogue

So what’s your situation right now? Are you still working full time or part time? What are you struggling with? Or maybe you’ve got into a good groove and you have some advice to offer others? To those of you that have made the leap, did you have any goals to reach before you did so? I want to hear from you all!