Running a Business with a Full Time Job

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!

56 comments

  1. I started BB while teaching. Teaching is basically a job and a half so for the first four months it was a struggle. Now I’m part time blogging for a blog that earns me a regular paycheck, and I use the rest of the time to work on my own blog. I couldn’t agree with you more about giving yourself hours. It’s so easy when you’re doing all the social media, blogging, site maintenance, pinning – everything – all by yourself to get completely sucked in (and gain weight, as I have, from skipping exercise to blog :-/)

    It’s also all too easy to be discouraged when you have a ‘bad blog day’ – meaning, you’re almost certain that your mum and best friend were the only ones reading that post you spent 5 hours putting together.

    While I don’t consider myself an expert, I do know that if you hang in there, work hard, put the iphone down occasionally and go to the beach (easily done here, perhaps not so in the UK) and then wake up the next day and work a little harder, you’ll get there and achieve your goals.

    Great post Kat, thanks for sharing.

  2. I’m so glad you have posted this. As a wedding planner trying to run a business alongside a full time 9-5 job, I can completely relate to this. I feel this is a subject that is not spoken about enough and it is often seen that you can’t do it all. For me and so many others out there, the only way I can afford to run my fairly new business is to keep a full time job until I am earning enough to at least go part time.

    I work 9 – 5. When I get home I spend a few hours away from the computer to enjoy dinner with my husband and then work from 8 to about 10-11 of an evening. Even though I feel I should be working into the early hours of the morning, this does not make for a productive wedding planner and I get much more done by having set work times. Discipline is key!

    Louise x

  3. Monique

    Thanks for sharing! I’m just at the beginning of this great journey and I’m so excited!!!

  4. This could not have come at a better time! I’m trying hard to improve my work/work balance right now and it is a struggle! Guess it’s time to write down those goals rather than struggling to do it all at once! Thanks Kat 🙂 xo

  5. Agree and my mother *don’t boo hiss by way* who used to work for HMRC, told me that most businesses DON’T make a profit until at least the 2nd year. Anyway, although one day I will have to leave – I quite like my day job 80% of the time; and also without my day job I couldn’t have ever started my blog or my business 🙂

  6. Oh, and the only piece of advice I’ll give is don’t worry about what other people are doing, it’s none of your damn business. You can only succeed by focusing on yourself. Fin.

  7. Post author

    thats a big one Amma! so true. i had people telling me to quit my job waaay before iw as ready

  8. I’m in a quandry about this very topic and keep getting what I feel to be a strange set of ‘signs’ that seem to be speaking directly to me, including this post!

    My added problem is that I’m an English teacher so I have to work evenings and weekends anyway (before anyone says it, I know I have fabulous holidays but you can’t run a wedding business outside of term-time only!). I just can’t seem to see a way around this , meaning that I’ve ‘started’ blogging, making plans and doing research many times, only to stop every time I go back to school (look at my blog and you’ll see what I mean!).

    But your tips are all really useful and very much appreciated. Maybe if I applied some of them to not only the wedding ideas but also to my school work, maybe I could start to look ahead to the dream of working for myself.

    Thanks Kat x

  9. Thanks for writing this – it’s always difficult juggling the two, especially in busy periods for both. I had originally planned to leave my day job two weeks ago, but decided to stay and will now be here until the time is right to go full time.

  10. Thank you so much for posting this Kat. I work freelance but for the past year I’ve been on a project that has been keeping me busy for 3-4 days a week. For some this would be ideal and they can’t see why I complain about not having time, but I also do voluntary work, and, in addition to the blog, I’m also trying to get the wedding planning business up and running.
    After School of Rock last week, I’ve realised I need to scale down my ambition for the blog as trying to run before I can walk is never ideal and it’s not going to help me get there faster.
    Getting some help is also the next step. Right now I can’t afford a cleaner (!), but help with the blog would be amazing, so I might try and get someone to help me with a regular feature once a week or bi-weekly.
    It’s a hectic schedule, and right now I’m spending a crazy amount of hours trying to get it all to work. I’m still in that phase where I work until 1-2am, but I’m determined to get a routine in place so that I can fit everything in without affecting the leisure time with my husband.
    Thank you so much for your advice Kat. Helpful as always!
    x Betta

  11. Joana

    Nice! Does anyone have any clue on how to combine full-time job, own business, and kid project? 🙂 I do have a lot of energy, but well…

  12. This couldn’t have been better timed! I’m really struggling with the whole day job / blog / styling business, oh and life, balance thing right now! Time to write down those goals and focus on getting there in the right way, and not rushing! xo

  13. I know exactly what you mean! I have been working full time at a job, that lets just say I don’t really love, but have made the sacrifice so that I can go home and work weekends on a project that is very close to my heart and gets my creative juices flowing. I can’t wait for the day where my passion and business can become my full time job!

  14. Great post Kat. It’s a struggle working full-time and trying to start up – I found in 2010 I was working sometimes till 8pm ( lovely retail ) and coming home and quickly freshening up and heading back to the music venue to shoot a band – slowly but surely it takes a toll on you – however I wouldn’t change that as you just learn so much. Building a portfolio was absolute key / it still is key as I took a year out and went travelling last year – however you pick up on so many other skills such as organising skills and time management and the handwork does pay off gradually. I’m no where near going f/t with photography however in this current climate I have been out of a day job since December when I returned from travelling. It’s actually driving me even more to try succeed and september / october I’m fully booked with weddings and can’t wait for it to kick in. Keep on going people it can be a bitch at first but lets face it, if it’s easy, is it worth it?! The journey is half the fun!!! 😀 happy wednesday people!!

  15. Another fab Green Room post Kat. I would definitely say that making time for training has made the biggest difference to me. Lisa’s workflow that she teaches at The Farm literally changed my life. I went from doing two hours before work, and five in the evening (plus occasionally taking my mac book in to edit at lunch breaks!) to editing a whole wedding the day after which has left my week day evenings free for blogging, dealing with enquiries and all those other little jobs as well as a bit of quality time. Doing courses has also re-injected some inspiration and enthusiasm when I’ve been feeling tired or run down and it’s also been a hugely positive experience just getting out there away from the computer screen and meeting other wedding industry professionals and putting faces to those twitter names! I found at the farm that mostly everyone else was going or had been through the day job + business start up experience. Just having those people to talk to who understand makes such a difference to your own morale.

  16. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is always so easy to look at other people and think that everything came to them so easily. This is never usually the case.

    I have been so close to burn out more than once in the last 18 months since I decided to focus a lot more on my wedding photography. Especially as my 9-5 job is anything but. If I didn’t have my boyfriend dragging me to bed daily, I could happily work through the night or until my head hits my keyboard. Let’s not start on the number of crying sessions I’ve had!

    I have started putting most of the strategies you’ve outlined into place, and it is definitely making a difference, though I sometimes, like this week, fall off the wagon!

    Today I’ll be trying to get myself back on it, after rereading your post.

    Thank you.

    Cx

  17. Oooh, i’m hearing every last word of this, nodding with agreement. Currently on lunch at ‘the day job’, reading this wishing and hoping to make that leap…one day.
    There are days where it is just so incredibly frustrating. ‘If I could only get more time’ – is my favourite line. The day job sucks the life out of me, but Bonnie Blackbird brings it back, just a shame I’m so wrecked when I get home to work productively on it. Totally agree with the 2hrs solid work is better than 5hrs faffing thang..i’m so desperate to make it work, that I find myself going round and round in circles, not knowing what to do first for the best.
    I started BB 2 years ago after my mum passed away, both as a distraction and also after having a big kick of reality that life isn’t going to last forever, what on earth am I waiting for. Putting nerves and procrastinations aside, my very good friend Sara encouraged me and set deadlines for me to get me going, and after a while we joined forces to try and really get it going (she works in a law firm!). And it IS going, and picking up speed now, though I need to remember the other things in life that has gone on aswell and give myself a damn break! I feel guilty if the laptop isn’t out…then when im on the laptop, i’m feeling guilty of not spending time with my boyfriend (who luckily I live with, otherwise we really would never see each other). Or the housework! Gawd only knows how people do this, hold down a full time job, AND have children – respect ladies!!!

    Great article Kat, thank you x

  18. Hmmm it’s a tricky one isn’t it. My day job (primary school teaching and which I love) is absolutely exhausting and time consuming anyway without an extra job on top…I let the business build and then finished my full time job at the end of last term. I got a new 2.5 day a week teaching contract for a year which allows me to grow my photography business without the pressure of having to achieve all of my income from it – we had to make some sacrifices along the way but it’s been totally worth it. I’ve never worked harder in the last year and had some really tough things going on in life too, but the driving force of ambition and my love of photography has got me through. (Next step is to sort out work/life balance and see my friends/family more!)

  19. Wow! I had no idea so many people are in the same boat!

    I finally took the plunge to part time at the start of the summer and apart from a really scary moment where it all went quiet, it’s felt like completely the right decision. Still feels like I’m zooming round like a headless chicken though. Hmm, maybe need to look at my working hours…

    Rosie x

  20. Rachel

    Thanks, Kat and everyone who has commented – this is inspiring stuff.
    Knowing that others are out there with the same struggle, but making it happen, really helps! I need to sit down with that notebook you mentioned and get things planned in a way that can be managed.
    Go team!

  21. Great post Kat! And great advice! Im just heading to school next month inthe hopes to start my own business one day. And Im working hard on my blog to get more readers so that it too might become my job as well

    dangerdelux.com

  22. Looking through bleary eyes on my 10th cup of coffee today, I see I should take your advice Kat! Going full time is fast approaching with wedding dates booking in for next year, voluntary redundancy looking certain. I’d like to see my wife and 10month old baby a little bit more than an hour a day. I’m living by the mantra of “Your dream won’t work unless you do”. Absolutely can’t wait until I only have the one job to do 🙂 Txx

  23. I really wanted to ask you about this at School of Rock last week but was too shy, so thankfully it seems you are in fact psychic and have answered my question without me having to ask!
    I really need to start setting myself some goals and ground rules to motivate myself more. Thanks for such a great post…AGAIN!

  24. Thank you so much for this Kat – it has really helped get me back on track, especially your words of wisdom “Don’t feel like you’re failing if you’re still working full time a few years down the line. Take things slowly.” I was made redundant a little over 2 years ago and I decided to set up my wedding planning business, initially using my pay off as my income, it was the best decision I ever made but when the money ran out and I wasn’t making enough from my business I had to get a part time job – as a wedding co-ordinator at a hotel! They are really supportive of my business and understand that I plan to leave as soon as I’m making enough money from the business but the demands of working on 60+ weddings a year for someone else very often means that my part-time job is anything but that! I have had to become very strict with myself to make sure I leave the job on time to ensure that I get home at a decent time to spend time working on my own business and clients. It is hard but it has started paying off much more quickly than I would’ve thought.

  25. A really great read with some very sound advice. I can see this helping a ton of people who are in this position right now. Thanks for sharing, RD

  26. Thanks for this Kat. I work FT at the moment as well as my business and it’s not easy. So it’s nice to be reminded that others have been through the same thing. I do sometimes wonder if it’s worth it. Then I slap myself and remind myself quickly that it is! 🙂

  27. Great post Kat!
    I’d almost give my right arm to find out how Lisa edits a whole wedding in a few hours. I’ve spent all week editing a wedding from the 11th and still not done. Would love to know if there’s a quick way to convert all into black and white. So much time is used copying onto the external and onto discs. Can’t imagine how I’d keep up if I had a wedding every week!
    I’m due to update my computer asap, as now that I’ve got the fabulous 5D Mark iii the files take up sooooo much memory.
    That was my 5th wedding and I have to say I LOVED IT!
    Thanks for your constant inspiration.
    Love Di
    xxx
    xxx

  28. kathryn

    May I just say what great timing this was to stumble upon your blog! In the process of launching my very first website and my gosh am I scared! I’d love to chat to you some more…so watch out for my email! THANK YOU! x

  29. the post was great, and great to read, but the comments are so interesting to read too, to know that others feel the same way. I have worked 9-5 as office admin for years while fantisising about being off shooting or doing something creative, then a couple of years ago I got a job where they were looking for part time staff just the hours i wanted on a wage that I could afford to do it without sending us into a financial black hole. But I have to say being a sole trader can be lonely and it is hard to keep motivated. Not having as much spare cash has limited my marketing budget currently so things are going slower than expected and obviously the last couple of years have been financially hard for everyone, so business has been slow! Because of this I have actually had to increase my hours at the office again to allow us to get some savings for a few months, and I am using this time to really plan properly so I focus more to get this business working! Got my new notebook and my new diary so i am ready!!

  30. Perfect post for me and full of sensible advice – your sensible Gareth seems to have dished the advice that my husband is dishing me, i’m also impulsive and am desperate to quit the emotionally sapping day job for something I truely love. Every night I come home and edit, I use all my annual leave to shoot weddings and second shoot for others. I think the part-time route is totally the right thing to do, not sure how supportive my current employer would be to this but I intend to have approx 20 weddings scheduled for the year ahead before I consider quitting the day job. The difficult thing for me is I want to spend more time improving my technical photography ability and bettering myself however that is proving to be a challenge. Your post is a great reminder that I’m not alone, there are hundreds of passionate wedding peeps who have the Monday drive in to work blues – but have a brilliant end in sight !

  31. Oh wow – another person that so needed to read this today! Being an accountant, stationer, wife, and mother of 2 kiddos under 4 is exhausting and trying to get a balance is well, impossible.

    Thanks for the tips – especially having a set time to work.

    And it’s great to see so many in the same boat!

  32. Thank you for your post! It’s come at a time that I’m really struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Ive been working at Faerie Wishes for 2 years on a as and when I can basis. I struggle to find the time to work due to the random hours I work. I sometimes find it disheartening that I can’t spend the time I want on my business but then can’t yet afford to leave my full time job to progress my business!

    Hopefully I will pick up some fab new tips at school of rock next week!

    Thanks

  33. Okay Kat. So thanks for the warning to grab a box of tissues before I started reading this. I am a full time international makeup artist and now single mother to two small baby boys AND just took the position of an editor for a magazine and new online blog. It has been such a struggle!!!! Honestly your “setting hours” is what I need to do because Im just grasping an hour here and hour there and never feel like I am accomplishing anything.

    Thank You!
    Faythe
    BLB

  34. This is a great post, I have just started a full time job that I love and im staying at but I am also aiming to keep up my wedding photography at the same time as my job is pretty flexible and this really helped. Thanks!

  35. Kat,

    This post is so true of where I am right now.
    I started out as a wedding photographer last year. Working as a second shooter and I did about 14 weddings. Luckily my day job as a waitress accommodated this over the summer months though when It came to the winter months, the restaurant was so dead my hours got cut massively and I had to move somewhere that was a more well know, bigger company where I was guaranteed full time hours + tips which made a massive difference. It was great for the winter/spring months but in the past 2 months (summer holidays and wedding season) I have been working full time at a very busy restaurant plus I have done 10 weddings (and I have 2 more this bank holiday weekend) + a few baby and newborn shoots + editing time and I have completely run myself in to the ground. I am getting sick all the time, I can’t sleep but I love my photography and it is going so well I can’t and don’t want to turn down work. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, in 2 weeks I am moving home (another stressful thing to add to everything going on) but I am planning to set up a studio in my spare room so I can do newborn shoots. I already have a few lined up and after I have got some business from that I aim to cut down to part time hours at the restaurant hopefully, giving me more time for shoots/editing/networking ad website/blog maintenance that i don’t have time for atm. The problem is when you work somewhere where everyone is expected to give 120% for minimum wage and everyone is there because they want to progress in that industry people outcast you for wanting to get out of this stressful life and they resent you for having the time off to achieve your goals. I need to take time off to regenerate as my body is telling me I have taken too much on. Hopefully in the next month there are going to be big changes in my life and knowing that is the thing that keeps me going… knowing that I’m not going to be stuck being a waitress forever…. that there is a light at the end of the tunnel! It’s bloody hard work but when you love and enjoy something so much it is worth the hard work and pain you initially have to go through to make it happen! I’m at the lowest point at the moment but having the determination and drive (and people who love and believe in you) is the thing that makes it worth while!

    Thank you for your post, honestly it’s given me the exact boost I needed 🙂 You are a true inspiration 🙂
    Vicki x

  36. Fabulous article, great advice. Thank you for a great post and good to know we’re not the only ones out there struggling with full time jobs and running our own business! We are just going through all those early stages after having launched Virginias Vintage Hire in March this year. My husband Greg is a Stone Mason and I work as a Yacht Broker, both are a far cry from hiring rustic furniture and accessories! However the contrasts are refreshing and even though we get home late and tired from our day jobs the excitement of receiving a new enquiry for VVH keeps us motivated and focused on the goals ahead for our little business and determined to see it go from strength to strength.

  37. She

    I’m struggling with growing my business/blog on my own, while raising my son on my own. Its exhausting. This is my 3rd year of blogging and I know in my heart I can make something of this, but there just isn’t time. The one thing I really wish I had was a supportive partner.

  38. Thank you for this post, it is just what I needed at this stage in getting my business up and running. I am going to start applying your tips straight away. Hope you don’t mind but I shared a link to this post via my twitter feed as I found it so helpful.

  39. i’m seriously addicted to your green room posts, they give me a much needed kick in the pants when i’m feeling defeated. i work a 9-5 and run my own invitation business on the side. i’ve been upset lately that i’m nowhere close to being able to march into my boss’s office and announce my resignation, and i’m becoming mentally and physically exhausted over the whole thing that i want to just give up and stick to my day job. but really anything worth while won’t come easily, and thank you for reminding me of that.

  40. A fantastic post Kat. I set up my little photography business just a few short months ago and I am a full-time trainee Paramedic which involves a rolling rota of night and day shifts during the week and at weekends. Time is a rare commodity for me and I do find myself working on the business at all hours but I love it so much!

    I’m still trying to work out the balance between the day job, the business and life in general (i.e. planning a wedding and sorting out the new home we have just moved into) and sometimes find myself failing miserably at the detriment of my relationship (sorry Stu!) but I am slowly learning how to organise myself and your tips are going to be a big help, so thank you Kat!

  41. Skye

    Thank you for this post Kat, i am a cake maker with a full time job and two small children.

    When i first started out i tried getting in touch with everyone (including yourself!) so they would notice me and i thought i would miss the boat if my company wasnt out there. I would try and do too much and ended up where i was so tired i was actually missing out on my children and my life.

    I now realize that i need to take it slowly as i am happy to work under the radar and want to pop up when i am completely happy with what i do. I do not need to chase orders like those who do it full time, and that is actually a good position to be in.

    I used to look at other peoples facebook pages to see what they were doing…Why? you don’t need to know what others are doing because if people like your work they will come to you. I was approached by Canary Wharf in London for a huge project, larger than cake and they came to me! I have now given myself a 5 year goal, to enjoy my children first.

    As my mum always says “What is meant to be, won’t pass you by”

  42. Seriously this couldn’t have come at a better time and its looks like im not the only one in this position. After starting a handmade dog leash company which you would think would start slow im running on all cylinders! I cant keep up or concentrate and have considered quitting a few times but like you said I don’t want to worry about money on top of it all. I believe there will be a light at the end of the tunnel and youre proof 🙂

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