What it (Really!) Takes to Build a $6M Business While You’re Working Full Time

how to start a business while you're working

Wondering how to start a business while working full time? I've got 9 side hustle ideas to help you make money online as quickly as possible.Are you finally ready to launch your freedom business? I’m so excited for you! Entrepreneurship is one of the most enriching things you can experience in life, and I can’t wait for you to start your journey…

Now, I totally get that you can be wildly thrilled about starting your new business and STILL have a hard time staying motivated with a 9-5 gig weighing you down.

Maybe you’re wondering if it’s even possible to start a business while working a full-time job…

Or, maybe you’re wondering how to go about it in a way that sets you up for huge success today and tomorrow

Lately, I’ve been getting start-up questions from the wonderful members of my Facebook group (and from you guys). Here’s what I’ve been hearing:

  • How do I manage going to school, starting my business, and a social life?
  • I work a full-time job and then come home and spend time with my three children. By the time they go to bed, I’m wiped out. How do I squeeze in the time for my business?
  • I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with my business idea. What should I do differently?

Sound familiar?

If you’ve been struggling to launch your side hustle, you’re in luck! Today, I’m sharing strategies to help you carve out the time (and stay motivated) to make it happen, f’real.

Before we dig in, what I’m covering here can apply to just about ANYTHING you want to launch…a new business, a new product, or a new service.

So whether you’re just tossing around business ideas right now, have been at it for a while, or are gearing up for a new product launch, I’m hoping you’ll find something of value in this post. 🙂

#FULLDISCLOSURE My only stint as a 9-to-5’er was the year I launched my temporary tattoo business (my most successful business to date). I’ll be using that experience as a reference, plus what I’ve learned from starting up businesses while running a full-time business.

Believe me, I feel your pain. It can be hard to find the time. Hard to juggle everything. And, most importantly, hard to know when you should ditch the 9 to 5 for good.

Before we dig in, I created a business plan template you can use to create a roadmap for your new biz! Just click the button below to grab it.

Grab Your Creative Business Plan Template

PLEASE NOTE: In order to be able to edit and customize it yourself, when you’re viewing the template go to File and Make a copy, or you can simply download it as a Word doc or copy and paste it to your favorite program!

Grab your Creative Business Plan Template so you can get started mapping out your freedom biz and reaching your goals!

So let’s dig in and see if we can make heads or tails of it all, k?

1) First, hold on to your day job for as long as you can.

There’s no way around it, you’re going to need a cashflow. The last thing you want to do is to jump ship on your job without having financial security.

You’d be walking into a train wreck:

  • You’d start feeling desperate
  • Go into “survival” mode
  • Make the wrong business decisions
  • Scramble to look for another job

The good news is, there’s A LOT you can do to start your business while you’re working full time. At a minimum, aim to have these things complete before you sign off on your job:

  • Market research – make sure you understand your target audience and what they want
  • A working brand identity – the bare essentials are all you need (logo, business card, website)
  • An online presence – be active on at least one social channel
  • Your first 10 blog posts – you want to launch with a handful of posts
  • A minimum viable product – can be a physical product, digital product, or service offering

2) Next, save your money.

Try to put aside at least six months of income before you leave your day job. This will help you make objective decisions and give you enough time to navigate earning an income from your business.

If you can save a year’s worth, even better.

3) Start with the right business idea.

This one’s a biggie.

In fact, it’s such a biggie that I’m going to create a workshop on business ideas – how to weed out the duds, sort through the noise, and choose the right one…

Here’s why:

Your business idea ALONE can literally make or break your success.

Take it from me on this one! I’ve been *around the world* when it comes to launching businesses and can finally tell the difference between a good business idea and a bad one.

The last thing I want is for you to put in the hard work upfront, only to lose your enthusiasm when the ROI takes longer than expected and you can’t sustain an income.

Besides, nothing spells buzzkill faster than not making money.

Let’s say you’re married with two kids and a demanding job – one that requires your full-on attention. At night, you like to spend time with your kids before they go to sleep, which gives you two hours to work on your business idea before you clock out. You decide to spend that time learning how to code so you can start your web development business.

Can you see what’s wrong here?

Starting a business is SOOO hard! Don’t make it even harder by learning a new skillset before you even start!

Here’s the thing:

You probably have about 15 hours a week to work on your business. In that time frame, you’re going to need to see REAL progress to stay motivated. Otherwise, overwhelm and defeat will start to creep up on you. Slowly at first. Then bam. Like a ton of bricks.


It’s much easier to start a business based on what you already know. Look at your skills, research the market, and find the place where they intersect. That’s your success path.

4) Be all in.

Total immersion or bust, that’s my motto…

You’ve got to be “all in” on your business idea and make a conscious decision to succeed with that vs your job. Then shift your mindset to make it happen.

Here’s how that plays out in the real world:

  • You stop being an over-performer at work.
  • Let others get promoted instead of you.
  • Work on your logo during lunch.
  • Design your website when you have downtime.
  • Set the alarm an hour early to get your creative juices flowing.
  • Write your business plan instead of reading emails and texts.
  • Create a Facebook page instead of “socializing.”

You get my gist. When you’re all in, every minute counts and you get to work…

5) Forget about Plan B.

Now, I know this may go against every grain in your body. But it’s true.

Back-up plans make you lazy. They keep you fearful and second guessing. They make you settle for so much less than what you were born to do in this world.

If you really, REALLY believe in what you’re doing, there will be a tipping point…

When every bone in your body screams I can’t do this anymore!!

When your future’s in limbo and you’re stuck between your day job and your biz…not getting anywhere with either one.

Now, I don’t have a specific date or milestone for you, but it will be sometime after you create a foundation (step #1 above). When you’re ready to make real money and can’t possibly do it in your current situation.

That’s when it will be time to leave your 9 to 5.

6) Establish clear priorities.

Starting a business takes deliberate focus and attention. If you back-burner it, you’ll risk not reaching the finish line.

But hey, when you really, REALLY want something, you don’t back-burner it, right? You make it a priority.

You inherently *get* that you won’t be able to have your cake and eat it too. Not today, anyway. So you start de-prioritizing other things.

Maybe you don’t go to every party. You hang with your friends less. Or, you get your spouse to help with the kids. Can you cut down on the number of hours you work? Heck, maybe you can look for part-time work rather than full-time!


You say No more than Yes.

(I’ve been saying no for a looong time now, *wink.)

But you know what? You’re EXCITED to make the sacrifices today in exchange for your FREEDOM tomorrow.

#HEADSUP Your friends and loved ones may not be keen on your newly-found priorities at first. But if you can hang in there, they’ll get on board. Promise.

7) Develop a routine that you can follow.

Set a minimum number of hours each week that you will work on your business idea. Then use a time blocking calendar to set specific time slots each day.

(Don’t forget to look for “hidden hours” you can squeeze in, say, during or after work.)

Now, when it comes to sticking with your routine, I’ve got two strategies for you! These will be especially helpful on days when you feel extra stressed and ANYTHING BUT motivated.

First off, plan your week every Sunday.

When you’re crystal clear on what you will be doing and when – down to the tiniest details – you’ll be more inclined to show up and execute on them.

But when it’s Wednesday and your brain is fried already, THEN you have to figure out what the heck to work on, you know what happens?

You put it off ’til tomorrow.

And then…

You stop seeing consistent progress…

Which makes you less motivated to work on your business idea…

So you put it off again…

Then you’re off to Procrastinationville! Don’t go there, friend. Plan ahead and stay on track.

Psst…What can really help with time management is my time blocking template below. If you want, you can use it to create a *visual to-do list* and block out your entire week.  Include everything…work, kids, school, social, and your biz, so you know exactly how much time you’ll have to focus on your business idea each week. Totally helps beat procrastination because you can see how much time you really have available!   

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

Second, understand your work patterns and when you feel the most creative.

For example:

Instead of trying to do your deep work during the week, plan simpler tasks like:

  • Designing your logo
  • Creating a social media image
  • Drafting a blog post

Set aside Saturday or Sunday for projects that require more brainpower (like products and content).

It also helps to develop rituals and “pay-it-forward treats” to help you get in the mood to work.

Do you like meditating first thing in the morning? Staring at your computer with a cup of coffee? Watching TV? Give yourself that treat BEFORE you start working. During this transition time, visualize WHY you’re going to haul yourself up and work. Imagine what things will look like on the other side.

For me, listening to my music gets me all pumped and fired up to work.

What’s your thing? Think about what excites you to do the work, then do that every day before you get started. When you follow the same routine and consistently put in the work, you’ll be motivated to do even more.

8) Spend more time doing and less time planning.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-planning and under-executing.

To avoid that, give yourself a time slot for planning (preferably on Sundays). Leave the other time slots for doing. Then hold yourself accountable to show up and get them done.

It can also be tempting to think Since I won’t get much done in an hour, I’ll wait until the weekend when I have more time.

This is dangerous territory for so many reasons (step #6 above).

When you put it off today, the next thing you know you’re blowing off an entire Saturday or Sunday. I mean, if you didn’t make it a priority on Monday, why should it be a priority on Sunday, right?

Wrong. You’ve got to make it a priority e’erday.

Even if Monday morning all you do is stare at your laptop for an hour, the fact that you’re sitting there reinforces your commitment to your business. Plus, trust me. You won’t be able to stare at your screen for an hour! You’ll get bored in 15 minutes and start digging in.

9) Focus on the process.

It’s easy to feel defeated when things take five times longer than you expected (which ALWAYS happens!).

Instead of focusing on the end goal, focus on your daily progress. Keep a journal or use the time blocking template so you can feel good about what you’ve accomplished.

When you review your progress like this each day, something else starts happening…

You know what you REALLY need to work on the next day.

(which can look a lot different than what you planned on Sunday.)

More often than not, we *think* we can do A, B and C when we can really only do A. Then we get bummed and feel like we accomplished nothing!

Setting unrealistic expectations usually comes from being fuzzy about how long A, B or C will take in the first place. When you start tracking your progress daily, you’ll know how long things REALLY take and be able plan your time more accurately.

Then you keep on doin’.

10) Find ways to get less (other) stuff done.

There are things you need to do and things you don’t need to do.

For example:

When I get the urge to create a family picture wall in my hallway (something I’ve been wanting to do for some time now), I think about how long it will take. Then I ask myself if I really need to do it now. Or if it can wait.

Calculate how much time it will take you – door to door – to go shopping, run an errand, and so on. Do you have that time to spare? Does it really need to get done? What could you accomplish in your business in that time?

Plus, let’s be real for a sec. Every time you switch gears, your brain has to play catch-up. You’ve got this delay thing happening that turns four hours into six.

You know what your brain says next, right?

I’ll just work on my biz tomorrow…

And it’s off to Procrastinationville again.

The good news is, you can use these steps to get back on track quickly. 🙂

That’s a wrap! What strategies have you used to start a business while working full time? I’d love to hear them!

18 replies
  1. Jehoyakim Jena
    Jehoyakim Jena says:

    I just love this post! Thank you for writing this. Although I’ve left my 9-6 Job and I’m working from home building both my blog and digital marketing agency, I’m glad you wrote this epic long blog post. Super helpful.

  2. Katherine
    Katherine says:

    I really appreciate the reminder about not having a back up plan. When I left my teaching job in the 90’s to open a voice studio, I resigned instead of going on leave. So many of my teaching colleagues were advising me to take the leave so I’d have a job to come back to. It was my intuition that told me to resign instead so I’d have to commit 100%. In the end, listening to my inner guidance worked out beautifully.

  3. Tammy Bronfen
    Tammy Bronfen says:

    What a great post! Thank you! I started a blog about a year ago and recently left my day job (after ensuring that we have enough savings set aside) because I really felt like I just couldn’t do it all anymore. I am at the stage in my life where I feel it’s imperative to finally make a go of what I want to do so I took the leap. I love your tip about forgetting about plan B – it really rings true for me because right now, I feel like I have to make it work!

  4. Trina Phillips
    Trina Phillips says:

    I think your point about getting the side hustle going before leaving your job is especially good. Really helps if your job doesn’t leave you first, though. What would you recommend if someone was only partway into getting their side hustle going and found themselves unemployed? Power through with the side hustle, or find another job?

    • Sandra Clayton
      Sandra Clayton says:

      It’s hard to say without knowing more about your side hustle, Trina. I wouldn’t want to steer you in the wrong direction. However, if it’s me and I got laid off, I’d put 120 hours a week into the side hustle. You may not have that opportunity again for a long time so I’d run with it. Of course, it’s best if you have some indication that it will work and can survive for a bit with very little (or no) income. So those are things you need to consider too. Feel free to email me to discuss more at sandra@conversionminded.com.

    • Sandra Clayton
      Sandra Clayton says:

      Definitely, Katy. So many people don’t realize how crucial that is. Once you know you have something, you’ve got to dive in 100% or you’ll just keep procrastinating. Best of luck with your business!

  5. Rebecca | rebeccaspianokeys.com
    Rebecca | rebeccaspianokeys.com says:

    Love your blog. It comes across really polished and high-end! I definitely struggle with accurately estimating how long tasks will take, and then find myself accomplishing less than I thought I would. It was discouraging at first, but over time I’ve started to get a better sense of how long things take, and I’ve also started to be more accepting of the work I DO end up getting done. One thing that really helped me is that for large tasks that don’t have specific deadlines (ie: creating my online course), I’ve started to set goals in terms of time rather than results. So instead of saying “I will get A, B, C done today” I’ll says “I have A,B,C tasks to work on, and I will spend 3 hours today working on them.” So rather than being disappointed that I only got through A and half of B, I’ll be happy that I successfully accomplished 3 hours of work.

    • Sandra Clayton
      Sandra Clayton says:

      That’s awesome, Rebecca and totally the way to do it. Track the process instead of the results. That way if you only have an hour or two, instead of saying “why bother, I won’t be able to finish it” you can just chip away it at and before you know it, you’re done. And best of luck with your piano coaching. It’s a great niche and I love your site. 🙂

  6. Angelina
    Angelina says:

    LOVE this post! I’m still working my 9-5 and it’s definitely a struggle sometimes. Thanks for the little push to show me why I still do this.

  7. Kim Kupiecki
    Kim Kupiecki says:

    This is great stuff! I don’t plan on starting my own business but I never know where this life’s journey will take me next so I’m bookmarking it, just in case. 🙂

    But for anyone who is ready to start their own business, this is very valuable information. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Sasha
    Sasha says:

    These are great ideas! Thank you for sharing! I especially love the concept of not having a plan “B”. I watched a documentary last winter about some women in Syria who had only a plan “A” because there was no possibility of a plan “b” and I loved the idea.

    • Sandra Clayton
      Sandra Clayton says:

      You’re so welcome, Sasha. The key is knowing when to go all in on your business. Once you’ve validated your idea and have your first few customers (or an indication of a strong market), total immersion is the way to go.

    • Tina Young
      Tina Young says:

      I come across your site from your pinterest pin and I found your writing style very engaging. It is like having a personal conversation with you. The advice you gave are realistic, practical and not sugar coated. I have not read your other posts yet but will soon be. You have great ideas that I would like to learn from. ???


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