4 simple steps to starting a side business (without quitting your day job)

Don't quit your job to follow your passions. 

Unless you've got savings in the bank that you could live off of for a few years, I wouldn't recommend this route to anyone. 

Hey, for some who chose that path, the risk paid off.

But call me a creature of comfort – I like my steady paycheques that pay for my downtown city life.

When I was an employee, quitting my job first to work on my business simply was not an option I entertained.

To go from "employee" to "travelpreneur," you're going to quit your job one day – just not yet.

4 simple steps to starting a side business - elise darma

If you're at the point where you're beginning to craft your 6-12 month escape plan, here's what I'd recommend:

1. Attitude check: learn to like your day job

This can be tough if you're already itching to be out on your own. But finding the positives in your day job can bring about mental positivity that will serve you while you create your own business on the side. 

If you're miserable 40 hours of the week already, tacking on an additional 10-20 hours is gonna be rough. Try to shift your attitude today (with the end goal in mind). 

For example:

  • Be thankful for deadlines and coworkers who keep you in check. Instead of seeing them as barriers to how you spend your time, view them as things that squash your procrastination and serve as inspiration for creative ideas. 
  • Seek out opportunity to develop or learn new skills in your job. These very well could be the skills you apply to your business (or offer as a service to clients).
  • Hey, you're getting paid. You haven't been laid off and forced into entrepreneurship without adequate time to prepare and savings. 

Who knows, with a new perspective, you might spy opportunities in your day job that could serve your new business or be the source of where your first client comes from. 

2. View yourself as an asset

This means you're dedicated to continual education and self-improvement.

It might mean investing in yourself in ways you never expected.

In my first year as a full-time entrepreneur, I invested in myself in two unexpected ways: talking to a therapist and working with a personal trainer. 

When I was an employee, these always seemed like "nice to have" things, but once I was knee-deep in running my own biz, I needed them. 

Your mental strength is a huge asset to you when you're starting out. If you're bogged down by personal or unresolved matters, it's sure gonna be hard to focus on growing a biz with junk tinkering around your brain. 

Your physical health is also a huge source of mental clarity and endorphins (plus, it gives you a reason to leave your laptop every now and then). 

If you're an employee now, you can start investing in yourself today or start saving up to do so – in whichever ways you'll need most. 

3. Become a planner

Maybe you already are one naturally. I thought I was – until I started my side business

Planning my week ahead of time was key to getting 50-60 hours of work in each week, when I was accustomed to the regular 40.

Once I had my first client, I knew that I'd be spending about two evenings a week working on their projects, as well as half a weekend day. 

If I didn't pre-plan those time blocks out ahead of time, I knew I'd be scrambling to get things done before the week was up (which did occasionally happen). 

I recommend using Google calendar and the G Suite tools to block out the hours and days you've committed to your business. 

This is when you really become your own boss. You're literally managing yourself with tasks and deadlines. Schedule yourself like a boss, and deliver the work like a dedicated employee.

You can also use time-tracking services like Toggl to track exactly how much time you're spending on each task, or the time-tracking software built directly into FreshBooks (the best way to bill clients, IMO) as related to each client. 

4. Get focused and productive

So you're ready to work full days, plus nights and weekends? Get ready to get your focus on. 

As an employee, I didn't use productivity methods (though at one point, I used to put a green sign on my computer that meant "talk to me" and a red sign that meant "do not disturb" 😂). 

Over the years, I've tried many tools and methods to "hack" my productivity. Here's what I like:

  1. Everyday, I write down a to-do list (using a good ol' pen and paper) with my top six tasks I want to accomplish that day, in order of priority (the original creator of this method, Ivy Lee, says to write your list the night before). The aim is to start with the first task and not move on to anything else until it's finished. If you don't finish all your tasks in a day, you move them to the next day.
  2. Using Trello with boards that list which tasks are ideas, in progress and done.
  3. For the grander vision, I use a white board. (Isn't it funny with all the digital tools available, the ones I like most are physical things?) On a white board, I write out my goals for the quarter, including what I aim to accomplish each month, while leaving room for any unexpected "extras" that might pop up!

In sum, if you're thinking about or are already running a side business while working a day job, don't forget to:

  • get your mindset in check
  • invest in yourself
  • get organized like a boss
  • and figure out when and how you work best.

Get started today.

Grab my free Travelpreneur Checklist here and see if the travelpreneur life is for you.

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Elise Darma

About the Author:

Elise Darmanin believes that "travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer." That's why she makes beaches, coffee shops and co-working spaces her office by working remotely while growing Canupy Content. Canupy is a social media and copywriting agency for small to medium-sized businesses. The Canupy team helps brands grow through social media marketing, copywriting and content strategies that inspire audiences and drive sales.