Moonlighting as an entrepreneur is difficult while working a 9-5 — there’s no way to sugar coat it. Eight hours at work plus another 1-2 hours in commuter traffic can be taxing on your energy levels, especially when you’re in the beginning stages of starting an online lifestyle business. The beginning stages are the most difficult: Registering your business, ensuring that you’re diligent with your tax prep documentation, researching new strategies, learning new tools, etc. The beginning stages involve most of the necessary grunt work which is usually time-consuming and not all that glamorous.
So although you may want to start your own online business while keeping your regular job, after a long day at work you’re probably going to be tired and lacking focus. Weekends might seem like a better opportunity to get work done instead but with the usual chores of laundry, house cleaning, shopping and spending time with friends and family there’s typically not much time left over anyways.
Being in this cycle can cause a lot of dead ends and it can stop new entrepreneurs from pursuing their online businesses in a serious way. Often it starts off with them saying they’ll try again tomorrow or next week but over time that can turn into weeks and months with no progress made at all. This entire situation can make entrepreneurs feel dejected and even more reluctant to put any time into their business once more and more time passes.
If this sounds familiar, know that you’re not alone. It’s totally possible to recover from this cycle and to get started on your business again.
So whether you’ve been in this cycle before and you want to break out of it once and for all, or if you’re just wanting to start your first online business while still holding down your day job, these are some tips you can use to keep yourself on track.
Take One Step at a Time
First of all, take things one step at a time. You may get stalled at a step while waiting for someone to reply to an email or maybe you hit a roadblock that takes some thinking to get around but try not to jump ahead or around too much. When you begin jumping around, you can end up missing steps and rushing through to get to more exciting parts of the business building process.
Second of all, be patient with yourself. Don’t overwhelm yourself with feeling like you have to constantly be working on your business and putting in all the hours you possibly can. Yes, that might get you progress, but that’s not a sustainable way to build your business over a long period of time. When you’re working on your side hustle while also working 9-5, acknowledge that it’s a marathon and not a sprint, so don’t go too hard too fast. Be patient with your business, with yourself and with your growth over time. There’s no such thing as an overnight success.
Organization is Key
Everyone has their own method for staying organized but two things usually help most entrepreneurs: Evernote and building a Brand Bible.
Evernote is one of those classic productivity tools that’s been around (it seems) since the dawn of the internet and since then, every and any entrepreneur has used it as their digital notebook to take down notes they need for their business on a regular basis.
It can be used to keep notes on product ideas, business information, contact information for suppliers, warehouses, customs brokers, etc. or even business name ideas, domain name ideas, etc. Evernote is also a great tool to use because you can have the app on your phone so whenever an idea comes to you or you need to quickly reach out to a supplier, you’ve got the info right there with you on the go.
Another way to keep your business organized is with a Brand Bible. We discuss the concept of a brand bible in more depth in our A Better Brand: Ecommerce Branding Guide but essentially, your Brand Bible is a physical (or digital, if that works better for you!) copy of your business that houses all your business information like your brand colors, font styles, logo designs, product photography shots, receipts, orders, business card layouts, templates, certificates, contracts, contact lists, and anything else that’s relevant to your business.
Not only is a Brand Bible a great way to keep all that information in one place so you know where to access it in case you ever do need to reference it again, but it becomes a symbol of your journey and a reminder of what you’re working towards. It can help make your online business seem more tangible which can help you get through the tough times.
When you’ve lost momentum with your online business, which can happen to seasoned entrepreneurs just as easily as it can happen to new entrepreneurs, always come back to Persistent Starting. Persistent Starting is one of the best systems to get yourself back on track after you’ve fallen off the wagon, so to speak. It not only works great for getting back to building your online business, but it can work to help you get back on track with other healthy habits you want to integrate into your daily life.
The concept of Persistent Starting is simple: Each day you have to be persistent at starting your task. Your task could be anything: Brainstorming product ideas, searching for a product, finding a manufacturer, setting up your website, sending an email, etc. Any task that gets you one step closer to your goal of starting your online business. Pick your task for the day and just start.
It sounds simple, but it’s the act of actually putting it into practice that becomes difficult. So, to make it less difficult, the next step in Persistent Starting is to set a timer. Often, the hardest part is just getting started with your task, but when you set a timer for 10 minutes and tell yourself that all you have to do is work on your task for 10 minutes then you can stop, it makes the task much more easy to commit to! Suddenly you don’t have one big giant task looming ahead of you, you just have to sit down for 10 minutes and get as much done in that 10 minutes as you can.
Often, once those 10 minutes are up you’ll have gotten into a groove and won’t feel like stopping so you’ll continue until the task is complete, or at least until a large chunk of it is. But, if you haven’t gotten into the groove of things and you still don’t feel like working on the task, then stop. No conditions or mind games. Let yourself do something else without feeling guilty.
The next step in the process of Persistent Starting is to do this every night. Think of it this way: The worst that can come out of it is that you lose 10 minutes of your evening and the best that can come out of it is you get something done for your business every night! If it helps, schedule in that time to work on your business and honor it like it’s an important appointment. You can’t be late for it, you can’t reschedule it and you can’t miss it.
Persistent starting is all about being consistent, even if it’s just 10 minutes per day, so focus on achieving that one day at a time.
The Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle is a common school of thought used in the business community and is often discussed as being the 80/20 rule: Do 20% of the work to get 80% of the results.
When you’re working on building your online business in your spare time, everything you do needs to count. You have no time to waste and better yet, if you can do less to get more then why wouldn’t you?! Through every step of the business building process, find a way to do 20% of the work to get 80% of the result.
No Zero Days
We’ve discussed this concept before in our article, Quotes & Videos that Will Inspire & Motivate You to Take Major Action, because it’s a productivity tool and school of thought that rocked the internet when it was first published and since then has developed a cult following that has helped people all over the world accomplish tasks not only in business but in their personal lives as well.
The concept of “No Zero Days” was created by a Reddit user by the name of “Ryans01” when he was responding to a post made by another user who was struggling with motivation and productivity. “Ryans01” gave several pieces of good advice to the original poster, but what became a sensation across the internet was this particular section of his reply:
Rule numero uno – There are no more zero days. What’s a zero day? A zero day is when you don’t do a single fucking thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on. No more zeros.
I’m not saying you gotta bust an essay out everyday, that’s not the point. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to make yourself, promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system.
Didn’t do anything all fucking day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non zero. You feel me? When you’re in the super vortex of being bummed your pattern of behavior is keeping the vortex goin, that’s what you’re used to.
Turning into productivity ultimate master of the universe doesn’t happen from the vortex. It happens from a massive string of CONSISTENT NON ZEROS. That’s rule number one. Do not forget. ― Ryans01
The concept is simple and can be applied to starting your business: Every day is a non-zero day, no matter how tired you are when you get home from work, no matter how little time you have to work on your business and no matter whether you’re stuck waiting for someone to move the needle on their end. Doing even one thing makes that day a non-zero day, and every day that is a non-zero day will add up to create a consistent string of non-zeros. Aim for that.
Outsource What You Can
When you’re working a full-time job while also working on your side hustle, outsourcing can make all the difference in the world. You don’t have as much time to dedicate to building your business as someone who’s quit their job to pursue their online business full time, so to make consistent progress, outsourcing some tasks is one of the best decisions you can make.
Consider outsourcing tasks that are particularly time-consuming to complete or ones that you’d have to spend a lot of time learning about in order to get done well. Ultimately, outsourcing can save you time in the long run, and time is money, especially when you don’t have a lot of it to work with in the first place.
These are some tasks you can outsource and services you can outsource them to:
- Store Development to Carson or StoreTasker
- Bookkeeping to Shoeboxed or Quickbooks Online
- Accounting to Bench Accounting
- Sales Tax to TaxJar
- Social Media to Kicksta
- Content Creation to iWriter, Upwork, Fiverr, Writer Access, Article Writing Co., JobRack, WordGeeks, Content Fly
- Product Photo Editing to Pixc
- Logo Creation to Looka or Tailor Brands
- Supplier Sourcing with Sourcify
- Freight Forwarding with Flexport
- Administration Assistant Tasks to Virtual Assistants on Upwork or Fiverr
- Your Business Mailbox to Anytime Mailbox
Since you need to make the most of the time that you do have, don’t waste time doing work that’s already done for you. Use resources that are at your disposal like reputable services, online classes, directories, and guides so you can save time having to learn everything the hard way or searching for things through page after page of Google. Use what others have already made available to you so you can skip to the important parts.
These are some shortcuts you can take to build parts of your business, faster:
- Save your time setting up a self-hosted online store and set up your store using a hosted service like Shopify or BigCommerce instead
- Take online classes to help you learn new skills via Skillshare
- Setup your email newsletter on a service provider that offers newsletter templates like Klaviyo or Mailchimp
- Check out AppSumo for deals on tools that will help you run your business in ways you may have never thought of before
- Use supplier directories like our Drop Shipping Suppliers Directory, Manufacturer Directory, Clothing Manufacturer Directory, Private Label Manufacturers Directory and Wholesale Suppliers Directory to source suppliers, as well as the Maker’s Row manufacturer directory
- Use tools like our One Page Ecommerce Business Plan to help you set up your startup from scratch
- Find the best shipping & packaging suppliers in the industry with our Shipping & Packaging Manufacturers Directory
- Use our 500 Ecommerce Niches Guide to hone in on your niche & find your ideal target market
- Use our Ecommerce Launch Checklist to make sure you don’t miss a step in the launching process
- Creating beautiful social media images with template packs from Creative Market, like these 25 Instagram Templates for Ecommerce Businesses or these 10 Facebook Post Templates for Ecommerce Businesses
- Find graphic design resources like stock photos, stock videos, font marketplaces, color palette generators and more in our roundup of 200+ Free & Premium Graphic Design Resources article
Automate, Automate, Automate
Automation is your friend. Use any and every automation tool that makes sense for your business and will help it run more efficiently. It helps to have things working in the background when you can’t be working on your business, so make use of automation tools to keep things moving when you’re at work.
These are some aspects of your business you can automate:
- Create viral marketing campaigns with ViralSweep and Vyper.io
- Automate social media posting with Buffer, MissingLettr or SmarterQueue
- Recover abandoned shopping carts with Jilt
- Backup & protect your online store with Rewind
- Monitor your store’s up/downtime status (if you’re self-hosting) using UpDown.io
- Boost your conversions with social proof using the FOMO tool
- Keep track of your Search Engine Ranking Positions with SERPWatcher
Focus on What Works
It can be tempting to do everything at once as there are so many different things to do when starting up your business but concentrate on what works for your business so you can spend time putting more energy into what’s going well rather than trying to force things that aren’t working.
This can apply to almost anything when it comes to your online business but it’s especially prevalent when it comes to marketing. Sure, you can put your startup out there on every social media channel and marketing service in order to get exposure, but if you spread yourself too thin trying to be great at all of them, chances are none of them will be effective for you.
Find what works and stick to it, even if it’s different from what everyone else is doing or telling you to do. Once you have more time or more hands on deck to dedicate to building out other marketing channels or other parts of your business, then you can focus on them. Until then, focus on what works and put all of your efforts into that.
Use Remote Management Tools
There’s so much that can be done with smartphones these days, especially when it comes to managing and running an online business so take advantage of that! Make use of apps on your phone so you can manage your business while you’re on the go or while your at your 9-5 (just don’t tell your boss!).
It can be anything that helps you get work done on your business while you’re not at your home desk. Maybe it’s the Shopify app so you can track your sales on the go, maybe it’s the HelpScout email helpdesk app so you can contact suppliers and respond to customers on your lunch break, maybe it’s the Skillshare app so you can enrich your knowledge while you’re on your daily commute, maybe it’s Google Docs so you can write blog posts at your local coffee shop, maybe it’s Todoist so you can write your to-do list of tasks to complete after work.
Whatever tools you can use on the go to make the time that you do have to work on your business more efficient, download them to your smartphone so they’re ready and waiting to be used when you have some time to spare.
For more apps like these ones that you can use to run your business the go, check out our roundup of 20 Business Smartphone Apps for Entrepreneurs:
- Shopify for iPhone
- Shopify for Android
- HelpScout for iPhone
- Skillshare for iPhone
- Skillshare for Android
- Google Docs for iPhone
- Google Docs for Android
- Todoist for iPhone
- Todoist for Android
Some parts of getting an online lifestyle business up and running are fun, some aren’t. Some are easy, some are hard. At some points you will be motivated and energized, other times you will be exhausted and ready to surrender. Always keep in mind the reason you are doing this. What’s your motivation? Take things one step at a time, stay organized, keep going and use the resources available to you.