3 tips for balancing a side hustle with a full-time job

Simon Slade, Contributor
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One of the biggest deterrents that keeps creatives and entrepreneurs from pursuing a side hustle is the fear of being overwhelmed. This type of balancing act is no easy feat — your apprehension is warranted. Whether your side hustle is a simple creative project or a full-blown second business, the idea of taking on additional responsibility while working full-time can seem impossible, especially if your full-time job requires the typical 9-to-5 office presence.

A side hustle is usually categorized as a secondary (or even tertiary) income-producing activity, but many people have an ongoing, demanding project at home that doesn't produce any income. Perhaps you're planning a wedding, restoring an old car, or writing a novel — all the while hammering away at your primary job that pays the bills. Our hobbies are important because they increase our quality of life. Even if your secondary project isn't bringing home any cash, it could eventually. Even if it never does, it is still vital to your happiness.

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Learning to balance your side hustle with your full-time job can be helpful even if you don't think of your activity as a side hustle. Use these tips to avoid overwhelm and maintain a healthy professional balance, even as your secondary project grows in scope.

1. Create specific hours

Unless you are lucky enough to be a remote worker with flexible hours, you likely have a standard schedule for your full-time job. This might be the typical office hours or an evening shift at a restaurant. Regardless, your primary job gets the luxury of a schedule: time reserved solely for that purpose. Your secondary pursuit should get the same level of commitment.

I recommend trying to work on your secondary project every day, even for just a half hour. Routine is key. Identify what portion of your off hours are most productive and use that time for your secondary project. Because your time with this project is limited, your effort should be maximized. In the early days of business, many entrepreneurs work late nights, early mornings and long weekends to get their project off the ground. If they can do it, so can you.

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2. Get comfortable with the word "no"

One of the greatest keys to success in any endeavor is learning to prioritize and maintain your limits. No one is at their best when stretched thinly across too many responsibilities — a risk that becomes very real when balancing a side hustle and full-time job.

Both at your job and with your side hustle, you need to learn to say "no." It might sound like a simple task, but it can be surprisingly hard for ambitious, hard-working people (the type of people that tend to have a full-time job and a demanding side project at the same time). If your boss asks you to mentor a new employee, it might sound like an exciting opportunity to earn some professional stripes. But before you jump at the chance, think about how it will affect your performance in both your side hustle and your other responsibilities at work.

Productive, efficient leaders know how much time they can spare on an additional task or responsibility. If you don't have the bandwidth, don't take it on.

3. Look for crossover opportunities

Be on the lookout for serendipitous moments where the work you're doing at your full-time job can also help with your side hustle. Maybe you are putting together a content marketing strategy for your website and your boss just happens to pitch the idea of attending a training session aimed at improving digital marketing skills. Voilá — the hours spent at that training will serve you well at your primary job while also potentially yielding a few new tricks for your side hustle.

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While moments like this might be rare, pay close attention to other possible crossovers between your side project and your full-time job. You might find less obvious ways that the two fit together. When you find certain skills or activities that can serve both your side hustle and your full-time job, practice them. Not only will your side project thrive, but it's likely your boss and colleagues will notice your dedication and improvements at work, too.

You are your biggest priority

It's rare, if ever, that one can find the perfect balance between their side hustle and full-time job. You'll need to constantly be ready to adjust on the fly. There will be moments of perfect synergy and moments of exhaustion, but each one will teach you more about how to balance these parts of your life.

Above all, maintain your own health and sanity. Remember that without you, there is no balance between your side hustle and your full-time job. You are the crux of all of this and, therefore, you are your biggest priority.

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