You don't need to struggle to make a living.

Brianne Hogan
Updated March 11, 2020
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In today’s economic climate, the traditional nine-to-five job no longer exists. In fact, more than 57 million workers in America are now freelancers or contractors with nearly half of Americans turning to side hustles to make ends meet. And according to a GoDaddy survey, one in three millennials has another job, which makes them the side-hustlin’ generation. Why? Because millennials have tons of student debt, big dreams, and a desire to bring more meaning into their careers. It’s no wonder asking, “What’s your side hustle?” is just as natural as asking, “What are you watching on Netflix right now?” at a social gathering. It’s the perfect way to earn more money while also working on something that you’re passionate about.

There’s just one catch: Your main job requires a lot of your time and energy. And while you want to be at two places at once, you’re most definitely not a machine. So how can you do both? And when will you know it’s time to drop your main gig in order for your side hustle to thrive? We asked the tough questions to a panel of life and career coaches and successful side-hustlers on how to balance your main job with your side hustle.

How to balance your side hustle while you work at your main job

1Create a schedule and keep the side hustle separate from your job.

While side hustles don’t get a normal nine-to-five commitment, leadership coach Jennifer Maynard of Ama La Vida, says it’s important to keep your side hustle separate to create structure. “The best tool for managing a side hustle is the use of your calendar,” she tells HelloGiggles. “Be very clear about when you’re working your full-time job and when you’re working your side hustle. Use your calendar to set blocks of work for both roles separately.” She also discourages tackling your two jobs at once. “Bouncing between actions or multi-tasking can make you much less productive. Every time you stop and shift [your focus], your brain has to start from scratch,” she adds.

Creating a schedule helps Rachel Bush, a full-time marketer at a digital agency by day, who’s also the owner and founder of Honey & Hive, which makes custom cookbooks for weddings.

“I’ve found what works well for me is carving out tasks for certain mornings for particular tasks and sticking to [the list],” Bush says. For example, every Friday morning, she works on admin tasks that are necessary but don’t feel immediately productive. “Over time, it has transformed my work. It’s the small tasks that as a solo entrepreneur, you are tempted to put off. But the sooner you build a routine, the better [it will be] for your business long-term,” she says. Another tip? Understanding what time of day works best for you to get more done, more efficiently.

“I [prefer writing and completing] my creative tasks in the morning and [earlier] in the week before I [do] my full-time work,” she says.

2Play the long game.

Whether you’re starting a side hustle to make extra cash or you hope that it will help whisk you away from the doldrums of your office job, be prepared to wait a little before the cash comes flowing into your bank account.

“It’s common to get frustrated when developing a side hustle, especially if you’re used to [receiving] a paycheck on a regular basis,” Annelies M. Gentile, a leadership and integrative life coach, tells HelloGiggles. “When you start your own business, big or small, you’ll need to get used to putting in a lot of effort before money comes in. Unless it’s some kind of overnight sensation, success takes time to build.” Lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Romi Neustadt, and author of You Can Have It All, Just Not at the Same Damn Time, knows what it’s like to want to throw in the towel.

3Limit distractions as much as possible.

A side hustle can be hard to manage if you aren’t managing your time well and not removing distractions, whether it’s your phone, Netflix account, or your family. When in the midst of a dilemma, do you check your Twitter feed or work on your marketing campaign? Maynard suggests asking yourself, “’If I scroll my news feed for one hour, is this a good use of my time, or [am I] taking away [time] from my side hustle? If I choose to binge-watch this show, is this a good use of my time or [am I] taking away [time] from my side hustle?” Some common distraction points for Maynard’s clients include social media and spouses. If your spouse or partner is giving you a hard time, Maynard suggests reminding them that just because you’re not at your full-time job doesn’t mean you’re available to chat at that moment.

4Be realistic about your finances.

Some side hustles won’t require any start-up money or overhead while others will. When embarking upon your second job, it’s important to consider your expenses. This might mean starting a Kickstarter campaign like Bush did or asking your partner, parents, or other loved ones to invest in you. No matter what, “allow yourself a strict amount of money you’re willing to spend on things, and stick to it,” says Bush. “It’s very easy to justify small purchases that will not be worth the expense over time.”

5Be prepared to make sacrifices.

While it’s easy to think that cutting back on hanging out with your friends or skipping the latest Netflix craze is taking away from your downtime, Neustadt likes to think of them as “exchanges.”

“I exchanged some things for other [things] in order to have the life I really wanted. I knew that I had to stick to my priorities, and if I was going to have time for my health, my family, and growing my business, I couldn’t say yes to anything that didn’t serve those priorities,” she says. “I didn’t watch TV for several years, and I said no to requests to be a class mom, head up a fundraising committee, and teach Sunday school at our synagogue. I didn’t say yes to every social invite [either,] and there were nights when [my husband] did bedtime with the kids [by himself] so that I could [complete more] work.” But in Neustadt’s case, it was so worth it. “My side hustle grew into a business that surpassed my wildest dreams and has given me and my husband more choices on how we work and play and raise our kids.”

6Don’t forget your self-care.

If you’re working non-stop hours from one job to the next, it’s easy to suffer from burnout very quickly. Throughout her side hustle journey, Neudstadt says she soon recognized that it was essential to carve out time for herself to stay healthy and sane. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of ignoring our basic needs as humans in order to get more done. But let’s face it, if we’re not healthy, there’s no way we can juggle a job and another business, [in addition to] relationships, kids, and more,” she says. This is why Neudstadt made sure to schedule time for self-care, “even if some days it was [just] a 15-minute walk or a date night with my husband,” she adds.

7Know that it’s okay to quit your side hustle.

Sometimes our side hustle isn’t working, and that’s okay. “If [your side hustle] is costing you more than you’re making, creating a spiraling mound of debt or you’re simply not enjoying it anymore because it’s [become] emotionally taxing, it may be time to stop the side hustle or adapt your approach to shake things up,” says Gentile, who recommends either working with a coach to help you or doing a personal assessment and evaluation of investment versus effort on a regular basis. “It’s okay to make new choices anytime you need,” she adds.

8Your side hustle doesn’t need to be perfect—just take action and have fun.

When times get a little tough, and they will, it’s easy to think you don’t have what it takes for your side hustle or that’s it not worth your energy anymore. But if your side hustle is something that lights you up, then Maynard says even taking the smallest of steps is progress.

Adds Bush: “You don’t need to be ‘special’ to follow an idea or a passion. People just do things. And it doesn’t need to be perfect or in millennial pink or get a lot of likes on Instagram to be [considered] valuable and good.”

Maynard recommends regularly asking yourself: Will the action you are taking right now lend itself to the bigger vision? Is it part of the plan? Will it generate the revenue you need? “Ask yourself some deep-coaching questions and hold yourself accountable to the actions related to the end goal,” she says.

Ultimately, when it comes to your side hustle, Bush says, “Trust your gut and have fun with it, whenever possible.”