I've dedicated myself to a side project this year called Blurt. It's been a journey.
I started out simply aiming to make $1. About a month ago, stoked I had done that, I set out to get just 10 more people using it. Now that I've done that, as of last week, I'm working to turn Blurt into something worth pursuing full-time.
I'd be lying if I said I hadn't nearly lost my shit or come close to giving up more than once. I'm grateful for Blurt's early adopters, my family and friends and the community over at WIP.chat for supporting and joining me on this adventure. It's been hard work managing both a full-time job and a side project. Below are some thoughts on my experience so far.
Work = Funding startup
I've begun thinking of my job as funding my startup. It can suck going to a place eight hours, five days a week when all you want to do is work on your thing, but you need to fund it.
Funding it affords you stability and you need that for yourself and your family. Think Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. You need the income to provide shelter, wellness and elimination of stressors. You also need to save it to pay for basic needs should you decide to pursue your business full-time.
Framing my job in this way has kept me motivated. It's also made me wiser and more frugal with money. An important entrepreneurial skill in of itself. I'm also looking at other ways to save costs, possibly relocate and better position my lifestyle for the entrepreneurial endeavor.
Lessening work load
It's been necessary for me to find a way to lessen my burden at work. I'd suggest having a conversation with your employer, but not if it puts your job in jeopardy.
I've found it comforting to understand what's expected of me and work no more than expected. Setting these personal boundaries allows me to preserve my mental capacity and time for my project. Some employers see the value in employees having side projects, but I know it could possibly be a career risk for others.
I've had others suggest I consider freelancing as an alternative to a full-time job. The Product Spectrum is a great, short read on why it'd be a good first step towards founding a business. Ultimately, I fear freelancing would be a distraction—finding work, building reputation, etc.—from where I'm at now. For now I'm managing working full-time and the side-project but may consider it down the road should I walk away from the job and savings run out…
I try hard to work one full eight hour day on weekends. I realize this may be tough if you have a family, but it has been necessary to give Blurt the focus it needs.
I also get out of the house. Home should be a place to recover and relax. Instead I have a coffee shop I post up in for eight hours and have at it. Not sure if I should be proud that they'll let me stay after they close now... Working outside the house really eliminates distractions and makes my work more purposeful.
I get 8 hours of rest. It's tempting to stay up late but I've learned the hard way that this ruins your productivity. You have no mental capacity after a few days of it and you're no good at any of your roles as employee, founder or father. Sleep is more valuable than we realize. It's incredible how often I solve problems in my sleep or wake up rejuvenated after a rough day. Also try to take breaks when you feel frustrated.
I've involved family so they understand why I'm working so much and why the sacrifice is worth it to me. I've also tried to explain the potential, though unlikely, upside.
Involving family makes it much more real. It's not some dream. It's something I'm actively working on. It holds you accountable to attaining it. I feel much more conviction and desire to achieve it having including them. They've also been incredibly supportive which I've needed at times of weakness.
Speaking of which, it's important to maintain some sanity in your life. There's a tendency to want to work hard all the time once you commit but ultimately you'll burn out. I've done it once already.
It's important to continue to exercise, eat well, invest in our relationships and have some fun. If you're working all the time, you will inevitably burn out. Kudos if you don't but I think it's important to retain some normalcy. It keeps your aspirational perspectives accurate. When you over invest your efforts in your project, I think there's a dangerous tendency to over value it. Developing a good routine is important but it needs to be flexible. Also having a therapist or close friend to confide in and gain some distance has been incredibly helpful. Be brutally honest with yourself. Keep your mental physical self well.
A little bit every day
When you can't commit full-time, you have to accept that it's going to take a little longer. The reality is you aren't someone who has no commitments or funding. While frustrating, I do find accepting it makes me more efficient with my time. It's also made me see the importance of staying committed. You see and appreciate your progress over time. Once you see progress, you feel even more motivated, but you have to accept it takes time.
Understand the odds are against you
Starting and keeping a business alive is hard. Really hard. It's a marathon, not a sprint. And there's only so much time in a day, week, year. You just have to do my best at any given moment.
For myself, having a reasonably sized, highly prioritized to do list has been helpful. I have thrown my to do list out more than once when it got too long and overwhelming. You'll know what's most important. Just focus on what you can and always do your best.
You're also the only one that cares about your business like you do. You have to work hard to understand if this is something others will care about. And if it is something you think others will care about, you'll have to work really hard to make sure they know about it. It's rewarding to get some traction but you have to keep it going. The business relies on your efforts every day and you have to persevere to beat the odds. "If it were easy, everyone would be doing it," so figure out what works best for you to beat the odds.
Thoughts? Do you have a side project you're working on with a full-time job? How are you managing to stay sane? Do you have any good tactics for maintaining sanity or beating the odds to share?
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