How to Build a Business on the Side Even If You Don’t Have Time

You work full-time somewhere. Maybe you like it, maybe not so much. You’ve been wanting to transition out of your job and get started on your real passion: Your own business.

It could be an online business, or an actual storefront business…maybe even freelancing.

There’s just one major thing stopping you: You don’t have any free time. Like zero. Less than zero. You are in a time-deficit, blackhole time-suck vortex that’s almost at the brink of imploding in on itself and completely collapsing the space-time continuum. *gasp, gasp* *pant*

Ok, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away. But basically…um…How do I say this? Well….Basically, you’re pretty damn busy.

You’re caught on the full-time work treadmill. You can’t stop, you can’t get off. You can’t even slow it down a bit and if you do, bills won’t get paid and life as you know it will cease to exist. You’ll end up living in a van down by the river like Chris Farley’s memorable character from Saturday Night Live.

Here are some strategies to work on your side business even if you’ve got a busy schedule:

1. Block out time in your calendar.

Schedule the time to work on your business. Block it out as though you were completely unavailable for anything else. From 7pm-8pm, you are busy. Not available. Tied up. Attending important matters.

Plan everything else around that time that you’ve scheduled for working on your business.

2. Spend a consistent amount of time each day on your business.

Choose a specific amount of time that you can commit to. Maybe it’s only 30 minutes/day at the beginning. Whatever time you choose, stick to it and do it regularly.

Don’t estimate the time. Use a timer. You need to be accurate. Record the time you spend in a free goal-tracking app like Coach.me.

3. Focus on high-impact tasks.

First a few “don’ts” (hint: these are not high-impact tasks):

  • don’t tweak your web site design endlessly or spend hours fiddling with your logo design
  • don’t do tasks that you’re not skilled at and can hire someone relatively cheaply
  • don’t do anything that seems like work but isn’t directly getting customers in the door (in other words, don’t get caught in “busywork”)

Ask yourself each morning: What actions do I need take that will give me the fastest results?

This question will direct you to take only the actions that will move you forward with your business goals. Don’t just take action, take effective action.

4. Use “dead-time” to learn about business and your industry.

Listen to business podcasts and audiobooks while on the go; driving, walking, exercising, doing chores around the house. You can learn a ton by absorbing this material while doing tasks that are normally “dead-time”.

5. Find online business mentors who can help you shortcut the learning process.

Study people who are doing what you want to do. They’ve been doing things that work, and it’ll probably work for you too. Use their experience to save yourself time and help you learn faster.

There are tons of great online business mentors. Here are some of my favourites:

Fizzle

Corbett Barr, Chase Reeves and Barrett Brooks run the entertaining and informative Fizzle Show and blog, the Sparkline. They also offer high-quality online business training videos through Fizzle. Lots to learn here. Plus, Chase does some pretty good voices and characters. Do not drink anything while listening to their show. You will laugh and definitely choke to death.

Pat Flynn

Pat really is everywhere. Through his web site, Smart Passive Income, he’s got a blog, two extremely popular podcasts, creates useful and entertaining YouTube videos and speaks at events. He’s omnipresent. Perhaps like a Greek god of some sorts. He advocates really taking care of your audience/customer and connecting with them.

Marie Forleo

Marie’s videos are a lot of fun. And she’s super smart and really cares about her audience. She’s had guests on her show like Richard Branson and Tony Robbins. She also answers business-related questions from viewers and always does it in a way that’s positive and motivating…like this one on how to find the courage to do anything.

Shane Melaugh

I like Shane’s down-to-earth, honest and extremely effective approach to marketing. He gives you the details, the how-to’s and the motivation to get going on your projects. He’s the co-founder of Thrive Themes, which builds WordPress themes (I’m using one of their themes for this site), as well as imimpact.com where he produces high-quality videos, podcasts and articles about growing your online business. One of my favourite posts is where he explains how to become highly-skilled at anything, using the Grind.

Rachel Rofe

I found out about Rachel recently and I’m hooked on her stuff now. She’s really positive, helpful and shows that marketing can be done in respectful way. Plus, she’s got a ton of insanely good ideas to help you succeed that I haven’t seen anywhere else online. Check out her podcast where she covers topics from personal development to marketing and online business.

Neil Patel

Neil appears to be some kind of madman genius. Co-founder of KISSmetrics, and Crazy Egg. He writes a ton of content for his sites, including NeilPatel.com and Quicksprout. His posts are often long, detailed, really honest (even talking about his own business mistakes), and super helpful. I’m not sure if he ever sleeps.

If you delve into the entrepreneurs’ material that I’ve listed above, it will save you a ton of time…and you’re strapped for time, so makes sense to look for shortcuts, right?

6. Get an accountability partner.

Get a friend to help you stay on track with your business goals. Maybe once a week, you agree to email your friend a brief update of the actions you took and time spent on your business. Accountability works: you’re going to feel a bit silly if you’ve got nothing to report to your friend at the end of the week.

Join a business meetup. You might be able to connect with someone and offer mutual accountability support to each other.

Hire a coach to keep you accountable, help you draft an action plan and support you when times get tough. Hmm…where can I get one of those? Oh! Maybe right here.

7. Be strategic with your time.

Not Much Free Time

Be strategic with your time if you’ve got a busy schedule.

Where are you wasting time?

Identify routines, behaviours and tasks that you can reduce or eliminate.

Are you shopping for groceries 5 days/week instead of doing bigger grocery runs 2 times/wk? What other errands can you condense into fewer trips?

Are there some “administrative” parts of your life that you can automate? An example of this could be using automatic bill payments or using income and expense tracking software that imports data directly from your bank accounts and credit cards.

Here are a few ideas to make your schedule more efficient:

  • Get groceries delivered to your house.
  • Cook food in larger batches and heat up leftovers for a few days.
  • Make simpler (faster) meals.
  • Cut down on socializing. This can be an enormous time-suck. Nachos and beers for 4 hours at the pub, twice a week? No, no, no. Come on. Entrepreneurs don’t have time for that. Once in awhile, sure, but guard your time carefully.
  • Limit time spent on personal email, texting, social media and the phone. Nothing bad will happen if you wait a few days to get back to people.

8. Get Radical.

If you really want to go for your business goals, you might need to really shake things up completely. No-one said this shit would be easy. You might need to make some uncomfortable changes to get where you want to go.

A few options that could free up your time and responsibilities:

  • Cut expenses (so that you don’t have to work as hard)
  • Sell your house (less financial burden. Also, see below)
  • Sell some possessions (raise money, less responsibility, and…see below)
  • Move to a cheap country and hammer away at your online business (yes, it’s possible for you and lots of people are doing this. Some of them even have kids.)
  • Reduce your work hours at your job
  • Look for a part-time job to replace your current full-time one

Keep open to possibilities that might seem impossible. Our attachments to certain lifestyles can sometimes be our chains. Do whatever it takes to bring on the end of busy.

Objections?

“You don’t understand, Nigel. I’m really busy, I’ve got family responsibilities and I’m too tired to work on a business.”

Solution: Start small.

I mean really small. Commit to just 15 minutes/day on weeknights and 1 hour/day on weekends. That’s impossible too? Start at 5 minutes/day and build the habit of consistency. Of course, if you’re so busy that you don’t have an extra 5 minutes a day, you’ll need to work on some of the other strategies I’ve mentioned here to get control of your time (and life).

Solution: Isolate yourself.

Go to your closest coffee shop to do this. Or the park. Or a park bench. Or an alleyway. Whatever it takes.

If you have a spare room, that will become your work office. And no-one should interrupt you while you’re in your work office. Put a sign on the door, make it clear.

If you were at work, would the people you’re living with phone you or show up at your workplace for something small? No friggin’ way! They would wait till you come home, or they would leave a voicemail on your phone. The people in your house can live without you for short periods of time. Train them. Remind them gently. Your business depends on it.

Solution: Rest.

Too tired, hey? Are you sleeping enough? Are you staying up late watching TV shows or movies? Figure out why you’re tired and do your best to get your energy up.

Are you over-thinking? Anxious? Negatively analyzing the words and actions of your boss, co-workers and other people all day? By doing this, you are wasting your mental energy and it will make you feel tired. Get control of your mind. Become positively-focused.

Solution: Eat real food.

How’s your diet? Are you eating sugar and processed, packaged food regularly? That’s one of the reasons you’re tired. Yes, it matters. Yes, it’s draining you of your energy and mental focus. Cut that out now. Get on top of your diet. Check out the Food Babe web site to start learning about how to eat healthy.

When I cut out sugar completely for four months, that was when my energy was the best it’s ever been. Surprisingly, you won’t miss sugar either once you’re off it.


I hope these ideas help you deal with the time crunch you might be facing. It can be really tricky to work on a side business if you’ve got a full-time job and other responsibilities. Do your best to simplify your schedule. Use some of the time-management techniques that I’ve listed above. Let me know how it goes for you.

What are your strategies for dealing with your busy schedule? Outside of work, what things are taking up your time? Leave a comment below or email me and I’ll reply to you personally.

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About the Author

I'm Nigel and I'm the accountability guru and productivity mastermind.   I offer online accountability coaching to help my clients reach their goals faster and support them every step of the way.   Check out the Online Coaching page to find out how this accountability system will help you reach your business, career, financial, health and personal goals.

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