Career Advice

Real People Share How They Balance Their Jobs & Their Passion Projects

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If you’re not able to pursue your passion at your day job, you have to balance what you love with how you make money—and that’s not always easy. It takes commitment to invest in a side hustle well after you’ve left the office, and after a long, stressful day, that’s usually the last thing you want to do. 

The good news is, it is possible to find that balance. Use these tips from real people who are pursuing their passions while holding down full-time jobs.

Use Professional Skills to Help Your Passion Project 

Megan Meade

  • Day Job: Marketing specialist at Software Path
  • Passion: Professional dog trainer, member of the Scottish World Agility Team 

Meade, who plans to compete at Crufts, an international championship dog show, explains that her project management experience has been key to her success in training. “I created a project board on Asana to manage the different aspects of training I need to commit to,” says Meade. “This includes setting deadlines and tasks to hold myself accountable and progress towards my goals.” 

As professionals, we all have a resume full of useful skills, use some of yours to help you pursue your passions outside of the office. Make a list of your skills and then cross-reference that with what would be helpful for your passion projects.

Prioritize Self-Care

Caitlin Parsons 

While it might seem counterintuitive to take more time to yourself while juggling a job and passion project, Parsons explains that it made her more effective while establishing her business.

“Make your self-care your number 1 priority. When your body and mind feel good, and your cup is full, you’ll have more time, energy, and focus to give towards your side project without feeling depleted.” 

Self-care looks different for everyone, so find what works for you. That might be taking yoga classes each week, enjoying quiet time every morning with your coffee, or watching your favorite movie after a long week.

Pay for the Right Resources to Scale 

Emily Happick 

  • Day Job: Operations success specialist at N2 Publishing
  • Passion: Amateur real estate investor and short term rental owner

While Emily spends her days working for N2 Publishing, she and her husband are working towards becoming real estate investors, starting with the rental properties they own in their community. Happick explains that once they started growing, investing in the right resources and budgeting to do so helped them manage their time. 

“In the hosting industry, we’ve found that attention to detail is important, so we’ve outsourced a cleaner who can accommodate a shorter turnaround time than if we were doing it ourselves around full-time jobs.”

Happick also suggests investing in automation. “We’ve found time is our most valuable resource, which means automation tools are wonderful. Do your research—there are lots of tools out there to help you set up your side-hustle for success. Whether it’s a scheduling app or an auto-messaging app, take time to do research and try it out to see if it’s a good fit.”

Find a Community 

Sarah Durkin 

When Durkin started her business, she was surprised by the warm response from other bakers on Instagram. “The baking community is incredible. No one hesitates to answer questions, give feedback, offer words of encouragement. Even though we’re all doing the same thing and could be considered ‘competition,’ it really is more of a collaborative and supportive environment.”  

Durkin explains how this helped her: “It really made me feel welcome and like I can be successful too. I would encourage others to find that local community.” As you pursue your passions, don’t forget to get out into the community—you may be surprised by the response as well.

Be Realistic with Time Constraints

Heather Taylor 

There are only so many hours in the day. Yet your side project is something you’re personally passionate about, so it can be easy to say yes too much and overextend yourself. Taylor is a freelance writer for other websites, but her main project is the website, Poplcon, and she doesn’t want to give a half-hearted effort to the site and her readers.

“Through trial and error, I have learned not to bite off more than I can chew,” says Taylor. “I would love to do even more freelance writing, but I know my limit (especially while working full-time), and it’s not often feasible with my schedule.”

Create realistic to-do lists and prioritize. Sometimes, you just can’t get it all done so focus on the most important stuff and shift the rest around as needed.

Aim for a Healthy Separation Between Your Passion and Job

James Nuttall 

  • Day Job: Content and outreach manager for Africa Travel
  • Passion: Music journalism

When you have similarities between your full-time job and your side-hustle, it can be easy to let one bleed into the other. However, Nuttall, who creates and develops content and writes for both roles, makes a case for clearly separating the two: 

“My side hustle is completely different to my day job on a practical level but very similar on a creative level. Having a sufficient amount of space and distance between both is very healthy and means I don’t lose my enthusiasm for either my side hustle or my day job.”

Making this space may require you to take on less in either role, allowing you to do avoid becoming overloaded and overwhelmed, which is a quick way to turn your passion into a chore.

Ask for and Accept Help 

Jamie Jackson Spannhake

A common trait of entrepreneurs can be fierce independence, which is good when it comes to building a business, but bad if it isolates you. When burning the candle at both ends, you must reach out and accept help. Spannhake says that her support networks are key to effective time management. Her networks include:

  • In my legal career, it includes colleagues and staff to which I delegate tasks.
  • For my side hustle, it involves reaching out to build a network of people who can give advice and cross-promote.
  • When it comes to my personal life, my support network is a big group of friends who help with childcare, transportation and provide a shoulder to cry on when needed.

Use networking and connections with co-workers and friends to create these support networks for yourself.

Outsource When You Can

Shaan Patel

  • Day Job: Resident physician
  • Passion: Founder and CEO of Prep Expert

Shaan Patel was one of the most unique side-hustlers I spoke with. His company, Prep Expert, an online tool that helps students prepare for the SAT and ACT, is a Shark-Tank funded success story. But while it’s a multi-million dollar company, he still maintains his demanding full-time job as a physician at a hospital. 

While Patel has a unique story, his advice translates to anyone scaling a passion business. “Get yourself to a point where you can assemble an effective team and let them do their jobs. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to want to do everything yourself because, at first, you have to. But as your available time gets tighter and you spread yourself too thin, you will let things fall through the cracks. That’s why I keep my focus on the big picture—company direction, yearly goals, etc. My team handles day-to-day operations.” 

Don’t underestimate the importance of having a Virtual Assistant manage menial tasks, or even asking the next door neighbor’s kid to rake your lawn or shovel your driveway. You don’t need a full-time assistant to make a difference.

Take at Least One Day off a Week 

Daniella Flores

  • Day Job: Software engineer at Mastercard
  • Passion: Creator of the blog I Like to Dabble

Maintaining a full-time job plus a side hustle means you’re working long nights and weekends. While sometimes you have to put in the long hours, burnout is real. Flores explains that she learned through personal experience that she needs at least one day off each week. 

She says, “I take every Saturday off from all work (full-time job, passion project, anything), and that day is dedicated to spending time with my wife and family.” 

Dedicating a day a week might seem like too much to ask, but you’ll come back rested, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle even more. 

Balance Your Job With Your Passion

The most important takeaway from all of these side hustlers is simple: you can make it work. Manage potential burnout by taking time off and avoid overloading yourself. Bring in help where you can and use your professional scales to take your passion project to the next level. Let your passion fuel you in ways your full-time job can’t to find the perfect balance between both.

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