So I’ve been blogging for over a year now – 119 blog posts, and 855K views later, here I am. Honestly it is still unreal to me that this has become part of my life! If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I precariously balance working as a full-time educator along with this blog and YouTube channel, guest posting for the amazing Dawn Nicole, doing custom lettering work, opening a shop, teaching some workshops… and being a human that values her relationships and health. Am I crazy?! People ask me about how I manage to keep up with this along with my job – so, now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned about working full time and maintaining a side hustle.
ON BALANCING A FULL TIME JOB AND SIDE HUSTLE
It’s a lot of work.
Oh friends, don’t let the pretty pictures and follower counts fool you – this endeavor is not (always) a sexy one. It is a lot of work. If I’m honest I’ll spend anywhere between 10-25 hours a week on these side gigs outside of my regular job hours. There’s a lot of messy bun, mind maps, and thinking hard about next steps. In a side hustle, no one is your boss, so I’ve cultivated a sense of discipline I’ve never had anywhere else. And this is not a miserable thing! I find a lot of meaning in what I do, and love adding value to the bullet journal and lettering communities. However, it’s definitely a huge tab in my brain to maintain momentum and consistency on blogging, business development, and social media.
If you were curious about my typical week…
If you didn’t know, we do NOT have kids and they aren’t part of our current plan, so this means my capacity will look a little differently than yours – adjust accordingly!
This breakdown is definitely not perfect – the tasks are fluid depending on what’s happening in my life – but it gives a sense of some of the things that go on behind the scenes at PPP HQ. This does NOT mean that my side hustle takes over my entire life. I’ll talk more about that later in this post.
Done is better than perfect.
This was ever the lesson! Related to my next point, I just don’t have capacity to wait until something is perfect, ultra-thorough before I press publish or I wouldn’t do anything. In the spirit of experimentation, I have very little qualms of getting something to about a 90% and then tweaking continually later on. The process is iterative the more I learn – since I will never know everything I need to know, it almost gives me permission to be done. The effort spent to get that last 10% could be better spent elsewhere. I am more stringent on the standards if it’s a paid gig, but for my own stuff, I give myself grace.
I have my limits.
As much as I’d like to pretend I’m a superhuman, I have definitely found my limits and have embraced them. As a full-time employee, there are choices that I’ve actively made in order to keep this hustle joyful and sustainable. For example:
- I choose to take all my videos and images on my phone to keep things simple rather than learning a whole new set of tools and video equipment that might add more barriers than help. I also keep my YouTube editing VERY minimal. Of course it’d be nice to have really nice video set ups – but that’s not within my capacity right now and that’s ok!
- Keeping my domain on a wordpress.com rather than shift to wordpress.org. Wordpress.org allows for more flexibility and ad revenue. Although it’d be cool, it does come with a lot of maintenance work, which I don’t have capacity to do
- Keeping social media simpler with 1 Instagram post a day (2 if it works out), and 2 posts of some sort that week, then engaging however I can throughout the week. I used to do 2 or even 3 a day and now I’m like… Nah
- Knowing that there are a ton of great blog-development ideas like mailing lists, Facebook groups, etc and choosing NOT to do them
- I receive a lot of requests for partnerships, custom work, or sponsored posts. It’s taken a while, but I’ve become comfortable naming my rates for these things and being OKAY if they say no. Since this IS a side-gig, I can be more selective about the work I choose to do and know I can still pay the bills
This isn’t just a blog-related lesson – Brene Brown emphasizes that those who can embrace their limits and boundaries are those who have the capacity to be most compassionate and whole-hearted. I learned this the hard way last year when everything came to a head at holiday-time when I nearly lost it. I needed to embrace saying no – because actually, knowing what I say no to means I can confidently say YES to something else!
Create systems & streamline.
Productivity folks tout the benefits of creating patterns and routines in our lives – it takes up less energy to make decisions and work through a problem when you can rely on familiarity to guide you. That’s how systems work for me. I used to work at a coffee shop and got really good at making 2-3 drinks at a time because I was so familiar with how to start steaming milk over here while I was prepping the base of another drink there. The same sort of process emerged for me with writing posts and editing video. The more familiar I got to my rhythm, the easier it got to cut down on transition time, which makes these logistical back-end pieces less cumbersome.
Systems and processes I rely on:
- Creating a monthly editorial calendar. Although this takes me a bit of time in one sitting, it’s worth having a full month forecasted on what I’m writing and what I’m preparing in order to make the most of spare moments.
- I use Canva for my blog and video images, so I’m always making copies of existing files and quick changing out photos for new posts instead of starting from scratch
- Keeping a calendar of my social media posts (above). I participate in a few Instagram challenges every month, so I keep this overview so I can pick and choose what content I’d like to create
- Batching tasks. To capitalize on work flow, I try to batch similar tasks together so my brain doesn’t have to switch tabs so much. If I need to do some pointed pen calligraphy, I’ll do multiple so I get out supplies once and get multiple images out of it. I’ll either spread out the small tasks or group them together. This is CRUCIAL if you are working full time – I will set aside a concentrated amount of hours to get a bunch of these done so I don’t have to split my attention many times throughout the work-week.
- Social media scheduling systems like Hootsuite for the same reason as the above – to concentrate on social media for a single hour rather than multiple chunks of minutes throughout the work week
It takes a village.
If there’s anything I learned, it’s that many people support one another for success. Of course the most paramount is my partner, Mr. PPP, who is astoundingly supportive by leveraging his strengths in cooking and doing some extra housework knowing that I’m working on this business. If I had to do ALL of it, I would not be here right now!
I also rely on friends in the community for inspiration and support. My lucky stars have brought the amazing Kim (@tinyrayofsunshine) and Kara (@boho.berry) into my life and have become a master-mind group to share successes and challenges and encourage one another. I’m part of a Creative Team with Dawn Nicole and am constantly getting mentored by other incredible powerhouses in my art and in developing my blog. With Lettering League I rely on my spunky partners in crime, Rani, Crystal, and Jenn. These are people I never dreamed of meeting until I got into this work – so who can you partner with?
And of course, I rely on the overall bullet journal community to help write guest posts to continue sharing value with all of you. That help has been crucial to any kind of success I have – I stand on the shoulders of giants.
I must design the schedule.
All of this to say, I DO have other things going on in my life! I spend a lot of time with my family, I travel, I have friends (LOL) – and although of course this has become a big part of my time, I have gotten more intentional with creating the schedule around the things that are important to me. It isn’t as rigid as you might think – it actually allows me to be even more fluid.
Each week, Mr. PPP and I sit down for a Sunday meeting to go over the week. This is when we get on the same page about our evening commitments, meals, big tasks, etc. I schedule my side-hustle time like I schedule my workouts, the week’s blog posts, happy hours, and so on. Sometimes I’ll say no to an invitation because I really want to put in some time into a project, but I try to make room for these connections that give me so much life. That’s why I try to have so many high-level overviews of things as possible (like the time chart of my job above), so I know what’s going on, where there is space, and can arrange tasks and commitments to adapt to what I need. For example, if I find out a friend is coming into town, I know enough about what other commitments I have that week to rearrange days and work ahead in other ways in order to make ample time to see them. As I said, it’s structured but can be VERY fluid when things come up.
Overall, these are the biggest takeaways of being a full-time employee and a side-hustler. I’ve learned my limits and made more active choices than I ever have in my life. It gets messy, it’s a lot of work sometimes, people can be mean about the stuff you put out there, but somehow I’m keeping it together. Give yourself the permission to do what you need to do to keep your passion project a PASSION.
Do you do something similar? What’s been your biggest learning? I’d love to know in the comments!