Building Your Business Part-Time

When you make the commitment to start your own business on the side, you’re making a big investment of time, energy and money into something that has a fair bit of risk attached to it.  Most new ventures don’t succeed and many fail spectacularly.

Now imagine how much more difficult it’s going to be part-time…

Hold the phone, not so fast.

You see, one of the biggest complaints I get from coaching students and people that I speak to in general is that they don’t have enough hours in a day.  They all tell me that they’d love to spend every working hour doing something for their business.

If only they could do that, they’d be a roaring success.

I often call BS on this.  I know enough people (including myself) who’ve done this successfully part-time that would happily tell you that not having virtually unlimited time was a key part of the reason they succeeded!

How can that be, Sean?  Surely if you spent more time in your businesses you’d do even better because you’d get more done.  Those thousand little things that are buried on your “to do” lists would get ticked off and all of those things would add up to propel your business faster.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that I’m afraid.

One thing that I attribute much of my success online to is not having unlimited time to work on things.  Because I only have a few hours a night and maybe 10 hours on the weekend, I have to get very specific about what I do.  I have to focus my attention on doing the things that I have to do to keep things moving forward and then I can work on things that will have the most impact but can get done in the time I have available.

I learned this working on large-scale IT projects years ago.  If you largely have unlimited time to do something, you’re almost certainly never going to actually finish.  You’ll put things off, you’ll refactor your ideas, you’ll get lost in meaningless levels of detail and everything will just meander along at a snail’s pace.

Right now in my day job, I’m working on a really interesting concept to solve a problem that is ridiculously complex.  In fact, this is a problem that I’ve faced and dealt with for YEARS in a previous job and with almost unlimited resources struggled to solve.  Admittedly, some of the problems ten years ago were related to the fact that the technology to solve the problem was in its infancy, but some of it was a lack of time and resource pressure – we could just keep working on a solution.

This time it’s different.  A client has asked us to come up with a solution to this problem and they didn’t put any time constraints on it.  Like my previous employer in their field, they’ve never been able to adequately solve this problem either over the last decade.  The first thing I did when I got back to the office with our internal team working on this was to say, “Let’s have our conceptual design done in two weeks and ready to present to the client for their feedback.”

It’s a seriously complicated problem but if we all just kept it floating around the background while we went on with other work for other clients, we’d never get around to figuring it out.

When you relate that back to your business, it’s about putting time boxes around tasks that are important and focusing on getting those things done.  If you don’t have the time to solve the problem, then don’t do it – find something else to apply your limited time to.

The other thing with this work project that I’ve done is I’ve clearly advocated that we do a high-level conceptual design and present it to the client with some rough financials before we invest heavily in figuring it out.  The normal process for solution architecture is to do a reasonably deep dive on requirements, document that and then pull together a statement of work to fulfil a design brief.

Problem is, the client may not like the answer, there might be some weird contractual issue we’re not aware of or they simply may think it’s going to be too expensive.  So we could end up investing a month of time for three or four people only to find that our client isn’t really able to proceed.

Again, pulling this back to your business, when you have limited time you should be doing things iteratively, getting feedback from the market or your customers and only investing substantially in something when you know you’re going to get a return.  Some people refer to this as “Minimum Viable Product” but really it could be a process in your business or a new product design, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a product offering.

So when you’re in a situation where you’re working part-time on your business as a side hustle project, the key is to make that limited time work for you.  By picking important things that you can get done and identifying the most valuable and pressing issues to tackle, you are getting maximum value for the time you do have.  What you’ll find is that by focusing on just those things will actually propel you faster because you’re not getting lost in the stuff that doesn’t matter and distracting yourself.

It’s a mindset shift.  People who run their business part-time tend to think of the clock as their enemy.  What I’m suggesting is that you turn that on its head and think of your limited time as your ally to keep you focused on getting the best possible results in the shortest amount of time and effort you can.

I guarantee* you’ll become more efficient and get better results!

* – This blog post is for entertainment purposes only, Sean Kaye and Casual Marketer guarantee you nothing!

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