Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jennifer Blanchard from jenniferblanchard.net.
(WARNING: The blog post you’re about to read is borderline unethical. Sort of. It depends on your view of ethics when it comes to working a job that makes you feel dead inside. Reader discretion is advised.)
“Full-time” in the work world is defined as working 40 hours or more. Too bad most full-time jobs don’t actually take 40 hours to complete. This is especially true when you work in an office environment.
Think about how many times you’ve completed your work for the day, but had to sit in your cube twiddling your thumbs because you still had three required hours left in your work day.
There you sit, wasting away, when you could be doing something productive to move along your side business so that eventually you can quit this unfulfilling job and finally do something that matters.
But it would be wrong to work on side business stuff when you’re at your day job, wouldn’t it?
That’s up to you to decide.
Why You Should Consider Working on Your Passion Business While at Your Day Job
When you work in an office environment, how well you do your job is based largely on “presenteeism,” or what’s also known as coming in early, staying late, always being at your desk, always looking busy.
And the most annoying part is that you’re required to work 8-5, which eats up all of your best hours for the day. When you get home at 6 p.m. after a long commute and a stressful day at the office, you’re not exactly in the mood to put in effort on your business, are you?
Problem is, if you don’t, you’ll never get out of that shitty day job and finally do something meaningful with your career. So you force yourself to work on your business here and there throughout the week.
But it bums you out that you write better in the morning and yet you’re forcing yourself to do it at 10 p.m. It bums you out even more that you’re still working a job that makes you feel empty. Sure, you could find another job, but eventually you’d feel the same way again.
It’s time for you to escape from the workforce to do the work you love. But it takes a lot more than a desire to get paid to be you to actually launch a business and quit your day job. It takes guts. It takes the willingness to risk everything.
It takes creativity with your time.
Planning An Escape Route
Once I’d had enough with working a job that didn’t fulfill me, I tuned it out. I became a “corporate robot”; I came in, did the job I was paid to do, sat there for 8 hours and went home.
Then, when I got home at night I’d spend two to three hours working on my side business, blogging, building connections, writing, planning and dreaming. But it just wasn’t enough.
So one morning I’m sitting in my cube, finishing up my work for the week, when I realize it’s only Wednesday and I still have two more days of work. An idea hits me.
Why not take this extra time and, rather than wasting it on Facebook or reading celebrity gossip, instead work on my business? If I did this every time I completed my work for the week, I could move up my “quit my day job” timeline by a couple years.
And I mean, it’s not like I was doing a bad job or anything. I was legitimately doing all that I was asked to do and being successful at it. So I figured the leftover time was mine.
I launched my first blog in the comfort of my living room, but I grew it from zero visits a month to more than 5,000 visits a month in one year by writing and publishing three blog posts a week while I was at my day job.
This proves two points:
- Work isn’t about 40 hours a week/8 hours a day, it’s about the results you produce. I was legitimately doing an awesome job at my day job and also successfully running a growing side business.
- Creativity will get you everywhere. Being creative with my time allowed me to be successful at both my day job and my side business.
Thanks to some clever (albeit semi-unethical) time creativity, I finally quit my day job and am now working for myself. (Oh, and Trailblazer had a lot to do with it, too.)
If you’re like I was and are still stuck in a day job that doesn’t fulfill you, here are some tips to help you use your time better, as well as some tips for how to work on your business while you’re at the office.
The faster you can build your side business up, the faster it can become your full-time business.
And the faster you can quit your day job.
The Game Plan
The corporate world is a game of perception. Look busy. Come in early, stay late. Dress appropriately.
As long as you work your “required” 40 hours a week, you’re good. Some people will spend their lives doing this, but not you. You want to escape.
Here’s how you can use this perception to your advantage to work on your side business while you also work your day job. You just need to take the following steps:
1. Figure out how much time you need to get your work done and still do a good job.
Like I said above, work should be about the results you produce and not about face time at the office. But since that’s not the case in most workplaces, you have to get creative with your time.
First off, figure out how much time you actually need in a week to do your job well. Use a timer to see how long it takes you to get all your work done.
Once you’ve done this for a few weeks, you’ll know exactly how many hours you need to complete work for your day job, and how many hours you have to spare. (These are the hours you would usually use surfing the web or playing around on your iPhone.)
2. Decide which days of the week will be designated “day job” days and which days you’ll use to work on your business.
Or, you can do what I did and split your work days. For me, mornings were always dedicated to side business-related tasks and activities, and afternoons were for doing the work I was being paid to sit there and do.
If, for example, your time experiment from step one finds you with five hours of available time, you can split it out and do one hour of work on your business each day. You can also save them up and do all five hours on, say, Friday afternoon when the bosses have snick out for the weekend, but everyone else has to be there ‘til 5 p.m.
3. Use the super-secret work tips in the section below to figure out the best way to accomplish the work you need to do for your business.
If you want to make this work, you will have to balance playing the game with sneaking in some time for your business. These tips below will help you do that.
13 Super-Secret Work Tips
The following tips will give you some ideas on how to work on your business while appearing to be doing your day job work (because remember, perception is what matters).
I will preface this by saying some of these tips could possibly get you fired or at least reprimanded if you get caught. It’s up to you to draw the line and decide which of these tips you can handle while maintaining your workload.
Tip #1: Always have something work-related open on your desktop at all times.
This makes it easy to pull up your work documents when you have to appear to be working.
Tip #2: Always look like you’re working.
Even if you’re working on a blog post for your new blog, you want to seem like you’re working hard at your day job. If you need a break, don’t take it at your desk. Get up and walk away.
Tip #3: Do any writing for your side-business within your day job work documents.
This way if your boss comes by your desk, it legitimately looks like you are doing the work you’re supposed to be doing. This was my process:
- Open a day job document (for example, copy I was writing for the new company website)
- Click my cursor somewhere in the middle of a paragraph of web copy
- Start writing what I needed to write for my side business (blog posts, email newsletters, copy, whatever)
When I was finished, I’d copy/cut the text out and paste it into another Word doc. Then I’d save it on my Dropbox or I’d email it to myself.
Tip #4: Try not to close your web browser window or documents when you see your boss coming over.
Closing down screens when your boss comes by will make it look like you’re doing something you shouldn’t be.
If anything, just open something else up from your minimized bar with actual work on it. That way it just looks like you’re working between two documents versus trying to hide something.
Tip #5: Keep all your day job work spread out on the desk around you.
This will ensure you always have something to grab for and pretend to be doing when someone stops by your cube to talk, ask you a dumb question or just waste your time in general.
Tip #6: Play the game well in meetings.
When you’re in work meetings, be sure to offer up ideas and suggestions, and be engaged in what’s being discussed so it looks like you really care.
Part of succeeding at this game is to always be professional and always look like you really care about your job.
Tip #7: Use your lunch breaks.
Pack your food and use your lunch break to work on your business. It’s a great time because no one will be paying attention to what you’re doing, since they’re on lunch too.
And if someone does say something to you, you just point out that you’re on your lunch break.
Tip #8: Know your boss’s schedule.
Keep track of when your boss(es) will be out of the office/out of town on business or pleasure. These are the best times to step up work on your business because no one will be around to watch over your shoulder.
Tip #9: Use a half-screen browser window for side business stuff.
Always use two browser windows: keep one window day job work-related and the other one side-business related. But keep the side business window half the size of the other so you can center it in front of you on your desktop screen so no one behind you can see it.
Tip #10: Get a small rear-view mirror and install it on your monitor.
If anyone asks, tell them you get startled easily so you like to see when someone is coming up behind you. You can find little sticky-back mirrors at any auto parts store.
Tip #11: Shift your work hours.
If you can, work a schedule that allows you to be at the office early, when no one is there yet. This gives you optimal business work time. Best of all, no one will be around to bother you and everyone will think you’re a hard worker because you come in early.
If you can’t shift your work hours, you can always work overtime (if you’re a salaried employee). Come in early or stay late and use that time to work on your business.
Tip #12: Dress to impress.
Stick to the company dress code. Follow it perfectly. Never give yourself a reason to stand out in a negative way.
Tip #13: Conference rooms are your friend.
Whenever you can, slip away to a conference room to get your work done. This makes it easier to work on business-related stuff without anyone seeing you. If anyone asks, you can say you get too distracted to work because of the noise around your cubicle.
One Final Rule
My number one rule for playing the corporate game and launching a business is always this:
Do what’s expected of you, plus a tad more, and you’re good.
Q: What tips do you have for working on your business while at your day job?
Special note from Cedric: Jennifer Blanchard is one of our star members in Trailblazer. You can find her at https://jenniferblanchard.net/, where she helps creative entrepreneurs nourish the core source of their creativity—themselves—so they can become unstoppable creative beings. I highly suggest that you go here right now and subscribe to her blog. You won’t regret it.