Can you be a corporate and a start-up? Is it possible? What sacrifices do you have to make? CEO and founder of Challenge Me Fitness, Rebecca Psellos, shares her insights and top tips for juggling your corporate career with your start-up.
by Rebecca Psellos
Your start-up is your passion. It’s new, it’s hard, it will take time to build and you love it. But you need to make money to live. So what do you do? Do you move back home and borrow money from your parents? Do you find investors and risk giving away a percentage share of your business before you know what it’s worth (if you can find them!)? Do you quit your day job and take the leap into the unknown? Or do you try and balance your corporate career with your business until the time is right to move into it full time?
As both CEO of Challenge Me Fitness, an online fitness, nutrition and lifestyle program, and a Management Consultant at Ernst & Young, this is the exact choice I was faced with. For me, it was a natural choice to balance my corporate career with my passion as I enjoy my day job but I also love working in health and fitness, which I am super passionate about. I currently work 4 days/week in my corporate job, and one day per week (plus weekends and evenings) on my business. This mix is by no means easy. I often find myself trying to fit in 5 days of work into 4, miss out on client and team meetings, and sometimes feel like I’m just not putting enough energy into my business. It can be stressful but I’ve learnt to cut myself some slack and do what I can with the time that I have. I’ve learnt many lessons along the way and I would like to share with you my top 5 tips for balancing a corporate career with your business.
1. Cut yourself some slack
It can be daunting essentially having two jobs at once. You feel like you’ve got to put your all into both. This is impossible – trust me, I’ve tried. I’ve learnt to do what I can with the time that I have. Things will get done when they get done and if you stress too much, you will be unproductive and your work quality will suffer. Learn to prioritise the important tasks, make a plan and outsource if you can. And above all, don’t ever forget to take time for yourself – even go so far as to actually pencil it into your diary. Exercise, meditate, spend time with family and friends, and don’t forget the essential components that go towards making you the person that you are. If you lose this, not only will your work suffer, but also your personal life and headspace.
2. Be firm with your employer about what you can and can’t do
When I first went part time, I thought it would make me a better employee and better able to do my job if I flexed my ‘time off’ for Challenge Me Fitness around my corporate role. Please listen when I say, THIS DOES NOT WORK! In the first 6 weeks of going part time, I had a different day off each week and in one of the weeks, I took two half days ‘off’. Not only did my business suffer, but I felt so disorganised and my clients and colleagues were confused as to when I was and wasn’t going to be available at work. In the end, I needed to draw a line because there was always something to do or go to: a proposal, a client meeting, a presentation; some reason to flex my day off. I now consistently take the same day ‘off’ each week to work on Challenge Me Fitness and the routine is working well for everyone.
I also recommend setting clear boundaries about the use of your out-of-hours time. I work in a role where it is expected that you will have to work late or on weekends to get the job done. While I accept this, I have also learnt to be firm when the expectation is unreasonable. For example, it doesn’t matter how organised you are, you can guarantee the lack of organisation of others will impact you from time to time. I’ve learnt to push back in these situations by setting expectations upfront and re-iterating them where required. You’ll be surprised, but people will generally respect your limits
3. Be organised
Like any busy person, being organised and embedding structure into your life is key to getting things done. Make a work plan organised into months and weeks to ensure you are consistently on track to achieving your goals. Schedule dedicated times each week to work on your business that are non-negotiable and allocate the same times each week until working on these days becomes a habit. Not only will it be easier for you, but your friends and family will start knowing the days you are and aren’t available for social activities (and won’t tempt you when you’re not). If you like to work flexibly, you may think this approach is too restrictive but you will be so much more productive when you stick to the plan!
When working from home, don’t be tempted by housework and chores – the sooner you stop this, the more productive you’ll be. Learn to make yourself accountable for achieving the realistic time lines that you set for yourself. Where there are both implications and rewards, we are more likely to achieve success.
4. Create clear timelines for yourself
I recommend having a clear timeline for how long you plan to juggle both your corporate career and your business. Decide on the success markers you will use to make sure you and your business are on the right path towards taking the next steps in scaling back your corporate role (if that’s your desired pathway). Business progress is not necessarily linear. Unless your plan is to always have a side business to your corporate career, for your own sanity, having a clear time frame and performance metrics is essential. In this way, you know that the chaos will not be forever and there will be light at the end of the tunnel towards achieving your goals.
5. Remember why you’re doing it
Let’s face it. Missing out on social activities to work on your business can suck! Sometimes you feel isolated, disheartened, like you’ve lost your social life, and sometimes, the very essence of who you are. So aside from implementing the above tips, remind yourself why you have chosen to take this path. Usually, it’s your passion or that you’re chasing a longer term lifestyle that you know you want. However, if it gets too much, don’t be afraid to take a break. Often a little time off from juggling so many things can be enough to re-invigorate your passion and motivations for your business.
So in summary:
- Remember to take time out for yourself
- Consistently take the same day/s ‘off’ each week to work on your business
- Set clear boundaries with your clients and colleagues about what you can and can’t do
- Avoid checking your corporate emails unless totally necessary
- Be organised and embed structure into your life
- Have a clear time frame for how long you plan to juggle both your corporate career and your business
- Remind yourself why you have chosen to take this path
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Rebecca Ridhalgh currently works in Banking and Finance and runs her e-c-commerce business JetSetGel. Obsessive about business and the entrepreneur space and always a feminist at heart — Rebecca loves her opportunity to meet impressive female business owners and learn from their experiences. Contact Rebecca via [email protected]