How to Grow Your Passion Project and Still Excel At Your 9–5
5 tips to create your dream business while dominating your W2 gig and maintaining sanity
Nearly two years ago, my wife Tessa and I launched our business, The Wild Path, not only having no idea how to run a business, but also having no clear idea of what our business would actually do. All we had was an overwhelming mission to help others achieve their dreams. Fast forward to today and we have a successful unconventional marketing and creative machine. This growth quickly allowed Tessa to venture into full time entrepreneurship. I am still employed at a 9–5, benefits paying, 401k-giving traditional job — and I’m good with that.
Here are 5 ways I manage to work 9–5 and grow a side business, all while maintaining my sanity.
1. Don’t slow down.
Even if it feels like you are spiraling out of control because of meetings and deadlines and emails and networking, don’t pull the chute. Why? Because this is the perfect time to learn how to manage the madness and capitalize on the momentum. Step back, take a few deep breaths and tackle the work one thing at a time. Before you know it, you will look back and say, “Wow, look what you did. See? That wasn’t sooo bad.”
2. Make more time. (Or at least optimize your time.)
There a few things that I place at the top of my list every morning.
1. A bit of quiet reflective time and 2. a solid workout (yeah I CrossFit, don’t judge). As The Wild Path began to grow and take on more clients, I found myself cramming in client work before I ran out the door to beat the traffic to the office. This became a bad habit as I started to lose my focus on my priorities.
Around this time, my friend Jay Clouse started a 30 Day Challenge accountability group. I joined and challenged myself to shift my routine from a 6am start to a 5am start, allowing me three full hours before I needed to pack my lunch and head out. My productivity, mindset and health have skyrocketed since adopting this routine. In creating a habit of waking up earlier, I have essentially ‘created’ more time where I needed it most.
As your business grows and you start to offer more and more value to more and more people, your calendar will quickly fill up beyond recognition. It is imperative that you take control of when you will take meetings and when you will not. Limiting my meeting availability to 7–9am on Tuesdays and Thursdays has been one of the best decisions for the growth of my business... and my sanity. I’m not saying I don’t take meetings outside of this window (there are multiple commitments that simply won’t fit this constraint), but the point is to not be a people pleaser when it comes to your time. Offer meeting availability only when it truly makes sense — not because you want to meet the needs of every single person.
Pro tip: Take note of the meetings you take and decline. These decisions will tell you a lot about your goals and priorities.
3. Be present with friends and family.
I am a firm believer in rethinking the idea of needing vacations and weekends to ‘escape’ your work; however, it can be easy to let work distract you from quality time with loved ones, especially if you’re doing the work you’re really passionate about. Listen, if you aren’t caring for your relationships then you are failing. Those you care for and those who care for you make up who you are and the minute you stop showing up for others, you lose your most valuable asset in this life — relationships.
4. Learn from your 9–5 AND enjoy it.
I am extremely lucky in the fact that I genuinely enjoy my day job. My team is creative and supportive, I have the opportunity to learn every day and the kind of work I do coincides with a lot of the work The Wild Path does. I understand this is not the case for most people grinding on their passion project 20+ hours a week on top of their 40+ hours in the office. But I challenge you to find little ways to learn from whatever it is you find yourself doing.
For example, if you are in a workplace where you feel your creativity is cutoff and leadership is stuck in a rut, take the opportunity to learn from that every day. You are in a situation completely unique to you. No one with the exact same skills, passions and knowledge will ever be where you are this minute. So, focus your drive on taking notes, asking questions and learning from this unique perspective. Discover what is working and not working in your 9–5 and apply these findings to your passion project. This has the potential to change your attitude and your side hustle will thank you.
5. Surround yourself with talent-plus people.
I stole the term talent-plus people from John Maxwell’s book Talent is Never Enough. In short, it refers to people who recognize that the sole thing that separates them from the pack and allows them to make change is straight up hard work. Not talent, not stroke of luck, but pure-sweat-and-tears hard work.
Align yourself with a community who has a similar business ethic as you do as quickly as you can. And quite simply, as my friend and President of Serif Creative Doug Joseph says, only take advice from people who are in the position you wish to be in.
These talent-plus people will be the ones who will push you to be better and remind you why you are on board this crazy ride when you just feel like pulling the chute. My wife and co-owner of The Wild Path, Tessa, is my number one when it comes to talent-plus people, but it is important to find people who motivate you outside of your immediate business as well. Make community building your number one priority and you will not be sorry.
Now, go be awesome.