Finding the Balance: The When, How and Why
Guest blog by Brandi Jackson
Brandi has worked in startups for over 12 years, in industries from tech to hospitality, fitness and real estate. Through supporting the launch of businesses to closing them down, Brandi has worked at the intersection of helping others make their dreams come true and building sustainable businesses her entire career.
In 2020, she launched her own online business coaching program and officially stepped into her own purpose. As a coach, Brandi helped emerging entrepreneurs find their purpose and build businesses designed for impact and scale... while still working full time for a turbulent company and industry during the height of the pandemic in NY. After a year of straddling the two, she moved into being a fulltime entrepreneur and hasn’t looked back!
Brandi is a graduate of the JRNI Coach training program. You can follow her on Instagram at @brandi.d.jackson
In January 2020 I made myself a promise. I said that by January 2021, I would transition from working a 9-5 in commercial real estate while also juggling my coaching "side business", to becoming a full time entrepreneur. And after a solid year of balancing the two with this in mind, I was able to check that goal off my bucket list.
Here’s how I did it… and during a pandemic, no less!
When I originally told myself that this was the plan, I knew that saying it out loud meant I was committing to changing my mindset. Up to this time, my coaching business had been a “fit it in when I could” proposition. To have it become my full time job, I would need to start by treating it as such. I’d need to reprogram myself to think about my priorities in a much different way.
So what’s the secret to doing that?
It’s pretty simple on paper, but much harder in practice! The formula for turning my side hustle into a full time job while still working a 9-5 was this:
Balance + The Power of Saying “No, not right now."
The biggest challenge we face when straddling a 9-5 and our entrepreneurial aspirations is having our attention divided between the two. For some, this balancing act may be easier than it was for me.
If your full time job has a predictable schedule, you may be able to log on at 9am and log off at 5pm. Or you may have more flexibility to work on your side gig throughout the day, based on the type of job you have. The pandemic made this even more possible for some of us while working from home.
Not so for everybody, though. For others, the transition to a home office made their 9-5 even more demanding. Especially when juggling homeschooling responsibilities, or in industries where the hours are unpredictable.
I fell into this second category.
My 9-5 was a customer focused, high strategy role. If I wasn’t on the phone with a customer, I was talking with my team or executives from my company. The transition from working in an office to being at home during the pandemic increased our calls 10 fold. Prior to re-prioritizing my work, I would take calls from 8am-8pm, with barely a minute to eat or go to the bathroom!
By March of 2020, I didn’t see how my goal to take my coaching business full time was even possible. If I was working from home but couldn’t even find time to eat lunch, how would I ever ramp up my side-gig to a full time focus?
Something had to change, and that something was me.
Confession: I am a ‘yes’ person. I had previously never prioritized my own schedule over the needs of my employer. If there was so much as a sliver of time in my day, colleagues could book in to chat with me, or pull me aside from whatever else I might be working on. I always said “yes”.
In the past, I had only ever focused on ensuring I had time to work my side business in the wee hours of the morning. But I knew that just wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to grow it enough to replace my 9-5.
Those of us who launch a side-gig on top of a full time job generally have a pretty high work ethic. We bring that energy and ambition to everything we do. It’s not like we can just turn off that drive in one area to apply it fully in another. So we straddle.
The hard part about a 9-5 is that we spend so much time putting in extra effort to “get it done right”, win that next promotion, or to show our boss that we’re ready for a raise. It becomes second nature - after a while, we hardly think about what we’re pushing for anymore... we just keep on pushing. I’ve worked with coworkers who have cancelled time with their kids to stay at work late, and new mothers who have returned to work despite having more maternity leave so they “didn’t miss too much”.
Saying “No, not today” has NEVER been a part of any work culture I’ve known. If you want to succeed and grow, you had to always say “yes.” But when faced with the goal of not relying on my 9-5, I had to retrain my brain to focus on a growth mindset pathway for my own business.
I had to start saying no.
- No to last minute meetings
- No to random phone calls
- No to late nights
- No to early mornings
If I intentionally set aside time to dedicate to my business, I would need to honor that time. This had to become a non-negotiable if my goal to transition were to ever be possible.
Setting A Schedule & Priorities
One of the biggest things I did was dedicate my weeks in a very specific way, both for my business and my 9-5. Here’s what that looked like for me:
I know that setting boundaries like this isn’t always feasible for everyone, but this gives you an idea of one way you might set yourself up to balance both sides. The important thing is to find what WILL work for you, and to commit.
Nobody said this would be easy… but it is possible.
I divided my time in specific ways, focusing on the largest tasks in my two worlds. This way if a call was added to my calendar on a day or time that wasn’t designated for calls, I would either reach out to reschedule, suggest alternate times/days, or tell the person that I was unable to attend.
I realized during this process that I had never “prioritized” my 9-5. Instead, my 9-5 had prioritized me!
Once I set my boundaries, here’s what happened: I was able to be more productive during my time, and to also stay focused on the most important items.
And here’s an outcome I hadn’t anticipated... once I was focusing on my own personal business, my performance at my 9-5 also got better. Why? Because I was even more focused during those time blocks than ever before!
After tackling how to prioritize my 9-5, I then did the exact same thing for my coaching business. I mapped out days and blocks of time that were dedicated to specific tasks or activities so that my attention wasn’t pulled in 20 different directions. I created certain days for coaching, certain days for admin, and certain days for strategic work.
Remember: this is YOUR business. You can control what is or isn’t a focus.
This may involve some shifts for any existing clients you currently have. But setting things up so they get you at your best makes any short-term changes worth it a hundred times over.
Another important thing I did to shift my mindset was to delineate my physical work space to one focus or the other.
I kept my 9-5 on one laptop, and my business on another. I even divided my desk: one side for my 9-5, the other side for my business. The more you can divide the two, the easier it is to develop the habit of separating them mentally. It makes all the difference.
Remember, always, that you are in control.
Owning that sense of control is a habit you must embrace to see your goal come to life! This usually starts when you begin to actively pursue the transition from part time to full time entrepreneur. Believe me, managing YOURSELF is one of the hardest parts of becoming an entrepreneur!
Ready for liftoff?
A lot of talented people dream of having a coaching business, but aren’t quite sure how to get there. Here at JRNI, we train and certify adventurous coaches like Brandi, making sure you have everything you need to build a business you love, on your terms. If you’d like to learn more about how to get certified as a life coach, come check out the JRNI Life Coach Training program!