How to Balance a Side Hustle with a 9 to 5

How to Balance a Side Hustle with a 9 to 5

I’ve collaborated with a couple other blogger babes here in Toronto to bring our perspective on building our blog brands all while working full-time. Annika of The Fernweh Society (the maestro of it all), along with Stella of Pretty Little Wings, and I all work in corporate environments by day, and blog by night. The ultimate goal of all of us coming together was to support each other and show other women that you can, in fact, do it all.

I also recently had the pleasure of speaking on a panel with three additional awesome ladies on how we all balance our side passion projects while maintaining (and excelling!) at our full-time jobs. While each of our experiences were unique, as all our side hustles varied drastically, there were definitely some unifying strategies that resonated across the board. I myself have been hustling as a side freelancer for over 5 years now while still working full time, as well as been transitioning career paths and transcending industries.


A little background (or, you can just skip to the strategies):

It all started when I was working at a large corporate architecture firm, and began providing branding services to small businesses on the side as a creative outlet. Since architecture school was part glorified graphic design I felt quite qualified in giving quality design services, while providing a unique perspective on projects (like three-dimensional rendering everything I could). The freelance gigs also provided the foundation to be able to move abroad, making the impact of quitting my architecture careers less daunting since I still had a small side income. Once I moved abroad and got settled in our new country, I utilized my freelance skills I had developed to land a job in a non-architecturally-related industry as a designer.

While working my way within that role, I immersed myself in self-learning to focus on growing my marketing knowledge, realizing that branding design and marketing went hand in hand. Once I started pitching innovative ideas to the company, eventually, I took on their marketing services and moved into a managerial role.

All while these major transitions were happening in my 9-5 career path, my side projects and passion changed too. My newfound expat surroundings led me to start travel blogging, which eventually turned into this Architect Abroad website. I now focus on content creation, brand collaborations & partnerships, product promotions, and social media management.

Now that I am living back home, with a new full-time job at a marketing agency, I’ve finally felt like my two worlds (1-the 9 to 5, and 2- the blog) have been able to meld together seamlessly and actually support each other. Both are fun and fulfilling, and I am still learning so much. Still, getting to this comfortable point was not always easy. I hustled hard for years to get here. Here are some of the strategies I’ve picked up along the way, together with some tips from other incredible #bossbabes killing both their full-time careers and side projects.

How to Balance a Side Hustle with a 9 to 5

1. Prioritize

First of all, your health is vital. I’m a big believer in a full night’s rest, and after pulling way too many all-nighters while studying and working in architecture, I knew the cost of my health and wellbeing suffering was not worth it. Always try to get 7 – 8 hours of restful sleep. Part in parcel of how I prioritize my health is working out and eating right. These are both by choice and non-negotiable, just like showing up to work is.

Secondly, your day job and career should always come before your side projects. Do not sacrifice our output of work or performance there by the “distraction” of your side passion project. This should be your priority, and if it isn’t (if your focus is elsewhere, change it). You should still be giving 110% and exceeding expectations at your 9-5, never letting them question your commitment and least of all, burning bridges.

After all the above is satisfied, any extra time is dedicated to my own stuff. I try to make the most of any outside hours as best as I can by working during my commute, on my lunch break, every evening, and weekends. I frequently turn down going out with friends to work on my own things. Sacrifices will need to be made, and you just need to choose what’s most important to you and what to give up.


2. Use The Two to Compliment Each Other

Up until recently, I had always “hid” my side hustle from my corporate career. I never talked about it, and if a colleague somehow found out and brought it up, I shrugged it off and avoided any further discussion on the subject. I realized, however, that I should be proud of any projects or milestones I’ve accomplished, no matter what aspect of my career path they fell within. I am now a completely open book and not only is it a huge relief, it has actually helped. Where I’ve gotten to in the current stage of my career is largely thanks to what I have built up on the side. Now, the two previously “separate worlds” have collided and actually compliment each other. My experiments on the side and learnings from those direct my full-time work and actually make me a better digital marketer and therefore a more valuable employee.


3. Be Dedicated

This last point largely speaks to the first, but with more tangible strategies to implement. If you have a side hustle that you want something to come out of, you need to work for it. One woman on our panel discussion met with her side company’s co-founders every Sunday for three hours for almost two years. That is dedication. Set up calendar meetings with yourself, and stick to them. Whether that is waking up earlier to get something done before you head out the door to the office, or whether you go to a coffee shop every weekend to focus on GSD (getting shit done), set clear boundaries for working towards your goals.


How to Balance a Side Hustle with a 9 to 5

How to Balance a Side Hustle with a 9 to 5

How to Balance a Side Hustle with a 9 to 5


These past three strategies are from my experience, but I also wanted to hear what other ladies hustling on the side on top of a full-time career recommend:

Annika of Fernweh Society 

“1. Be realistic on what you commit yourself to. If you don’t have time to do it all, pick the top priorities that will propel your career/hustle the furthest and say no to the rest.
2. Take breaks – it is so easy to get super wound up in side hustle and work that you can get run down REALLY quickly! By taking care of yourself and planning small breaks you will mitigate getting sick or burned out which is tough to bounce back from. “

Stella of Pretty Little Wings 

“1. Plan your IG posts. Think of what you want to post and prepare/edit your post the night before, so in the morning you’re good to go, no thinking required.

2. Schedule the time in your calendar. I need to take this advice myself since I rarely blog post (like never), but if you schedule the time, you’ve committed to it. So instead of sitting front of the TV every weekday evening (one of my rituals), 1 out of the 5 nights you can set aside 1 hr or so to post something. A lot of times you may not be able to finish your post, but at least you’ve started it and will be more motivated to finish it than if you didn’t do anything at all.”

Photography by Warren Cleland.

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