Rachel Main gets up at 5am every day to work on her business. Then, she races out the door to her full-time marketing job for a bank.
Once she gets home, she spends another couple of hours working on her online kids store, www.mytwonanas.com.au. She snatches more time working to build her business on weekends.
All up, she spends around 15 to 20 hours a week on the e-store, around her full-time job. The site isn’t earning much yet, but the goal is for the income to be equivalent to what she’s earning in her job in the near future.
“In the set-up phase, I did take a day a fortnight off in annual leave for a few months. The company loved it, as so many now want to reduce their annual leave liability.”
But there have been hurdles, including not being able to secure a business coach in the early days.
“I wanted a business coach during start-up, but it’s not until at least you have launched the business that you can get one, and then often they’ll only work with you after you’ve been making a profit.”
Rachel is one of the many Australians working, often full-time, while building their start-up on the side.
Statistics from Bigcommerce paint the picture. It analysed 1788 online stores and found that about half (48 per cent) of all activity was taking place between 5pm and 9pm, with a surprisingly large amount of activity occurring after midnight.
At 1am, more than a third of Bigcommerce retailers sampled were working, and at 3am, there were still 335 out of the 1788 retailers actively working on their stores.
Eddie Machaalani, co-founder of the e-commerce platform says it’s easy to open up and run an online store, prompting many Australians to launch hobby stores to supplement their income.
“They are essentially moonlighting, working a day job and then coming home to tend to their online store,” he says.
While it’s extremely challenging to juggle a job and a start-up, for many, the promise of one day being able to quit their job makes up for the long hours.
Deirdre Tshien works a whopping 95 hours a week. She juggles her time between her full-time role as a strategy manager for a retail bank in Sydney and a chocolate dessert bar she opened three months ago, The Choc Pot.
She’s exploring franchising opportunities, expanding her product range and also opening more shopfronts, but will only make the leap out of paid employment when the business builds to a size where she doesn’t need to rely on her corporate role.
Her advice for others working big hours is to find a way to get some sleep and eat properly. “It’s exhausting trying to balance it all and not at all fair to the corporation or your own business if you’re tired and can’t compartmentalise between corporate work time and your own business work time,” Tshien says.
“When I’m at work, I focus on work as much as possible, except for the odd phone call or email that can’t be avoided. It’s also really important to stay healthy as the business depends on you to be both physically and mentally fit to run it.”
Carly Jacobs admits she also works non-stop, often from 8am until 4pm teaching, then works on her lifestyle site, Smaggle.com until midnight. Ultimately, she’d like to quit her job and run her business full-time. For the first time last year she earned 60 per cent of her income from her day job and 40 per cent from her website, so the signs are promising, she says.
“I’m concentrating on making 100 per cent of my income from my blog this year, fingers crossed,” Jacobs says.
Full-time Fairfax journalist Sheree Mutton runs fashion jewellery Styleu.com.au in her spare time, which makes up around 15 per cent of her total income. “It’s a relatively new business, so I’m hoping that figure will grow to around 30 per cent in the next six months.”
Shirley Be is another professional time juggler, working four days a week as a pharmacist. After years of planning, she launched a skincare business in September 2012, www.youthphoria.com.au.
She spends two full days working on her business. Ultimately, she wants to run her business full-time and hopefully retain a pharmacy job one day a week. To do this, she’s working to grow her stockists and distributors.
Be says she has less time to procrastinate when she’s busy.
“Sometimes when I’m tired at night, I find it’s best to sleep and then wake early in the morning when I feel energised and refreshed,” Be says.
Christine Kardashian runs two businesses from her home office. She’s been a public relations professional for six years, running Dash Public Relations. She dived into a second business in December 2012: Women’s fashion line, Christine Kardashian.
Dash PR brings in about 75% of her income, and the remaining 25% comes from sales from her clothing line.
She uses a time management tool to track her time in her PR business. She spends mornings handling orders and logistics for the clothing line, and the rest of the time on research and development, strategy and liaising with suppliers.
“I’m an organised person by nature and I keep ‘to do’ lists, though sometimes it can get hard to keep to it and tick off items with so much going on.”
Laughing is good medicine for Julie Tierney, who works as a bookkeeper four days a week, studies beauty therapy, works as a beauty therapist, is a bookkeeper for her partner’s business and started an online business selling wholesale beauty and nail products in July last year.
She hopes to be able to afford to employ someone to help her this year.
In the meantime, it’s a constant juggle, but she loves it.
“I’m generally a calm sort of person, but when it does all get too much and stress starts taking over, I’ll basically sit here and giggle to myself.”
Eventually, the leap into your start-up makes it worth all those hours.
Louise Glendon spent three years building her Boudoir Photography business while also working for the RAAF in Adelaide, where she managed a team of 30.
“In order to juggle between my day job and the business, I would only schedule clients on the days I didn’t work, and then would often work until midnight editing images or get up extra early to package orders and email clients before going to work. If required, I would use my lunch breaks to return calls or emails whilst sitting in my car in the office car park.”
She took two months long service leave to run her business as a trial and discovered she earned significantly more than her usual wage. She was also much happier and more relaxed.
So, she made the leap into her photography business a little over a year ago.
“Having the financial security of paid leave and then income from the business to replace my wage was certainly a big deciding factor in my decision to resign, however I also invested a lot of energy and finances into researching and studying the business side of my venture.
“But ultimately, my business was never going to expand when I was playing in ‘safe’ mode.” Glendon says.