How to Side Hustle and Avoid the Burnout

7 Tips to Help you Rock your Side Hustle and Maintain your Sanity

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the freelancer, entrepreneur, or mompreneur corners of the internet then you’ve probably come across the term Side Hustle. It’s basically just an exciting way for boring people like me to say, “I work a day job and I also work even more at night because I have goals, man.”

I started a Side Hustle the minute I graduated from college because I knew corporate life (and technical writing) just wasn’t for me. Is it mellow-dramatic for me to say that I felt like dementors were sucking the soul out of my body every time I swiped my little ID badge to get into the R&D portion of the building? It is? Well, it’s true. I kept looking to the skies for Buckbeak to save me.

Fortunately for me, I realized that I could be my own Buckbeak, and started a Side Hustle (namely, freelance writing and design).

I spent four years side-hustling my buns off (and getting very, very burned out), and I can tell you that if you aren’t careful, you’ll lose your mind. It’s really, really hard to maintain a life of almost constant work, even for the biggest workaholics (holla!), so I’ve compiled some tips to help you keep up that Side Hustle and avoid the burnout. Because burnout sucks. 

  1. Set a schedule and stick to it. 

    So one of the biggest challenges of the Side Hustle is actually doing the damn thing. I’d go through these phases where I worked on my Side Hustle constantly and then would drop it for a few months (yes, months) at a time. This was definitely because of burnout, but also because I didn’t have a schedule.

    You don’t have to pour every spare second into your Side Hustle, but you should decide how much time you need each day to work on it and mark that time in your planner. Make it non-negotiable time so you aren’t tempted to neglect it. 

  2. But also schedule breaks and days off.

    Hey, you know what else you should make non-negotiable? Days off. And breaks. Also bubble-baths and mimosas.

    I think the single-best way to avoid burnout is to remember to take breaks. You’ll need to be honest with yourself, here. Some people work better in 20-minute increments with 5-minute breaks. Others work better in batches (a few hours or writing or editing or designing). Still others function really well working the traditional work week with 2-day weekends, and others will be super-productive working 10 days on and 4 days off.

    Experiment, look at your past habits and be honest with yourself regarding your limitations. It’s also important to be flexible and change things up as soon as you realize they aren’t working for you.

  3. Make sure you enjoy hobbies and a social life.

    If you’re building a business around your passion and/or hobby then you might think “oh, painting is my hobby, so my art business is going to be 100% fun.” While your business pursuits will be much more fun than not, you’ll still need to have hobbies and enjoyment outside of your business.

    I was like you, once. I thought, “hell, I love writing, reading, and designing things. To be happy I don’t need to do anything else.” And while it’s true that I very infrequently grumble about work, and am more than thrilled that people pay me to write and draw, business is still a business and I still need something outside of the business. And so do you.

    For me, it’s writing speculative fiction, reading books, watching movies, and taking pretty pictures out-of-doors. I also like to meet friends for drinks or coffee every now and then.

    You don’t have to turn yourself into a social butterfly if you’re not one, or choose a hobby you have no interest in. You just need to find a life (even a tiny, small, quiet life) outside of your Side Hustle and the skills you need to complete that hustle. 

  4. Don’t let your Side Hustle bleed into your day-job. 

    I’ll quietly and shamefully admit that I sometimes found myself putting finishing touches on Side Hustle projects during my downtime at previous day jobs (I shall never admit which one, though, you can’t make me!).

    Not only is that not fair to your full-time employer, it’s also not fair to you or your clients. You’re wasting time that you’re being paid for by someone else, and you’re going to be so nervous about getting caught that you’ll be half-assing your way through that project.

    If you’re getting so much work in your Side Hustle that it’s impossible to complete it all outside of day-job hours (woo! What a great problem to have) perhaps you should consider cutting back your hours at your day job, if possible. Or, if you like your day job and are just side-hustling for fun (and don’t plan on making it your full-time gig) you need to cut some of your workload.  

  5. Track milestones and celebrate your successes! 

    It can be frustrating to work on something and feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. Trust me, I know. I would frequently get upset that my Side Hustle wasn’t bringing in as much money as I wanted, or that I wasn’t at the place that X blogger or Instagrammer was at.

    That’s why I enthusiastically encourage you to track milestones and celebrate your successes. I, for one, celebrate even small milestones or successes. I got a new “like” on Facebook today? *Small happy dance* I booked a new client? *audible whoop* I sold something on Etsy? *Dance + audible whoop

    Celebrating even the smallest victories will help push you forward when you’re feeling frustrated, and show you that all of that work you’re doing is getting you somewhere.  

  6. Remind yourself what you’re working toward (and that it’s worth it)

    Are you feeling down about your Side Hustle? Are you discouraged and wondering why you’re bothering to bust your buns if it’s not doing anything? Well, are you? Me too, sometimes. In fact, that feeling is completely normal. So let me ask you something…

    Why did you start?

    Think about it; why did you start your Side Hustle? To pay off debt? Save for a vacation? Build your skills and further your career? Grow a business so you can quit your day-job?  Ditch your icky boss and be your own boss?

    You’re working toward something. Say it out loud: “I’m working toward something.” Now write it on your wall, or make an inspiration board, or tattoo it on your forehead. Whatever it takes to remind yourself not to get discouraged. 

  7. Surround yourself with like-minded people (even if they’re only internet people)

    Sometimes we don’t have very supportive networks IRL. I’ve found it difficult to connect with like-minded individuals in my smallish town. People often think freelancers or creativepreneurs are crazy-pants. However, you and I know that’s not entirely true. 😉

    I’ve been able to connect with and draw inspiration from people online. Join Facebook groups or follow awesome people on Instagram or join twitter chats or watch Youtubers. Just find people like you who “get it”, who will encourage you, who will challenge and inspire you, and who will support you when you need it. 

I’m not sure that it’s possible to completely avoid burnout. You might still get tired, discouraged, and feel unmotivated. For those moments, I recommend you take a break for a week or so and come back to it.

However, if you follow the 7 tips I shared with you today I think you’ll find your Side Hustle much more manageable. What do you think of the tips I shared? Is there anything you’ve done that has helped you avoid Side Hustle burnout? I’d love to hear about it so I can share it with others.

‘Till next time,


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How to Practice Creativity

10 tips to help you think outside the box

10 tips for thinking outside the box, even if you think you aren't creative.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just not creative.” Maybe you’ve been guilty of saying that about yourself. Well, I call bullshit on that. Maybe you’re not particularly creative right this second, but there’s no reason you can’t be. Why? Because creativity comes with practice. Yup. I said it. You have to practice creativity.

You’re probably thinking, “Why do I need to worry about creativity?” or maybe, “creativity doesn’t apply to my business or career”. Let’s set a couple of things straight, shall we?

  1. Creativity applies to every business and career. Think about it. If you’re not solving problems creatively, or using creativity to develop new products or services, you’re making yourself obsolete.
  2. Creativity does not equal artistic. I know lots of people think of painting or drawing or creating music when they think of creativity. But that’s a limited perspective. Creativity applies to the use of imagination or original ideas.
  3. If you think of any successful business or entrepreneur in the last 20 years, what do they have in common? Usually, they approached a problem, industry, or technology creatively. In other words, they were innovative.

According to this article by Business News Daily, “companies that actively foster creative thinking outperform their rivals in revenue growth, market share, and competitive leadership, according to the report.”

Bottom line, no matter your industry, business model, or expertise, creativity is essential to your success.

So, what do you do if you aren’t creative?

Well, as established, I call bullshit on you not being creative. You’re just rusty. I pretty firmly believe that creativity is an inherent trait of most humans, and all it takes is a little practice to get it out. (Creativity was probably stamped out of you at one point… )

Creativity is intelligence having fun. – Albert Einstein

As a creative business owner, I’ve found that my creativity and ability to look at things differently waxes and wanes with my practice of it. When I’ve taken day jobs to help pay the bills while I’m building my own business, my creativity frequently decreases. My brain gets foggy, I find it hard to write and think, and it’s frustrating as all get-out. BUT, it always comes back when I take the time to practice.

Great. How do I practice creativity?

I’m so glad you asked! I’ve compiled some tips from my own personal practice and from the practice of other creatives I know. You can try to implement some or all of these into your creative practice. Just be consistent and go easy on yourself.

10 Tips for Practicing Creativity

  1. Read more fictionI know, lots of entrepreneurs and business owners hate this idea, but you have to read more fiction. Self-help books are great. Non-fiction is great, but it doesn’t always force you to use your imagination, and imagination is key to creativity.If it’s easier, get some audiobooks and just try to imagine the scenes or the what the characters look like. This just helps your brain start working (plus, reading is cool).
  2. BrainstormI’m talking grade-school style spider webs and shit. Or, make tons of lists. The key here is that you just let your brain go without checking it. We love to stop ourselves when an idea or thought isn’t practical or logical or doable. That stifles creativity.I recommend using actual pen and paper, but if you think faster than you can write, then a Google Doc works just as well. Just set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, and choose a broad umbrella topic (i.e. Customer Satisfaction). Then, dump everything out of your brain onto paper. It can be ideas about how to increase customer satisfaction, how to measure it, incentive programs, internal training, whatever. Don’t censor yourself, and don’t judge yourself.

    I do stuff like this a lot (probably once a day at least) and I’ve come up with some of my best ideas while dumping things onto paper.

  3. Try connecting unrelated topicsI know this seems weird, but it honestly does help. I do this a lot for storytelling, but it applies to any form of creativity.Choose 2 seemingly unrelated topics (i.e. unicorns and trains). Now, come up with a series of sentences or ideas that can connect the two (no, you can’t just jump to “a unicorn is riding a train”). I’m forcing you to storyboard this thing. Try to come up with 5 or 6 separate sentences that will be able to creatively connect the unicorn to the train. It can, will be, and should be nonsensical at first.
  4. Be comfortable with suckingI know. It’s hard. Personally, I find it very easy to quit when I’m not automatically good at something. In fact, I struggle with that a lot. It’s something I have to continually work on.Like my friends in the military say, “embrace the suck”. You are probably going to be so bad at this at first. And that’s okay. We forget because we’re humans, but we were bad at everything before we got good at it. Walking? We sucked. Talking? We sucked.
  5. Schedule it and stick to itAs with any practice, you need to set aside time to do it and be consistent. You don’t have to devote hours a day to your creativity practice, but starting with 15-20 minutes daily is a good idea.
  6. Don’t compare yourself to othersThis is the fastest way to discourage yourself and give up. Comparing yourself to other people (especially other people who are years ahead of you in their career or creative practice) doesn’t do you any good. It’s always a good idea to keep an ear to the ground and be aware of what people are doing around you, but berating yourself because you aren’t exactly like X person is senseless. Don’t do it.
  7. Trust your instinctsIf you’re drawn to a specific niche, technology, style, or thought, trust that. Take that road and see where it goes. It doesn’t always go somewhere useful, but it may lead you to a life-changing realization.
  8. Be comfortable with evolutionI’m not talking Darwinism, here (see what I did there? I’m so funny…) Being creative will lead you to a lot of ideas and techniques and solutions. And, often, you’ll find yourself somewhere you didn’t necessarily mean to go. I did this myself. I started out as a technical writer dabbling in design and copywriting on the weekends, and look at me now. I’m building an entire business around graphic design and copywriting, and I love it.The point is that you shouldn’t be so stuck to an idea or image of yourself that you’re unwilling to make natural shifts as they occur.
  9. Choose music to fit the moodThe right music can help set your frame of mind for your brainstorming session. I rely on this a lot when I’m working on creative writing or creating new art pieces. I try to stay away from music that has lyrics (sometimes those lyrics sneak into my work, haha).
  10. Step away from your work and get outYour brain needs breaks to process data and solve problems. That’s why it’s vital that you take a break from your work and let your mind process your problem in the background.Do your due diligence; research, brainstorm, plan, and think. After that, though, you need to be able to let it rest for a few hours or days before you start working on it again. This doesn’t mean neglecting your daily practice in creativity, but rather not spending all of your time focused on one problem or thought.

You don’t need to do all of these things right out of the gate. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you shouldn’t do all of these things right out of the gate. You may overwhelm yourself and decide it isn’t for you.

Instead, pick a few that sound doable and just do them. Then add more as you go. Pretty soon your brain is going to be oozing creativity and you’ll think “huh, when did this happen?”

Do you have any tips for practicing creativity? Any stories about how creativity helped you in your business? I’d love to hear them and chat about it in the comments.