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I made $106,421 on the side while working a demanding 9-to-5 job. Here are the 5 tricks that helped me the most.


Luisa Zhou

  • Luisa Zhou’s career is built around teaching people how to start their own six-figure-plus businesses working for themselves.
  • Before she turned in her notice at a great job with a six-figure salary, she had already made $106,421 from her side gig.
  • Below, she shares the top tricks that helped her launch a highly successful business — without giving up watching her favorite TV shows.
  • One tip is the “Delete/Delegate/Do” strategy, which helps free up her time for the most crucial tasks at hand.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories

The day I quit my job to go full-time in my own business, my manager wondered why I’d leave a great career and six-figure salary. What he didn’t realize was that I’d already made $106,421 from my business before turning in my notice.

Making that money was life-changing, as it gave me the confidence to finally walk away from a steady paycheck and pursue my dream of being an entrepreneur. 

Since then, I’ve helped thousands of people build their own online businesses before leaving their jobs. Here are my top five strategies for finding the time to grow your business on the side.

SEE ALSO: I retired at 37 as a self-made millionaire, and 3 years later I’ve learned a few big lessons about money and life

1. Delete, delegate, and do — strategically

One of my best tips for completing more of your to-do items? Have fewer on the list.

There’s where the Delete/Delegate/Do exercise comes in. Write a list of all the activities you are currently spending time on and evaluate them in the following way:

If something doesn’t have to be done, “delete” it and stop doing it. If it needs to be done but it doesn’t need to be done by you, “delegate” it. What you’re left with are the only tasks that you actually need to do — your “do” list. You’ll probably be surprised at how small this list truly is. 

For example, the first time I did this exercise, I realized that I spent a lot of time watching TV. I didn’t expect to stop watching TV completely, but I figured I could cut down to only two or three shows. That alone freed up at least five hours each week.

Things that were important but that I didn’t necessarily have to do, like setting up my website, I moved to the “Delegate” category.  

If you’re working a job while building your business on the side, the downside is that you don’t have a lot of free time. The upside is that you have a bit more disposable income, which you can invest strategically in your business so that you can make the most of your limited time.

Read more: I’ve helped over a thousand men and women start their own online businesses. Here are 4 key differences between those who succeed and those who don’t.

2. Leverage ‘gap time’

Early on, I realized that I was wasting a lot of time on “preparation.” In other words, overthinking or hyping myself up before actually doing what I needed to do. For example, I once spent an hour preparing to record a video that only took 15 minutes to actually record!

That’s when I started using “gap time” to force myself to be more efficient. This is time that you might normally expect to waste, like lunch time, your commute, or waiting at the doctor’s office.

I started using that time to listen to courses, respond to client emails, follow up with prospective clients, write social media content, and engage online with potential clients.

The beauty of gap time is that because you only have a set amount of time, you are forced to take action and get what you need done within that time frame.

3. Go with your flow

A popular productivity tip is to wake up earlier in the day. After all, if it helps Fortune 500 CEOs get more done, shouldn’t it work for you too?

Being a natural night owl though, I found that the earlier I woke up, the more tired I felt and the less I got done. So instead of trying to change my lifelong habits, I instead arranged my schedule to align with my natural energy flow. 

Here’s what that looked like:

On weekends, when my energy was high because I didn’t have to go to work, I scheduled my mental heavy lifting. That meant generating content ideas, writing emails, and creating blog articles. Then, on weekdays after work, when my energy was low, I scheduled things that required less mental energy, like sharing the content I’d created during the weekend. 

Read more: 6 confidence hacks that helped me go from earning $75,000 to $500,000 a year

4. Chunk your time

You know how you get in “the zone” after you’ve been working on something for a while? This is actually a psychological state where you’re more focused and get things done faster. 

However, it takes a while before you get into the zone. That’s why you should “chunk” your time so that you can get more done by getting and staying in the zone.

For example, if you only have 30 minutes a day after work, that’s a 30-minute “chunk” where you should be focused on just one activity; whether that’s creating content, engaging with potential clients, or pitching potential partners.

There’s another massive benefit to doing this. Before you even start working, you know exactly what to do because you know what that chunk of time has been set aside for. That way, no time is wasted wondering what you should be working on.

5. Organize your to-do list around your goals

This final tip is both a time-saving and a business-building tip: Every month, choose just one goal in your business, and make sure you only do things that move you towards achieving that goal.

For example, my first month’s goal was to get my first paying client. Each to-do had to contribute to that goal. Otherwise, I didn’t do it; it had to wait. 

For my second month in business, my goal was to get my next two clients. Again, I didn’t do anything that didn’t help me meet that goal. 

That’s how I was able to create such focused momentum and growth in my business while working a demanding job. It wasn’t that I had more time or had superhuman discipline. (Remember: I still set aside time to watch my top TV shows every week!)

It’s not easy, but it’s possible. The key is quality over quantity; using your limited time to work on fewer to-do items that made the biggest difference in growing your business.

Luisa Zhou is the creator of the Employee to Entrepreneur system, which teaches people how to leave their day job and start their own six-figure plus business working for themselves. She’s been featured in Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Success magazine, and more. Get her free blueprint for building a profitable online business that frees you from the 9-5.


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