How to Manage a Creative Business Even If You Have a Day Job

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Starting a creative business had always been a dream of mine, and I’d known it even while in college. I wanted to make a living doing something (or some things) I was passionate about. Writing, designing, even teaching… I’m a creative, and I know it. But my biggest problem has been hearing this:

Starting a creative business is impossibly hard.

Okay, maybe not “impossibly.” But definitely hard.

And let’s be real for a minute. Maybe you can’t just quit your dreary day job cold turkey to start the creative business of your dreams. Or maybe your day job isn’t even dreary. Maybe you actually love your job.

But you might also have this creative passion or hobby that you want to take further. And as you might have guessed – because I love to encourage people about this – you could even start a side hustle.

(Just in case you need more convincing to actually start one, here’s a post on 4 reasons you actually need a side hustle.)

And even if you’re already convinced and yes-yes-yes-I-want-to-start, your next question might be: how do you actually start?

Starting a creative business: how to actually start

In case you don’t have a side hustle idea just yet, here’s an easy 2-step framework that I use and always recommend for people looking to start a side hustle for the first time.

1. Decide on what you want to do

Do a quick check with your heart-radar. What are you passionate about? What are things you’re interested in? And probably the most important question of all – what do you really, really, really want to do?

Some examples for your inspiration:

  • Starting a fashion blog and monetizing through sponsored posts and affiliate marketing
  • Launching an online store that sells printable personalized watercolor prints
  • Have a freelance virtual assistance service helping new businesses set up and customize their online stores

In case you need more inspiration, here’s a massive list of 350+ possible passion projects I’ve compiled. And the best part is that you can turn any of these ideas into a side hustle!

Related: 350+ Passion Project Ideas

2. Zero in on your target customer

Every business, creative or not, is going to need a target customer.

Ask these questions: what are they like? what do they do in the day? what’s something your side hustle can help them with?

I like to think about my target customer (in my case, my target readers, subscribers, and clients) as if they were just one person.

So you might think of them this way:

My blog’s target reader is Jen, a go-getting, creative, passionate millennial. She’s currently 23 years old and is working a day job – but Jen also has a creative hobby. She wants to really start a profitable, sustainable brand from this creative passion, but she’s worried about taking the first step. She doesn’t want to quit her first job, but she still wants a way to make extra income every month – yet doesn’t know how.

Who can help her out? In my case, I wanted to be that person to help!

Managing a creative business even with a 9-5

Here’s the thing about us creatives…

Sometimes we have all the best ideas, but we never follow through.

And I get it. Life happens. Sometimes we procrastinate and push back any work for a creative side business for a ton of reasons. But the thing is…

The people who really succeed in their creative business goals are those people who make the effort – no matter what life throws at them.

So here are my top tips for managing your creative business, from setting and slaying your goals to staying productive all day.

1. Set SMART goals

You’re probably really tired of hearing it, but you need to set goals for your creative business. And I mean the SMART kind.

Really flesh out all the things you want to happen with your creative business and work backwards from there.

Related: How to Focus on Just One Goal at a Time (even when you’re a multi-passionate unicorn)

How many clients do you want to get on your first month of launching a freelance business? How much do you want to be earning from your online store in your first three months?

The key here is to be specific and be realistic.

List down your goals and any other thing you might want to get out of the way. In case you need some inspiration for the kinds of goals and lists you can make, I have this “list of lists” you can check out. 

Related: Make These Lists When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

2. Carve out batches of free time in your day

So in case it isn’t obvious, this part is different for everyone.

One person might work a regular 9-5, but another person might have a night shift. Some people have long commutes going to work while others just take a 5-minute walk. You might have no family at home to feed while someone else does.

But you know, I’ve always believed we can make time work for us.

Related: 15 Productive Things to Do in 10 Minutes or Less

Sit down and plot out your entire week. Identify any batches of time – even if it’s just 10 minutes – that you can work on your creative business.

It might be that 10-minute commute to work. Maybe it’s the 30-minute walk you take after lunch. Or it could even be the hour before you call it a night.

To help you get started, I have a list of 15 super productive things you can do for your home, work, or business in just 10 minutes or less.

Related: How to Regain Your Momentum after a Long Break or Vacation

3. Be intentional with your goals and plans

So now you know what you want to happen while you’re starting a creative business. And you’ve also identified batches of time throughout your week to work on that creative business.

Now the simplest – but often, hardest – part: commit, commit commit.

I write about the importance of showing up even if it’s just for 10 minutes a day on this previous blog post, and I still stand by every word I said. 

Related: Here’s One Reason You’re Not Productive (that’s not social media)

Resources for Creative Entrepreneurs

If you’re looking for additional resources for starting a creative business (or running it!), I’ve got just the fix!


If you’re serious about turning your creative hobby into a thriving side hustle, I’ve got free 5-Step Passion to Profit Course to help you go from passion project to profitable side hustle.

You’ll find concrete lessons and actionable worksheets waiting for you in this bite-sized course, and the best part is that it’s absolutely free.

Leave me a comment

What’s your “dream” business? What’s stopping you from starting?