How to start an online business while working full time

I just hit $100K in gross revenue received for the year from my business, which is super exciting!

I have about $22k in expenses so far, taking my net profit to roughly $78k (which I pay taxes out of).

These numbers are through mid September. For the first part of the year, I was still working full time at my job as a financial planner (I went full time on my biz in April).

I talk a lot about blogging—everything from starting to growing to Pinterest to email marketing to monetizing your blog.

Lately, the advice I’m giving to people I talk about business with in person is about starting an online business, in general (not necessarily a blog). This is something I’m learning so much more about as I grow my business. And I’m dying to share it all with you here.

This post is more related to how to start and grow an online business while working full time. This could be for any online business that’s not really e-commerce (aka any business where you’re selling either your own services, such as freelance writing or coaching, or selling your own digital products, which you could do in a number of different ways, like from a podcast or YouTube channel).

All the info below applies regardless of the technology you’ll whether you run a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, or some other online business. It’s all the same. This is the best part of business. You really just need to learn it once and then can apply it everywhere. It’s also stuff that bloggers don’t talk about enough, which is kind of frustrating. But I have your back.

Like I say in Blog With A Full Time Job, blogs don’t make money, businesses do.

Before I go into the outline of how to start an online business while working full time, I want to go through the biggest mistakes I made that I see other people make when they get started…

Here are the top 5 mistakes.

  1. Not committing (not going all in)
  2. Having a Plan B (if you have a Plan B, you haven’t really made a decision)
  3. Not spending enough time, money, or energy to start and grow your business (think of start up culture—this is what you need in the very beginning)
  4. Trying to maintain a completely balanced life by continuing to do all other hobbies (this won’t get you extraordinary results)
  5. Focusing on the wrong thing (this kills more businesses than 1-4 combined—more on this in the next section…)

Stay away from these, and you’ll be good to go.


All That Matters From $0 to $1M

One more thing before I get into the process.

I first learned this from Russell Brunson, and I’ve found it to be true, despite no one really talking about it.

It’s the only thing that really matters when you’re first starting your business.

The only thing that matters in your business from $0 to $1M is sales.

For people just starting out, this may seem too unimaginable, so take $0 to $100k instead. Same thing applies. All that matters from $0 to $100k is sales.

What are you selling? How are you selling it? This should be your focus.

You don’t need better processes, you need to make sales.

Focusing on the wrong thing will kill your business faster than anything. And what you should focus on when you start your business is making sales.

I heard someone say “oh well then you have to choose between having a mission driven business or making money.”

No way. You don’t have to choose. If the business is any good, it will be mission driven. But that doesn’t mean you don’t focus on profitability. Your business shuts down if you don’t have revenue.

By definition, in order for your business to be successful, it must be profitable. Everything else flows from revenue. Everything.

Before you do anything—and I mean anything—focus on what you’re selling and how you’re selling it.

This is so simple and so obvious but ignored so much. I see it time and time again. People get sucked in to ego-driven things, like growing Instagram, getting “brand awareness,” and focusing on influencer-type opportunities. While their platforms “grow,” their revenue doesn’t. It’s usually sponsorship based, at best, and ultimately, I see so many online businesses struggle to monetize.

All these things are great at add to your biz after you have the foundation of what you’re selling and how you’re selling it.

The key to more than doubling my business revenue in the last year has been focusing driving revenue from my actual business, not just a brand. It’s been through focusing on sales (what I’m selling and how I’m selling it) that has made the difference.

If you take nothing else away from this post, know this: all that matters in your first $0 to $100k (or whatever number you want to hit that’s below $1M) is sales. This applies whether you’re going to be a freelance writer, blogger, podcaster, or something else like starting software company online.

Sooo many bloggers don’t talk about this, but the successful ones are doing it. They’re making money (a lot of money) from focusing on increasing revenue from specific assets they have (most commonly by leveraging them with paid advertising). When you read blogs, notice everything. Funnel hack them. Pay attention to what they’re doing—not just what they’re saying.

This is why I love learning from Brooke Castillo and having her as a business coach for the next year. She tells you exactly how to grow and monetize your business, without leaving anything out (and also how she’s doing it to the tune of $15M per year in her business). I can’t wait to share all the good stuff I learn so you can apply it to starting and growing your business, too!


How To Start An Online Business While Working Full Time

Okay, with that in mind, here is the step by step process for how to start an online business while working full time.

1. Get your mindset right

While you’re in the process of starting your business, stay aware of your mindset. It’s a brand new adventure that will have you experiencing a lot of ups and downs.

Listening to personal development podcasts is a great way to combat this. Here are my favorite personal development podcasts.

Also, keep in mind that until revenue to steady, you’re in hustle mode. Think of this as a season—like going to law school, medical school, pharmacy school, etc. You don’t get to maintain your same life you had before going to professional school if you expect to do well and graduate. You give up soooo much by way of your time, money, and energy. Business is the same way.

This past year I gave up cooking, working out, and so much of my social life all for my business. It was just like law school all over again (but way more fun, I have to say!). I’m not suggesting you have to give up working out or cooking even—but you will have to give up something (and probably a lot of things).

People who hold on too tightly to balance in the start up phase usually fail (unless they have a lot of money up front and can hire people right away).

You can join my free mindset training, and I’ll show you exactly how to master your mindset. Add your email below to get started.


2. Create a plan and set goals

You really don’t need to create a plan or set goals to start and grow a successful online business.

But you should do it anyways.

Here’s why.

There are a million new, awesome courses, programs, coaches, and masterminds popping up every minute all with a different angle on how they’re going to be your night and shining armor in your business.

Having a plan and setting goals gives you structure and a roadmap for where you are now and where you’re going. They will prevent you from falling victim to information overload.

Here is my best blog post on how to set goals.

The key to success is taking massive action (where you produce until you get the results you want). If you stay in passive action (where you’re only consuming), you won’t build a successful business.

When you set goals and create a plan, make sure your goals make sense.

For example, having goals around what you’re selling and how you’re selling it make a lot more sense than having goals around building your brand, growing social media followers, etc. (at least in the beginning).


3. Decide who you want to serve

Once you have revenue goals and a general sense of a plan, it’s time to start strategizing your actual business. First up is choosing a target market.

This is one of the most important steps in your business. Everything else stems from this.

The more niched down you can get, the better. Especially if people don’t know you at all yet, you’ll do yourself a huge favor by niching down.

One of the easiest and best target markets to go into is you—whoever you are. That’s why I serve young, professional women. I am one.

You can choose another market, though. It doesn’t have to be you. Whatever you do, make sure you go into a popular (aka “hot”) market. There needs to be demand for whatever you’re going to sell in order for you to make money.

At talk at length about this in Blog With A Full Time Job. It’s one of the most important topics for starting your business.

You can join my Free Online Business Course, where I also talk about it more. Add your email below to get started.

So, choose who you want to serve and make sure there are a lot of people in that space.


4. Set up shop

I’m a big believer in both mindset and action. It’s action that gets you the results. But you’ll only take the right action if you have the right mindset.

Once you have your mindset in check, your goals set, and you know who you want to serve, you’re ready to get started setting up your business.

Here are the steps you’ll need to set up shop:

  1. Create a website (you can use my tutorial here)
  2. Create static pages (your About Page, Contact Page, etc.)
  3. Set up social media accounts for your business (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram)
  4. Start creating content (either with a blog, podcast, YouTube videos—and make sure your content is directly related to providing results related to what you think you’ll be offering as a product or service)

If you’re in this stage, bookmark this page: This is where I keep all my posts about blogging that will help you do this the right way.


5. Validate your business idea in the market

After you have your website set up and you know who you want to serve, you need to figure out what you want to sell to them.

The biggest mistake I see people in is falling in love with an idea before there’s market proof it’ll be successful. The market will tell you whether the idea you have is good or not. No one else knows! They may have pointers or suggestions, but they don’t know with 100% certainty.

You have to take your ideas to the market and see what works. Every single entrepreneur does this. It’s part of business.

For example, you might start creating content in a certain niche and have one type of blog post resonate so much more with anyone reading it than other types of content. That would be an indicator to create more of that type of content.

There are countless books you can read on this, but the truth is that you need to produce and get content and ideas out to the market. This is so much scarier than reading books because it requires massive action. But this is how you figure it out. You create something. It bombs. You create something else. It bombs again. Rinse and repeat until number five is a winner and your business takes off.

I’ve never created a product I didn’t know would sell ahead of time. And this is all without advertising yet, too. Too much time, energy, and money goes into creating products and services, so just make sure your target audience is who is in love with the idea and not just you.


6. Decide how you want to grow the revenue of your business

Part of how to start an online business while working full time is understanding there are many ways to create and grow revenue in a business. The key here is to focus on growing revenue and not on general “growth” things that don’t help produce money in your business.

The bottom line is you need to choose the primary ways you plan to grow your business.

Email marketing is generally unanimously considered one of the primary ways to grow an online business. (Here’s how I built my business to 10k subscribers using ConvertKit.)

Then, there’s usually 1-2 content platforms, such as blogging, Podcasting, YouTubing, or even Instagramming. The key is to make sure you create sales-centered content that provides value and results ahead of time for your readers. It’s your job to educate your audience and motivate them to buy.

Finally, there is getting people to your content and onto your email list, which is usually done for free at first (through search engines, like Google or Pinterest), and then through paid advertising (most commonly Facebook ads and Google ads).

I have been blogging forever. I dabbled in Youtube, and now I’m going to start my podcast. I also plan to incorporate FB ads in the future. Instagram is a brand builder for me, so I have to be very careful to make sure I don’t over-emphasize it. It doesn’t drive revenue for me at all.

I heard Brooke say, “I grow my business through email marketing, podcasting, and Facebook ads.” Such a straightforward, clear statement that blew me away.

No one says it this simply. And it is simple. Business should be simple. If it’s crazy and chaotic go back to the what and the how—what are you selling and how are you selling it. When you view things through that lens during startup mode, you’ll be able to make decisions much more easily.

Decide how you want to grow your business and go all in with that strategy. Then, evaluate it to see if it’s working. For example, if you decide to use Instagram as a content platform and people aren’t leaving the platform or buying, then is it really working (if working is defined as driving revenue)? Something to think about!


7. Treat your side hustle like a separate part time job

This could really be included in the mindset section of number one, but I see this so often that I’m breaking it out into its own step.

When you start an online business with the intent of it becoming profitable, you need to create structure in your life with respect to when and how you’re working.

You can do this in many ways, but some of my favorite are to have a set schedule with specific days and times where you’re working, just like you would if you had a part time job. Check out this post about the best schedules for bloggers to get a look at three different examples.

Then, calendar specific results during your set working hours so you know exactly what you’re going to produce during that time.

If you haven’t read my productivity tips, read them here to learn about calendaring results – 21 productivity tips that actually work.

This is what I did when I built my business to make $45k last year while working full time and the results were


8. Create systems of measurement

Once you understand how to start an online business while working full time, you will be met with a lot of resistance.

Don’t let this win. Expect resistance and act anyway. One of the best ways to do this is to have expectations for yourself.

Decide what you’re going to measure and how often you’ll measure it so you can track your progress.

Nothing kills a business faster than lack of focus and starting and stopping. If you’re committed and you take action, failures, obstacles, and setbacks won’t stop you. It’s the starting and stopping and lack of commitment that will stop you.

I have “key performance indicators” (KPIs) I measure every couple of days to see if what I’m doing is working. I measure 5-10 metrics, including sales, traffic, and email subscribers.

You can decide what your KPIs are based on what how you’re growing your business. Just make sure they make sense for what you’re trying to do.

For example, measuring your Twitter followers is a huge waste of time if you’re trying to grow a business. What you need to measure is sales. I see so many bloggers make this mistake.

If you’re not making sales but you’re measuring sales, you can work backwards to see what’s not working and where you can try new strategies.


9. Do it all yourself at first

Contrary to what you’ll hear a lot, you should actually do everything yourself at first.

You’re building something from nothing. When you outsource right away, you won’t know exactly what the strategy is for what you’re outsourcing.

For example, I see people want to outsource Pinterest and they’ve never been a Pinterest marketer before. If you don’t know how to implement a Pinterest strategy to drive traffic to your business, someone else isn’t going to know how to. It’s your business. You have to figure it out first. Then, outsource.

I’ve heard Brendon Burchard and Daymond John both talk about this, and I’ve personally found it to be true.

You have to know how to run everything in your business first. Once you do, then you can outsource strategically.


A Final Note

Learning how to start an online business while working full time seems intimidating because it’s something new you haven’t done before.

I have 3 pieces of advice for this:

  1. Get around someone who has the results you want and learn from them.
  2. Invest in your business by taking courses or coaching programs or masterminds, but make sure that you do it one at a time and implement everything you learn.
  3. Go listen to the video interviews in the Free Work At Home Summit. You’ll get a glimpse and just home possible it is for you to do all this yourself.

I heard Joe Polish say, “there are many ways to skin a cat” when referring to how to build a successful online business. I love this quote applied to business because it’s a great reminder that you can have success many different ways. You just have to choose one way and stick to it to get the results you want.

P.s. If you’re not sure what to read next, check out How To Become A Full Time Blogger.