Is it any wonder I’m not a criminal?

Is it any wonder I’m not in jail?

Is it any wonder I’ve got

Too much time on my hands?

– Styx

If only we all had the problem of too much time on our hands. Sitting around on barstools talkin’ like damn fools. Alas, few people can do that and still pay the bills.

So when you see all the beautiful people online talking about their side gigs and how they just bought their third yacht from their Google Ad revenue, it’s maddening.

Who has time to do something on the side when you’ve got a day job? Even when you’re off work, when exactly are you going to work on your thing? There’s dinner to make, pets to feed, maybe even kids to take care of, find toilet paper… so, when? After all that you just wanna slip into your comfies, open some wine and chill with your best friend Netflix.

I hear you. Many days end with me and my wife doing exactly that. Yet I still run a custom printing business and have more than a few side gigs. Hey, I don’t even have one yacht, so don’t look at me like that.

So how do I find the time?

Maybe you’ve read about this before and the advice inevitably comes down to something like “Make time.” Hmmm, pithy. Not exactly helpful.

Or maybe you saw yet another instagram meme shaming you about how you’re wasting time watching TV when you could be earning your yacht. Not helpful at all.

I’m not going to do that to you. Glib and pious don’t work here, I fired them from the band. What I am going to do is share some super cool tips that help me a lot. Do I always follow them to the letter? No, because I am human. I do my best, and you can, too.

Schedule It

One of the steps in my Start Me Up side gig starter is about scheduling time to work on your side gig. Yeah, I know. It sounds suspiciously like “Make time.” I wouldn’t do that to you. Here’s what I say in the program:

One of the most important things you can do is to set aside purposeful time for your thing. Like all the other steps you took to get here, it’s about making it clear to yourself and the world that you are actually doing something of importance.

If you try to multi-task this and work it into the chaos of your day, it will feel like fiddling around. Fiddling around doesn’t seem very important. Establishing a scheduled time does, and you will accomplish more if you take your time seriously.

There’s more, but essentially, you’re blocking out little time slots in your day where you only focus on your side gig. Even 15 minute chunks will get you moving ahead.

If you can spend 15 minutes on the toilet hiding from the kids and checking Facebook, you can do this.

Something you like to do

One of the things I’ve noticed that makes people feel like a side gig is going to be just more work is that they choose to do something that’s not a natural fit for them. They read about some online scheme like selling products on Amazon and they hate it. So they don’t do the work because it feels like a slog. Yay, more work. Sign me up.

When you choose something you love doing, that feeds your soul, you won’t have to force yourself to sit down and do the work. You’ll want to do it. And consequently, the money you earn from it will feel crazy good.

*disclaimer: I don’t really think that selling products on Amazon is a bad idea or a scam. It’s just not for everyone (it wasn’t for me). If that makes your heart sing, then go for it!

Stop Self-shaming

Okay, so this doesn’t magically add more time to your day, but it’s important. Listen, you already work hard. Don’t neglect your mental and physical health just for some extra cash. If you’re using your little carved-out chunks of time (like above), you’ll be fine. You can Netflix and chill without the guilt. Go ride bikes with your kids. Take that hike. Go to happy hour.

If you aren’t enjoying your life, what’s the extra cash going to be for, anyway?

These are just three quick tips to help you find time to work on your side gig. If you found them helpful, please share this post with friends.

If you want to dig deeper into creating your side gig, check out my free program on it . It walks you through step-by-step and it comes with a fillable PDF worksheet. Also, there are Rolling Stones references all over the place. Sign up 

Photo by Mikayla Mallek on Unsplash

This week hasn’t started out like we all thought it would. Things have been escalating pretty quickly and none of us were prepared for how this would play out.

Jenni and I are extremely fortunate in that we’re used to this routine. We already work from home and we homeschool our 12-year old. Yeah, we’re those people. No, we don’t bring prune and hemp bars to parties or hand out little end-of-the-world pamphlets at the bar, but admittedly we are outside the norm.

I know you’re dealing with a lot of shit right now that you’re not used to. Maybe you’re not exactly sure how this whole working from home thing is supposed to be done. Your company probably wasn’t prepared for that, either. Do you wear pants during video conferences? Do you still shower every day? Maybe you’re stuck somewhere between what’s the proper protocol and how much can you get away with?

I know, let’s throw kids home from school every day into the mix! Yay! It’s like a snow day that seems like it will never end. Schools weren’t really set up for this situation, either. So now all they want to do is play Minecraft and watch Frozen and you feel like crap because you really should be helping them get an education but you still aren’t even sure how to use Zoom or Slack for work.

And let’s not even mention that you bought everything you needed for the next 2 weeks except extra peanut butter and it’s the ONE THING that would make the day seem slightly more sane.

Deep breath. 

This sucks. You are not alone. You are going to get through this.

It may help you to know that as homeschoolers (technically “unschoolers” to pile on a little extra weirdness), we aren’t always getting it right, either. We do our best but we still have to wrestle the kid away from YouTube sometimes. He’s 12. He doesn’t always want to read the stuff we assign him or work on the project he started (ironically, he was working on a thing about the Black Plague. heh). Some days are tough. Some days are easy.

Forgive yourself.

This situation is nowhere close to normal, so don’t try so hard to make it that way. Let it be weird and unpredictable and not ideal.

Do your best to get through the day, figure out your own work routine. The kids are not going to miss out on Harvard because they spent a week at home without an established curriculum. Don’t try to replicate the experience of sitting in a chair and being attentive for 8 hours a day.

Forgive yourself.

Do what you can to stay healthy, stay sane and make sure the house doesn’t burn down. If you can do that over the next eight weeks, you’re doing an amazing job.

And hey. If you need to unload or ask a question or whatever, reach out. I’m @workathomedj on twitter, or you can send me an email: dj at workathomegeek dot com.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

My First Space, or: The 90s Were Rad

When I first decided that I wanted to create animated films, we lived in a tiny 1-bedroom apartment in central Phoenix. We had a toddler and a baby on the way. If there was a space in that apartment that didn’t have wipes and stuffed toys in it, I don’t know where it was. Maybe the tiny patio.

I don’t know if you know anything about making animated films, but a crucial part of the process involves the use of a flat surface, bare minimum. Also a chair, if you’re really serious. Being short on those things, I had to make do with our kitchen table and sometimes a coffee table and no chair. We also had a computer and a desk, but because this was the 90s, our computer monitor was the size of a VW Beetle. Not a lot of space left for drawing things.

I had to make something work. The only option was to just not do it and since I couldn’t imagine myself working as a bank receptionist into my 30s, I made a space for myself. Thankfully, Jenni was supportive and knew that I needed it. So even though my working surface shifted around, I had a little file box dedicated to my drawings and ideas. My animation studio was housed in a little magenta accordion file thing. I still have it somewhere.

Getting that file box and making it mine was a little thing, but it made me feel like I was really going after my dream. After a few years of hard work using any available flat surface and my file box, I got a couple films into festivals, did some freelance gigs and eventually got hired at Nickelodeon.

Start With Your Space

When you’re starting a side hustle or business (freelancing is a business), it’s tempting to think that you first need a business plan, or maybe some capital, or like all really real businesses, a Costco membership. You don’t. Those things are for later. You can get stuck in those steps because they’re big steps. 

The first thing you start with is your space.

Tell it to Your Brain

When you start by creating your own space, you’re basically telling your brain that yes, you really are doing this and no, we can’t get a Costco account yet, no matter how much you would love a 10-quart jar of pickles.

Maybe you tell yourself that you’re going to start your thing every hour of every day. That’s great, but the problem is that your brain doesn’t believe you. Your brain yawns and says, “Mmm, pickles.”

When you plant your stake in the ground, when you carve out your own space for your thing, your brain wakes up a little and says, “Oh, you were serious about this! Well, that pickle jar is really too heavy anyway.”

No Desk, No Problem

Maybe you have the wherewithal to dedicate an entire room to your thing. That’s awesome and you should take advantage of it. Get rid of those funny beer cans you kept from college and make it your space.

If you don’t have an entire room, it’s totally okay. You can still do this. Hey, I had an accordion folder, and those things have come a long way since the 90s. Okay, actually they haven’t changed at all but if that’s what you’ve got, you can make it work.

You might have to share a room with a sewing machine or a yoga mat and that’s fine, too. The important thing is that you claim your territory. Whatever it is that you choose, it must be dedicated to your business. Tell your brain you’re really doing this.

Sacred Ground

Now that you’ve claimed your space, it’s time to burn some sage in small, concentric circles to get rid of the bad jou-jou. Just kidding, although if that’s your thing, go for it.

You don’t have to do a ceremony or host a ribbon-cutting (although that could be fun), this space is now officially yours.  

It’s a good idea to tell the people around you that it’s off-limits for other activities. Establish rules right up front so there’s no confusion. This also tells the other brains in your home that you’re really doing this thing. You will likely get more respect and support, and possibly even help carrying that 10-quart jar of pickles when it’s time.

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

Today was kind of a weird day for me. It’s Monday, and usually coming off of a weekend (wait, what’s that?) I am all kinds of productive. For me, Mondays are my git-er-done days. I don’t really know why. I drink just as much coffee on those other days that don’t start with M.

But some days I’m just not feeling it and today is one of those days. I don’t know why, maybe my chakra is misaligned with the snow moon in my seventh house of cards. No real reason I can point to. But there it is.

I still got the work done. I had client work that I couldn’t just ignore, because there are other humans counting on me. Of course I had to do that work. But my moving-forward stuff, my hustling, my passive income-building activities are just kind of floating around my head like drunken bees singing, “I don’t wanna work, I just wanna bang on me drum all day…” I didn’t even want to write this post, but it’s on my calendar so if I don’t, I’ll probably have nightmares about notification badges pounding on my front door. Wouldn’t be the first time.

One of the things that people don’t realize about starting a freelance career is that it’s not all watching YouTube makeup tutorials in your underwear and sipping expensive teas from Mawlamyine. If you get kinda lazy on the 9-to-5, you can usually get by without anyone noticing – sometimes for a few days, even. But when you freelance, any time you spend being lazy is time lost bringing in new clients or marketing. Then you have to make it up later, and no, you don’t get overtime because it’s a national holiday, like Super Bowl Sunday or the Oscars. No soup for you!

So yeah, I’ll do the stuff. Maybe today won’t be one of those Shining Glorious Mondays where I accomplish ALL OF THE THINGS and still have time to invent a better method for stirring natural peanut butter. But at least I’ll know that I am moving forward, one step at a time. There will be another day where I can channel a carpenter ant on an endorphin high. Today is more… sloth on espresso.

Looking at you, Tuesday.

A Super Simple Method for Tracking Your Monthly Income

Do you know how much money you have coming in this month? I mean, from all sources. Your paycheck, your business, your side hustle, poker nights, all that yarn you have on eBay… whatever.

If you have one job or contract and you collect a regular paycheck, it doesn’t take much mental energy to get a sense for how much you’ll have to pay your bills and keep your cupboard stocked with chocolate and whiskey. When you work consistently, you typically get paid consistently and that’s super cool.

However, when you work on multiple projects, and you’re not working under any longterm contracts, your pay may not be so regular and it can be harder to know. Suddenly it’s the 28th and you have to check your account balance to figure out if you can pay to live another month. I hope that’s not the case and you have so much money coming in that it’s a no-brainer. Still, documenting your earnings and knowing what’s coming down the pipeline is a good practice.

I’ve been freelancing on many different projects for the past 12 years. Like all businesses, my income has had its share of highs and lows. For a long time I spent a good part of my weeks obsessively tracking my billable hours and worrying about when my next project would start. I never had a clear picture of what the next few months would bring. That was stressful and I wasted a lot of time worrying about stuff I could actually track.

Then I learned about tracking my monthly income using a pipeline spreadsheet. I’ve been using this method since 2014 and it’s made things much clearer for me.

As you’ll see, this thing is super simple. Each month is laid out in columns. In the first column under the months, you list your different sources of income, each with its own row. In the next columns within those rows, you enter the amount of income you expect to have come in that month.

An important distinction is that you’re not listing what you hope you’ll make, but what you actually have coming down the pipeline. As in, what you’ve already earned and is either in your checking account or on the way.

The last columns and rows calculate totals for you. At a glance, you can get a really good picture of what you’ll be paid in the very near future. As a bonus, when you look back over the year you can analyze your earnings. Because I’m a geek, I create charts of income for different categories through the years.

If you’re a spreadsheet wiz, you can make this yourself pretty easily. The formulas are simple sums. If you hate setting up stuff like this, I created one for you as a Microsoft Excel file. It’s a free download right here: Pipeline Spreadsheet

How it Works

I’ve added all kinds of fancy arrows and callouts in the image below, but I’ll also give you the rundown.

The top row is just the months of the year. Easy peasy.

The first column is where you will list your sources of income. You can see from my example that I list four. This is really up to you, you can split up different contracts or projects or just combine them all under “Freelance.”

In each monthly column, you simply list any income you know is coming for that category. I update this every time I have something new come in. Below that, I list each client and the amount I expect to receive from them. It’s not necessary but I find it helpful. Again, the amount you put in the income cell is only what you know is coming in that month. Not what you wish will come in or a lofty guess. This is for any money that’s going to hit your account for sure.

Note: I have a separate spreadsheet for all my passive income sources. I think I mentioned that I’m a geek.

On the far right in column N is the sum of your monthly income for each category. This calculates automatically because there’s a formula in that cell that tells it to. If you edit the cells in column N, they will cease to function and you’ll have to go old school and add them up yourself.

Similarly, Monthly Totals and Year Total update automagically, too. Isn’t that fun?

That’s really it. Super simple. As you do this throughout the year, I think you’ll find that you can better predict what’s coming and you’ll lose a little tension about it. Even if you see that June is looking a little weak, at least you’ll know that you need to do something about it. “Knowledge is power,” as the inventor of the spreadsheet famously said. Yes, I just made that up. But it feels true.

If you have any trouble with the download, the spreadsheet, or just frikkin’ making it rain every month, let me know. I’m here to help.