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 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.

Photo by Hack Capital on Unsplash

“Washington Mutual, how may I help you?”

That was me. I was sitting in the middle of a call center in the San Fernando Valley, with a headset on and my fingers poised at a keyboard. It was a late and chilly Thursday night as I worked the night shift as a CSR for Washington Mutual Bank. I was one of those faceless people on the other end of the phone who help you figure out why the ATM ate your debit card. I got screamed at by angry people when their cards were declined and told how amazing I was when their account balance was higher than they had recorded. Not that I had anything to do with either. If it had been up to me, I would have just given everyone a little financial boost, sort of like Matthew Broderick in WarGames. Sadly, that was not in my power. I was just a telephone bank clerk.

It wasn’t horrible, but it was definitely not where I saw myself at 30. We lived in a tiny apartment next to an industrial park. Our two kids shared a bedroom. Jenni had a coupon book that magically provided groceries we couldn’t otherwise afford. Our little car had no AC and a clutch that worked when it wanted to.

Just the year before, we were living in New York City and I was head of the storyboard department for the globally phenomenal TV show, Blue’s Clues. It was a glamorous, high-paying job and it was so amazing that I… gave it up. I know, right? After only a short while in television I got this bee in my bonnet that we could move to Los Angeles and I could work in animation there.

That didn’t happen as quickly as I imagined. The few things that I had lined up before we left NYC fell through and I was suddenly very much unemployed. I continued to freelance for a couple of directors on Blue’s Clues, but it wasn’t quite enough to keep our heads above water. Credit cards suddenly made possible what my low income could not (hot tip: don’t do that).

When the credit card delinquency calls started, we knew that we couldn’t go on much longer like that. I did the only thing that made sense, which was to get any kind of job I could find, and fast. 

Hello, headset.

It was on that chilly Thursday night that my friend and animation director called me from NYC and asked how things were going. When I told him, he offered me a job doing animation on Blue’s Clues again, on a freelance contract. My heart took a leap and almost knocked me out of my swivel chair. Small wrinkle: I had to actually be in NYC. Still, it was more money than the call center and I could bandage my wounded pride, so ultimately I said yes. Two friends graciously offered their floors to sleep on, and back across the country I went. Jenni and the kids stayed behind in our tiny Valley apartment on stilts. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a solution that paid the bills, even if temporarily.

I was back in animation. I turned in my headset and felt a renewed sense of pride that I lost when I took the job at the bank.

Not long ago, there was a big ol’ hubbub about Geoffrey Owens, an actor known for The Cosby Show, when someone found him working at a Trader Joe’s in New Jersey. He hadn’t had any steady acting gigs in several years, His residuals also dried up when networks pulled the reruns because of Bill Cosby’s lesser-known work of abusing women was finally brought to light. So he did what he had to do. He got a job to pay the bills. And of course, as soon as he was “discovered,” the internet shamed him for falling off Mount Olympus and ringing up groceries for mortals.

With all the media attention, he was soon offered a job on several series and films. Later he said, “I found myself in the dark wood of unemployment and debt, but instead of switching careers like a sane person, I took a job at a local Trader Joe’s to see if I could hang in there with my career and it’s actually worked out pretty well,” he said. “I’m Geoffrey Owens and I’m an actor!”

In a separate interview, Owens also summed up the way we need to think about work in general:

“…[O]ne type of work is not better or superior than another type of work, so we reevaluate that whole idea and start honoring the dignity of work and the dignity of the working person.”

I’ve often asked myself what I would have done if I hadn’t been invited back to freelance on Blue’s Clues. Between the two gigs, I definitely had a preference and it wasn’t staring at a screen all day… except that ironically, I did end up staring at a screen all day, just a very different screen. TV paid more and was certainly more interesting than reciting bank lobby hours over the phone.

I’m still not ashamed that I took that bank job. Ten out of ten debt collectors and kids agree (there have been several joint polls, I’m not going to find them for you), paying bills and eating dinner are overwhelmingly preferred.

Much of getting what we want in life comes down to persistence. If you really want something, you have to ask yourself if you want it enough to keep doing it even when the chips are down, your back is against the wall and Kylo Ren won’t stop chasing you (a limited demographic, I admit).

If you want it, you’ll do what you have to do. The only shame is in giving up when it gets too hard.

For more inspirational quotes such as, “Don’t give up, just go on!” and a song by a skating snail, check out Blue’s Big Musical Movie*. Look me up in the credits and say hi.

*Affiliate link