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How to build your dream business even when you’re short on time

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I don’t know about you, but I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit.

I can’t shake it.

I think I got it from my dad. He’s always talking about his next big idea and how it’s going to change the world. And I find myself doing the same thing: turning every stubbed toe or broken stick into a problem that needs to be solved by a company I could start.

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And even though I have another full-time job currently, I still run my blogging, design, and consulting business on the side.

I can’t not work on my own business.

And there are millions of people like me. You might be one of them.

PS: This is the second post in a series covering common reasons people never start a business: and how to buck the trend by starting the business of your dreams. We’ve collected them all into an easy-to-read ebook which you can download for free here.

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I’m lucky because I was able to start a successful business on the side. But many entrepreneurs trapped in the bodies of corporate cubicle-dwellers never make it.

So what keeps many of these “corporate entrepreneurs” from actually starting a business?

For many of them, it’s that “there’s not enough time.”

Reason #2 for not starting a business: time.

There’s not enough time in the day to work a full-time job, have a family, and start a successful company.

There’s not enough time to build a business to the point that it could support you 100% in the event of layoffs or other unexpected emergencies.

It’s time to bust that excuse.

Why you don’t need tons of free time to start a business

Here’s why starting a business may not be as time consuming as you think it is (and definitely isn’t as time-consuming as it used to be.)

1. The internet makes starting a business so much faster and easier.
It used to be that if you wanted to start a business, you had to quit your job, find someone to loan you a big chunk of money, and dedicate 40 hours a week plus nights, weekends, and holidays to making your dream come true.

While starting (and running) a business is no walk in the park, it’s definitely much easier than it used to be: primarily thanks to the Internet.

In minutes, you can have a web site set up, put a paypal button on the page and start selling something.

Let me be clear, building a website doesn’t mean you’re building a business. But it’s definitely a great way to start if you’re really serious about it.

Does it take time? Sure.

But it’s faster than finding an investor, building a store, stocking it with inventory, and finding customers.

Use the web to your advantage and you’ll find you can get more done in less time.

2. Low startup costs mean you can make a profit faster
A lot of people sit on brilliant business ideas while they work a dead-end job hoping to build up the capital they need to start living how they want to.

The truth is, you don’t need near as much money as you used to in order to get started building a business (see the first post in this series).

That means, instead of saving for a decade before you can build a business, you can whittle that time to less-than one year.

Less startup costs means less time before you can start the business you’ve been dreaming about.

3. There’s always more time in the day
Most importantly, always remember that there’s more time in your day than you’re giving yourself.

Try taking Jon Acuff’s advice from his book START and “be selfish at 5am.” Wake up 2 hours earlier than your family to work on your dream business. You’ll find there’s very little resistance from spouses, kids, friends, etc. at 5am.

Think you don’t have time to pursue a business? Set your alarm for 5am and you’ll be amazed at how much extra time.

If you can’t quite bring yourself to follow the 5am rule, at least do what Gary Vanerchuck says and “Stop watching LOST!”

Start cutting out the things in life that don’t really matter (watching LOST, scrolling Facebook feeds or whatever your current media addiction is) and adding the things you’re most passionate about.

What did I leave out?

What do you think? Is it true that you don’t need heaps of time in order to start a business? Start small, allow yourself to grow, and find time in the day to make what matters most happen.

Leave a comment on this post and let’s talk.

Enjoyed this post? We’ve included it as part of our free ebook to crush the top 5 most common excuses we hear about starting a business. Download the Millo ebook for free here.


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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

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  1. I agree that you don’t need much time to start a business. I thought I’d go all out when I was done having kids and setup a studio and hire an employer, yada, yada, yada! I felt ovewhelmed and wanted to give up even before I started. It took me a little bit to figure out that my free time should be dedicated to my business but that a slow and easy start was the best way for me. Now, after one year, I am designing and meeting new clients on a regular basis and looking at how I can improve my business with quality work and customer service and have the time to think up ways to make it even better. I am growing and I’ll only grow more.

  2. jerome tanibata says:

    If something is important enough to you, you will make the time for it (like waking up at 5am). Or you could think of it this way, Donald Trump says he’ll give you $1000 every week that you wake up at 5am and stand on your head for an hour… would you do it? I sure would…

  3. I just really started making a true effort to get my freelancing business off the ground. My friend has a nail shop and is letting me operate my business out of it. It is SO hard and I was just stressing yesterday about the time it takes. This series is just the encouragement I need, right on time!

  4. Just wanted to say Great blog. It’s true you don’t to ask a venture capitalist for funding… just start small. Try marketing yourself & your services first to build up demand. Once you have completed a few good jobs, ask for referrals! No harm in asking if they know anyone you might use your services. Then ask yourself, did I really enjoy doing that as a freelancer, could I achieve the income needed to support myself rather than work for someone else.
    Remember, you do need to be selfish when it comes to YOUR business, set aside the time & effort, reward your family/friends/whoever it is that is encouraging or supporting you! They will understand if they know what the end goal is…. freedom is hard work & perserverance. Good luck.

  5. My wife and I are in the process of starting a business we’ve dreamed about for a decade. I work full time, she works part-time, we are raising a 9 year old boy who has dyslexia, and we are in operating in survival mode so we can devote time and money to the new business. This means we don’t watch TV, don’t go out to eat and so forth. We try to maintain a “normal” life for the boy but it is hard living in a outdoor wonderland while spending most all of our time focused on business and not taking the time to experience where we live. The light at the end of the tunnel makes the sacrifices worth it. We keep reminding ourselves to keep our eyes on the prize. I know that is a cliche, but it’s true.

  6. Great post Preston. Thanks!

  7. Chandra Tincombe says:

    This is exactly my issue right now! Lack of time and funds (referring to previous post)… I’ve been working on a freelance design business for the last couple of years and progress has been painfully slow. With a little one just starting school this year and baby #2 set to arrive in the new year time and money are at a premium! I’ve been slowly figuring out the importance of scheduling my time and getting creative with marketing myself and maintaining client relationships. Living in a small community has also helped in that I can get away with being a little less than perfectly professional at all times so I do have some leeway with how I do things right now. Even though it’s been a struggle my business has been growing and my name is getting known in the community to the point now where people approach me more often than I have to go after them for business. So even though it may seem daunting (which it really does some days) it’s doable if you want it bad enough.

  8. I agree, Preston. You don’t necessarily need more time, but you do need good time management. The time management skills you perfect when you’re setting up your business will come in very handy when your business is successful. 🙂

  9. It just comes down to how much you want it. For me I want to have a flourishing business more than anything in the world!

    This is the 3rd post I have come across, about joining the 5am club! Still haven’t been able to do it but again my work load is under control at the moment.

    Nevertheless thinking of making my website responsive ( I know its high time!) So will have to start waking up at 5 if I want to do it 🙂

    Thanks for the post Preston.

  10. Also does anyone know how to a profile pic to your account here??

  11. You hit the nail on the head with is one. This, just like the previous article was also a big excuse for me. Time; how was I going to manage. I mean working a full time job, being a father, and of course furthering my education as well. Let’s not forget… as designers we always have to be learning too. How am I going to find the time during the week with all of those things… including; Homeland, Dexter, Walking Dead, The Good Wife, American Pickers, Pawn Stars….

    I mean really…. where was I to find the time. Then it dawned on me. The time is there. I just had to go out and get it. No one said their isn’t a sacrifice.

    These articles are top notch and still very helpful. Reading this helps us all realize “Hey, we are not the only ones. Others are going through this”. That is key. It just goes to show you… if Preston Lee has time to write this article.. I can wait a week to watch the Zombies!

  12. True.. media addiction is a big issue, in fact… there are days when I feel a huge load of work on my side and then once I go through it I realize that the load of work wasn’t too big… I was spending my time doing such other things on the internet… Time management is very important, I have lost a good track since my mobile broke… I used to wake up in the morning and check the emails on it… if there was nothing to do I stayed at bed with my wife 🙂

  13. Great post! And something I definitely struggle with. I find it hard to come back from a long day of work to find more work on my plate with freelancing. And unfortunately watching TV helps me shut off that brain for just a moment. However if you want to start a business it means sacrificing and cutting out things that don’t matter.

    Thanks Preston, you’re definitely an inspiration juggling all the different aspects of your life as well as managing your time!

  14. Time is a big factor. It can be very frustrating when you sit in someone’s office while your moonlight freelance design business is waiting for you. You can’t contact clients during working hours and worse of all you can’t execute projects anytime they come. Well, I have been managing freelance design work while keeping my day job for the past five years in two different environments offering different levels of flexibility. I am currently working on a website to promote my freelance work and also developing strategies to grow it to the extent where I can leave the day job and commit to it fully. It is not easy but as you have highlighted here – it it very possible. Thumbs up Preston!

  15. This has been one of my biggest obstacles while working a full-time job. I won’t have the job much longer so now I’ll have plenty of time to work on my business. It’s a necessity now.

  16. Great post Preston, as was the last one.

    There’s a reason they call it “moonlighting” – up before dawn & still up way past sunset. True, you can’t always take freelance calls when you’re working full-time in someone’s office, but you could touch base or follow up at lunch and/or on breaks if necessary.

    It’s OK to take a brain break – we all need them at times, but don’t just let yourself go, either. DVR the shows and use that time as a reward for accomplishing a particular task.

    You don’t need lots of time at first since the clients aren’t beating down your door (yet). Keep a steady pace – even slow progress is still progress,. Think about other areas of your life – if it’s important enough, you’ll find a way to make things work!

    I look forward to the rest of the series!

  17. As a current college student I thank you for great timing of these posts as I’m current in the preparation stages in my idea of going freelancing soon. One of my biggest questions is how do I go about creating a fair and effective contract? I look forward to these future posts!

  18. Time has always been a factor for me. Lol 24hrs seems so short lived! Anyways thanks for the post… Encouragement is something i can never have enough of.

  19. Great post, very encougaring!

  20. It’s true that it does not take as long as it used to but it still really can take a long time, at least it did for me. And in looking at everything all at once it is very daunting. The trick for me was to break it up into small steps/accomplishments. And create a timeline for when things are to be done. I still look at it this way in growing my business. And it’s completely true that most people have a lot of time-suck activities. I know I do and I have been trying to get up earlier for a long time, but it’s just not happening for me, so I do the opposite and stay up late to have my alone-time work.

    Great post, Thanks!

  21. I have been creating all these ideas and all this talk about being freelance and then the though if it made me sick and I was so swamped with what to do I couldn’t or rather didn’t do anything this is so good for me right now this is exactly what I needed to sort myself out and get myself out there thank you

  22. It’s a great post. Thanks. Could also write about finding a business partner, and partnership in general?

  23. Hi, can you possibly write about different ways to charge for website maintenance, after a site launches? Do other designers charge hourly for updates, with a minimum charge, or have a retainer fee?

  24. Great article. I have used this excuse in the past and allowed it validate my procrastination on pursuing some potential side projects. Not until the last year have I decided to at least try before I place indivisible barriers on my ideas.

    I seem to go through busy and slow seasons in my life. So, what worked for me was during my slow season I decided to put feet to an idea that I knew could make money within a month. All I had to do was put some time into it. The problem and hurdle for me was it needed around 30 hours of work. Even in my slow time that would take weeks to fit that in. My friend, who always had side project ideas suggested we do a hackathon together. I was not familiar with the hackathon idea as I am a designer and he’s a developer. He told me how people would work a whole weekend on a project from start to finish. We both struggled with getting our ideas into realities, so I said yes, let’s do it. We spent Friday night until very late, went to sleep for a few hours and spent over 14hrs on Saturday and a handful of hours Sunday. We did it! I was able to get my idea into reality and making money. Not a lot of money, but I did it. He almost finished his idea but got stuck on some legal advice that had to get sorted out afterwards.

    Anyway, I say all that, because you may be like me and have hard time to squeeze in a few more hours. But you may be able to set aside one long weekend. And then from that weekend you will gain momentum to do it daily/weekly.

    That’s my two cents

  25. Hey Preston, I am really enjoying this series. It is so on time for me as I am working my way out of working for someone else. I’m a graphic designer full time, and my freelance design business is really picking up, to the point that it requires full time attention. I take days off of my day job to schedule client meetings. As a single mother of three, my youngest being one, time is a force to be reckoned with. I recently began waking up at 4am to work on business stuff. I’m way more productive at that hour than I used to be during the midnight hour, trying to stay up after the kids were in the bed. After weeks,months and years of trying to keep up the demands of both design careers, I found myself coming home from work, relegating my children to play amongst themselves while I held conference calls or scheduled client meetings. Time spent with my kids became increasingly important to me, and helped me decide if I’m going to be serious enough to start transitioning out of working for someone else to working for myself. It is scary no doubt, but I feel the load of pressure and stress getting lighter with every step I make towards independence. So getting up at 4am has become much easier, and I look forward to it.

  26. Great article – I once read: ” If you launch your new concept/product with 100% satisfaction and nothing you want to improve, you have launched to late”….

  27. Thanks Preston. Now I know I have no excuses for starting my other business.


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