The Balancing Act: Passion vs. the Day Job

by Emily Ley of Emily Ley Paper

The Balancing Act: Passion vs. the Day Job

Many entrepreneurs (myself included) start their businesses in the wee hours of the morning, when the little ones are tucked away (and for me, by little ones, I mean my sweet 130lb Bull Mastiff, Briggs, and 15lb Boston Terrier, Harley Bogart), the house is cleaned and the day-job is completed for the time being. A need for a creative outlet, a passion to live what they love and desire to be able to spend more time with family – all many reasons entrepreneurs find the courage to follow their dream.

Is it easy? Nope. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Navigating the waters of having TWO full time jobs is exhausting and at times just downright painful.

This is something I didn’t talk about for the first year and a half of my business. I didn’t want my clients to know that I had a full time job – I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t devoted to them or had enough time to spend with them. I also didn’t want my full time job to think I wasn’t dedicated. I needed that income to get my business off the ground. But as of late, I’ve found that sharing my experiences with other dream-chasers is extremely beneficial and empowering. It aint easy, folks! And those of you who are chasing a dream bigger than you are and managing a full time job as a teacher, an accountant, or even a FULL TIME MOM (I don’t know how you do it) – this is for you.

I want to share a few tips for those of you who are in this same situation. When I started ELP in late 2008, I held a full time job (and still do). I work 8-5 as a fundraiser for the ninth largest University in the nation. I also wake up at 6am, answer emails, finish getting orders ready to ship (lunchtime FedEx run), get ready, and head to my day job. (I used to say “real job”, but it just wasn’t fitting). During lunchtime, I’m off to FedEx to deliver FedEx packages (I use their online system to print and pay for postage – saves time on my lunch break). Or I head to Staples (next door, thankfully) for any office supplies or Panera with my MacBook Air to catch up on any projects or emails. After work, I’m back home – a quick dinner for the husband and me, and then its back to work until 1 or 2am on a good night. Do I work weekends? You betcha.

The key to having two full time jobs is compartmentalization and organization. I make a list every morning of what needs to be done that day at some point in time. I review that list almost every night and prioritize for the following day. I’ve found that if I keep myself organized and I have a plan, I’m better able to balance my two roles. I’ve also learned (this is/was very hard for me) how to compartmentalize my projects and issues for both jobs. I know that my success in one directly affects my success in the other and vice-versa.

The big question. When will I leave my full time position to pursue my dream wholeheartedly? The wholeheartedly part already happened. 🙂 The full time part already happened. But when will I free my time to focus 100% on ELP? My husband and I have a goal in mind. That goal, the place we need ELP to be, is the fire that keeps me going when I feel that “burn out” starting to creep up. It draws nearer with each day that I manage this balance.

So a few key points to take away for all you multiple hat wearers (and this applies to anyone who is a Mom/Biz owner as well! I can’t imagine a BIGGER full time job!)

  • Stay organized: Make lists.
  • Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize. Sometimes the emails can wait when a movie and popcorn with the family is calling your name.
  • Utilize tools like your iPhone Calendar (I’m a tech-junkie, so I RELY on mine heavily) and out of office message for your email (when you’re at the “day job”).
  • SIMPLIFY. Organize your workflow so that you spend precious time on the most important part of your job – working with your clients.
  • Educate yourself: Read The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, one of my favorite books of all time. It really makes you think about the precious minutes of your day and how you can consolidate to do more in less time.
  • Be patient. Remember that it takes time to build an empire. Invest yourself wholeheartedly into your business when you can. Build relationships with your clients. Be authentic.
  • Work SMARTER not HARDER.
  • I know that we at Oh My Handmade Goodness would love to hear your stories – what are you tips for managing your many roles as a wife, friend, employee, business owner, mother or all of the above?


  1. Jacqui says:

    Another great and informative article here at OMHG! thank you!

    I am one of those full time moms working the business in the wee hours of the morning or in snatched moments throughout the day. Lists help me too as well as huge calendars and a whiteboard.

    I think the biggest worry is feeling guilty about missing dinners with the in-laws or skipping lunch with friends on Sunday because I need that time without the kids around to get my work done. I tell myself it is short-term and will be worth it (my little one will be in kindergarten in one year’s time freeing up my days).

    Thanks for sharing your tips!

  2. Emily, I can totally relate! I am so glad you wrote this piece to encourage other full time working women who also run a bustling creative business. I agree with your key points and from my own personal experience, would suggest that sitting down to write down the goals for your family (including extended family and friends), your business, and your life, and being realistic about how certain aspects of the goals might need to be tweaked in light of the other goals you have (e.g., instead of taking the business to point A in a year, you might need to take it to point A in 2 years) will help guide how you manage your time and what things are not to be compromised. Then the decisions to prioritize will be easier and you won’t get distracted by other tasks that really do not tie in and in fact add stress because you will try and do too much or struggle with saying no.

    Another point is to set expectations in how you offer your product/services that you can meet comfortably. It is not necessary to offer next day turnaround if the customer will be fine with a 3-day turnaround time on their order. Or to price something really low to the point that you do not really turn a profit and instead position your brand to be a price competitor vs a premium line.

    Looking forward to seeing other comments from fellow FT+PT women!

  3. Chonte says:

    As I put out my two cents, I’m currently at my day time- full time J.O.B as I write this! Everything is this post is so true and hits so close to home. Do I enjoy my professional career (YES!), do I enjoy my start up (YES!)…I love them both. I’m also a wife, and a mother to my what I call (tornado on legs of a daughter). The biggest most important thing that has helped me juggle all, is the all mighty managing of being organized, because if you don’t your going to be lost. My biggest challenge was spending time with Mr. Exquisite and our daughter, but he has been so helpful with becoming apart of my business that it doesn’t seem as though I don’t give him any attention because he’s right there cutting paper along side of me and our daughter will occassionally peek in the studio and pick up scraps to toss…she’s such a helper! With this said, you will feel a little guilty but including my family in my passion has filled the void of not being able to give them all my attention while doing something I really love doing.

    The article touches on some good tips and ideas but if I can add on…Organize, Prioritize, Keep the Drive and Don’t lose the Passion! Best Wishes and Luck!

  4. Thank you sooo much for this article. I have a day job that is often over 40 hours a week and is very draining (physically and emotionally) but I love it and I love my paper goods shop too. I am also a wife and mother to a very “active” 18 month old. I am always evaluatiing and re-evaluating how to make it all work and work well.

    The tips are great and much appreciated!!!

  5. Thanks for the encouragement and talking about balance and burnout. When I have really busy weeks I struggle to keep the momentum going because I am just plain tired. I not only stay at home with my kids, but I work another part time job from home and it can get really crazy juggling being mommy, my work and my business. I find creating designated times during my day to complete various tasks is important. 7:00 a.m. is my work – before kids are up. 10:00-11:00 is work again during morning quiet time. Afternoon naps are my business and before bedtime is also my business. We all have to juggle and thankfully, I am not a happy camper if I am not busy, so… with all the hats to wear there is ALWAYS something to be done. 🙂

  6. cathiehong says:

    dear emily, thanks so much for the honest & encouraging words! i think about these things a lot — how to juggle life & other responsibilities while still pursuing my own interests. i often feel like giving up, and i think at some point, i will have to decide what in my life is most important, but it’s nice to know that i’m not alone in this & that everyone else fights hard for their dreams in just the same way.

  7. Emily Ley says:

    All of your comments are so inspiring and sweet! I know what a struggle it can be – last night I hit the hay at 2am (for the third night in a row – thank you, National Stationery Show prep). But it’s ALL going to be worth it one day! Best of luck to all of you!

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