Here’s what we know for sure:Millions of people are in the midst of a precarious balancing act right now—juggling full-time gig(s) that pay the bills with a passion project they onlywishpaid the bills. Because according to Bankrate survey findingsfrom last year, almost 40 percent of Americans have a side hustleright now.
That might also explain a bit about why “burnout” is the word on everyone’s lips this year. There’s certainly no blueprint for how one should responsibly divvy up their time across multiple projects, but one thing that often gets lost in the shuffle for side hustlers is time set aside for themselves. Downtime, self-care, sleep—call it what you like. But when ambition becomes an excuse for neglecting your personal health and wellness needs, there’s a problem.
Someone who knows this all too well is Gr8nola founder, Erica Liu Williams. About four years into her career in tech (where she held roles at Yahoo and Intuit), she started to get the entrepreneurial itch. In her free time, she’d grown accustomed to making batches of clean granola at home for herself and her husband (both former athletes with health-conscious diets). But when friends and family started to show an interest in her snack-making, she knew her product had business potential. Her plan was to launch her granola at her local farmer’s market in San Ramon, CA.
“I would work my 9-to-5 with an hour and a half commute each way and come home every night and make a batch of granola,” Williams says. “By Friday, I would have enough inventory that would allow me to sell it Saturday morning at the farmer’s market.”
“I never had big dreams or aspirations to have that be my tech career exit,” Williams says. But as luck would have it, Williams was invited to share Gr8nola at the Google Snack Fair and won first prize in her category.
In six months, she went from baking granola at home for a small consumer base to needing to produce enough granola to accommodate a monthly 1,500-pound order from Google.
Despite the overnight success, Williams wasn’t ready to quit her day job. “Just because I had one huge dinosaur customer didn’t mean I had a working business model. If Google were to leave, I’d have zero business.”
In fact, Williams stayed the course for years, working simultaneously as a full-time marketing manager at Intuit and operating Gr8nola on the side. When a job opportunity presented itself at a tech startup called HoneyBook, she eagerly accepted and put in another three and a half years juggling both. It wasn’t until 2017 when she finally made the move every other side hustler dreams about: going full-time with Gr8nola.
Because of her unique experience building an in-demand food business while head-down in challenging day jobs, Williams is an ideal person to give us her tips for how she made it through the hustle without damaging herself. Ahead you’ll discover the routine that kept her going and the boundaries she insists every budding entrepreneur needs to find success.
How to side hustle without hurting yourself
“I’m not the type that would pull an all-nighter to get an A+ in school at the expense of my health. So for me, my non-negotiables are consistently good sleep, clean eating, and exercise. If you’re compromising your sleep, you’re unable to operate at the same capacity and clarity of a well-rested person. With working out, just move your body—it’s fundamental to being a healthy human being whether you’re side hustling or not. No matter how busy I got, I always carved out the time to work out five to six times a week. Not watching TV or going out often helps. Before we talk about meditation or getting massages, I would preach not skipping those basics.”
“When I have no time, the first thing to go for me is my diet. It’s really easy to get lazy and grab the most convenient thing. I think a lot of women self-sabotage when they feel like they’re not eating well. It starts to bleed into other areas. So it’s important to recognize when it’s happening, pause, and plan to get back on your routine.”
“I’m extroverted, so for me, I get the most inspiration and the best ideas from talking to people and hearing their stories. That’s how I draw energy and inspiration and come up with brand new ideas.
“My husband, on the other hand, is introverted. He draws his energy and gets his best ideas and moments of higher awareness from going on walks by himself. Or listening to a podcast. So notice the patterns about what rejuvenates you and then carve out time to do that.”
“When I first quit my job and went full-time at Gr8nola, I was so gung ho and wanted to maximize every single day. I was booking my calendar back-to-back-to-back. Now I’m learning that the work and the meetings are never going to go away. There’s always going to be more, especially as you grow. So I started to put buffer time into my calendar. Don’t create situations where you’re rushing or stressed about making a deadline or a meeting on time, or making it from point A to point B. It’s such a simple thing you can start doing today.”
“I think what really helps is finding a community of other people that can support you in your industry. In the food space, I’ve been able to make connections with other food entrepreneurs. Most of those have come from my own networking. I know not everyone is outgoing, but it’s extremely important, especially if you are an aspiring entrepreneur. You need to find those people who are on the same journey. It doesn’t matter whether they are a little further behind or ahead of you. These are the people that can actually help you problem solve or be a sounding board for ideas. Find people who will happily be the recipient of business-related information so you don’t have to turn to all of your personal relationships for work talk.”
“It’s completely unrealistic to think that you can continue without ever taking a break. I think rhythm is very important, but it’s highly personal. I can’t tell you it’s something you need to do once a month, once an hour, once a day, or once a week. Find your rhythm and give yourself permission to pause because everyone needs some time to stop and step away from work. And know how to fill those down moments so you can come out more inspired or energized.”
“It’s easy to turn every conversation into something work-related, but ask yourself if your husband or best friend is the appropriate recipient of such conversations. Hopefully, you’re around people who will give you feedback, but check in with the people you’re closest to and ask if your business is coming up too often. Or before launching into the conversation, ask if it’d be ok to talk about whatever it is for 30 minutes. Openly communicate and set expectations for each specific relationship. Ultimately it comes down to being self-aware in those moments.”
“When it comes to having a full-time job and trying to do your side hustle, it’s so easy to get caught up in everything you don’t want to do and everything you don’t like about your job. But it’s so important to appreciate what you have in the moment. I recognize that if it weren’t for the experience, the coworkers, the bosses, and the learnings that I had from my corporate career, both at Intuit and HoneyBook, I would not be where I am today or the founder that I am today.”
“It’s all about switching your mentality. It’s so easy to get caught up in the negative things, or hold resentment or be mad about something. But if you switch your mindset and consider what you appreciate about your job right now, it’ll make your day much better. You’ll also be less upset about whatever it is you’re chasing that you don’t have yet.”
If you’re looking to step up your side hustle—or just get started—we’ve got a whole track of programming at the Girlboss Rally dedicated to helping you level up your part-time passion project. Join us for actionable workshops and IRL advice by registering now at girlbossrally.com.