Mastering a Side Hustle in a 24-hour Day
Bison Mat was, for us, a side hustle for a long time. And even though it's moving ahead, we still put in weird, long hours, and find ourselves managing everything from production and accounting to maintenance and customer service. We thought it was worth sharing some thoughts about what works for us, what hasn’t worked so well, and what we wish we’d known much earlier on.
Since the beginning, we've had the advantage of working with people in just about every industry all around the country. We’ve supplied mats to companies’ cubicle spaces and executive offices. Our mats are in the workspaces of people who work for the federal government and the local deli. Our mats are being used by accountants and by gamers. The point is this: our work isn’t really about a particular industry or a specific person. Our work is about creating better spaces for people to do the things they do.
One of our favorite sayings at Bison Mat about our business is this:
An entrepreneur is someone who will work 14 hours a day so they don’t have to work 9-5.
The customers we often have the most fun working with are those entrepreneurial types...the people who are building something on their own and who have taken on their own side hustle. The side hustler is unique, because they’re not letting others’ rules about life and employment limit their vision for what’s possible. The side hustler is also creative, because they’re fitting more into the same 24-hour period that everyone is given.
So here's some things we've tried to learn and maintain:
Keep a Schedule
We’ve all had weeks where it seems we could easily put in 20 hours-a-day and not come close to catching up. We’ve all had times where we worked through meal times and plowed through a mountain of responsibilities and deadlines only to eventually fell asleep in front of our computer. But we’ve worked hard to make those times the exception to the rule.
We’ve learned, in starting and running a business, an essential truth:
You can always do more, but you can never do enough.
There's always more you could have done; more calls you could have made and more designs you could have completed. The more that you can keep a somewhat normal schedule, the more you can manage your time, energy, and resources in a way that will help you stay in for the long haul. Many times, the internal threats to our business — like bad habits and burnout — are unfortunately ignored until it’s too late. Sometimes you’ll have to put in the extra hours and do the extra work — to meet timelines or fill an order. But good business is sustained with good habits and routine. Build those into the foundation of what you’re doing as early as possible.
Create Some Space
Just like you need to make sure that you have the margin you need to unwind and relax - to create space from your work - you also need to make sure that you have the space you need to produce and succeed. You need to create space for your work. If your kitchen table is the same place you’re eating breakfast, doing work, and helping your kids with math, you may find it difficult to view your time focused on your side hustle as “sacred.” But by creating space specifically set apart for creativity and production, you’ll get the most of your time. Make sure it’s a space that supports what you need. We have some thoughts on something essential in your space.
There’s obviously much more needed for success here beyond space and a schedule. And we’ll most certainly unpack those in one way or another at other times. But we’ve found that the structure we build around our days and the environment we create to do our work have profound implications in our ability to succeed.