A Tale of Two Careers: Optimizing Your Small Business While Working Full Time

A Tale of Two Careers: Optimizing Your Small Business While Working Full Time

I was recently on a phone call with a fellow small business owner and I mentioned that I also work another full time job. The friend was really surprised and her surprise made me think about these two roles I have. Two roles that feel separate most days but are a complete piece of my identity. 

My other full time job is in student affairs administration at a university. I’ve been in student affairs for 13 years. I work closely with students and am often talking to them about finding ways to engage all of their passions, interests, and talents in their future career. For the longest time I wasn’t taking my own advice. Entrepreneurship was calling me, jewelry making has been a part of my life for 15+ years, and yet I wasn’t listening to my own advice. I could have waited for a different stage in my life, maybe when the kids were older, when I wasn’t feeling pulled in so many directions, but timing won’t ever be perfect. So I made the choice to do both - with all of my heart - while also prioritizing my family and myself.  

I used ‘9-5’ job and ‘side hustle’ to describe my situation for a while but to be honest, I don’t connect with either of those descriptions. I consider both Leo and Lynn Jewelry and my student affairs career to be my callings, my passion areas, and the places I can give my best and be my best. 

Side hustle was a popular term when I started Leo and Lynn Jewelry but it’s not to the side of anything. It fits into my life like a full piece because I built it that way and I know that the former ‘side hustle’ is my future. 

I don’t consider this a juggling act because juggling can’t be sustained (the world record for actual juggling is 12 hours and 5 minutes). I look at my priorities of family, entrepreneurship, and work to be a constantly evolving situation and I can make decisions to best optimize those. 

So I’m sharing some of my tips for optimizing my small business and career journey - 

  1. Paperwork is Your Friend - Don’t leave me because I started with a boring topic like paperwork. Please stick it out because paperwork will help you to not panic further along in business. Don’t treat your business like a part time job or a hobby if you don’t want it to be that. Do the paperwork - business licenses, register your business names, learn tax requirements, get that insurance, and research your industry requirements. 

  2. Craft Your Elevator Pitch - if you ask me about my student affairs career I have the perfect 30 second elevator pitch down. The first time someone asked me about Leo and Lynn Jewelry I panicked. I had so much to share and so much excitement that is all came tumbling out in a string of word vomit and large hand motions...not great.

    I spent time after that writing down some key points and practicing my elevator pitch. I had to get comfortable talking about my small business so others would believe in it like I believe in it. Practice that elevator pitch so you can be ready to share all about your business. You never know when you’ll be in an elevator with your ideal customer or client. 

  3. Go at Your Own Pace - Everyone’s pace in business is different. I struggled at first because I wanted to be meeting goals and doing things I saw other businesses achieving. It takes perspective to realize that your pace is best for you and you need to be in control of what you can speed up or slow down.

    This one remains a struggle for me because my creative mind can get ahead of the hours on the clock. One of my pacing tips is about finding time in the day where you might not have used before - lunch hour, coffee time, when kids are at extracurriculars. I’ve done some of my best work at lunch or when the kids are at swim class. I’m personally not a night owl so you’ll never catch me burning that midnight oil or else I’m miserable the next day. I do love to get up a bit earlier than my family and work during my first cup of coffee. 

  4. Create Boundaries - Boundaries are the reason my friend didn’t know I worked another job. It’s a boundary I’ve created to keep them as separate as possible. Even this blog post is a bit outside of my comfort zone but I feel passionately about the subject and know we can support each other. Only you can determine those boundaries for yourself, communicate them, and enforce them. You can also change your boundaries at any time to best serve you. 

  5. Utilize Your Skills Across Fields - Like many small business owners with other jobs, the fields are always aligned or similar. I’m grateful for the self awareness I’ve built in my student affairs career because it has helped me to identify some of my strengths to use in entrepreneurship. For me, it’s the things that come easily in both fields - connecting with people, writing, creating project lists, and communicating my vision. 

  6. Goal Getting Tasks First - Also considered needle moving tasks, the things that will get you closer to your goals are the ones you should tackle first. I plan quarterly, break it down to monthly, and then finetune my goals to weekly. I almost always have to take a look at what gets me closer to the quarterly goals and compare those with what is realistic in my week. I then mirror that up against my family and work calendars. A busy time at work isn’t the best time for me to do a major launch. I’ve learned to build cushion time into my goals because unexpected changes, like a sick kid, a new work project, my partner having a big deadline to meet, cause me stress and I don’t perform my best when feeling out of control. 

  7. Find Your Network - Raise your hand if you can immediately think of 15 colleagues in your non-entrepreneurial field! I spent so many years expanding my higher education network and when I started my business I didn’t even think about how I would need a new network. Networks that create support, connection, community, education, and collaborations. There are so many ways to find and connect with your small business community - social media, trade shows, markets, nationally and locally supported business groups, classes, and events.

    As you find your network, identify ways that you can best support them - sharing their social posts, offer an introduction or e-introduction to someone who might benefit from their work, collaborate, swap services/products and provide reviews for each other, send a note when they are having a rough time or a celebratory note, and ask them directly how you can support their business.

  8. Remember Why You Love It! - Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster. It’s important to remember why you started and where you want to go. For me, when I’m feeling low in business, I just step away and make some jewelry. It’s why I started and my ultimate love. Just make to make, share with my friends, or wear it myself. The bestselling White Pearl Studs came from a random making session. I made them for myself because I needed an everyday stud and wanted to try out a new size. I shared them on Instagram and people immediately responded to them. People will respond to your business when they can feel your passion and heart. 

What are your tips for managing two careers? Which tips are you looking forward to implementing in your entrepreneurial journey? 

Photo by Goss Boss LLC


  • Aladrian Wetzel

    Great blog Summer! I’m trying to build a non-profit organization as my “side hustle” so the tale of two careers is real. Thanks for your your words of encouragement and advice.

  • Angela

    Great blog, Summer! Would love to see recs in future posts on org tools you use or have created for tracking goals, quarterly, annual tasks, etc.

  • Malayika (from pavonebijoux)

    Love this blog so much!! It was really really helpful. You’re my inspiration!!

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