Thank You Job: How My Side Project Helped Me Appreciate My 9-to-5 Again

side project

A few years ago, I had a perfectly good, well-paying job that put my skills in digital marketing to use. I had a supportive boss and team, great friends at work, and I wasn’t working crazy hours or dealing with crazy clients like I had in the past.

On paper, it was basically my dream job.

Yet despite all that, it didn’t feel like enough. I had been taking courses at night in positive psychology and I was learning all kinds of things about human behavior and how our mindsets impact our well-being – but it wasn’t adding up for me at work. And I wanted it to.

I wanted to feel happier and more myself at work… which led me to train to be a life coach — something I felt I’d sorta been doing with friends and family my whole life, but now I’d make it official.

I wrote a business plan that included detailed spreadsheets calculating how quickly I could transform my life coaching work into a full-time business, and started my training.

But when I got to the six-month mark, and then the year mark, it was clear the business wasn’t even close to those early projections I’d made. I was still very much doing it on the side.

Yet, what I noticed at those marks was that it was actually feeling totally OK about it. While I’d intended to make life coaching my new career, it had become something else entirely.

During my training and as I started to coach clients — slowly building the business in the evenings and weekends — I found something surprising happening at my day job.

I found that I felt a lot more naturally engaged with my work.

I found that I felt a lot less frustrated with situations that were well, out of my hands.

I found that I was more interested in being challenged and started to seek out new projects that I could really dig into.

I found that I felt a lot more like me when I was more engaged-less frustrated-feeling challenged.

It was a surprise for sure. While I’d planned to make life coaching my eventual new career, exploring that side of myself and building that business during my nights and weekends — instead created a new appreciation for my day job.

I appreciated the reliable paycheck for sure, but it was more than that.

I’d found a home for a whole side of myself in my coaching business — helping people one-on-one, sharing new ideas that transformed their lives, and also seeing myself grow and try new things was all extremely fulfilling.

And then while I was at work, I was using entirely different parts of myself — being a strategic marketer, wrangling personalities, managing a gajillion details in a complex project, all things I was naturally gifted in, that no longer felt like “not enough”, because I was putting other parts of myself to use outside of work.

I learned so incredibly much from my personal experience, and I continue to be fascinated by the puzzle of personality and how different people find different levels of success and fulfillment for all the different parts of themselves.

I also feel it is so important to recognize that work isn’t everything for a lot of people. Even the smartest, best educated, most successful, highly ambitious people don’t necessarily find complete fulfillment from what they do 9-to-5. And that’s OK!

In fact, it’s more than OK. It makes them a much more interesting person in my mind anyway.

And that’s why I’m developing a podcast that shines a light on all the amazing, unexpected and creative things people are doing on the side. They’ll share their journeys and unpack how they make it work day-to-day.

I’m interviewing people almost every weekend right now, and the stories are fantastic. Regular people working full-time jobs, raising families and living busy lives — PLUS pursuing their creative passions and building businesses on the side.

What do you think about the idea of pursuing side projects for fulfillment? Do you have a side project or side business? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

side project

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12 thoughts on “Thank You Job: How My Side Project Helped Me Appreciate My 9-to-5 Again”

  1. I was a cop in the suburbs for almost 5 years by the time I quit to do personal training full time out of my own studio. The last year I was a police officer I trained people out of my basement.
    Business was going well so I sold my house and bought a store front to give it a go full time.
    2 years later I’m loving my small group personal training system and I recently started doing more lifestyle and dietary work with my clients. I am also looking into “lunch n learn” corporate speaking opportunities.
    And I drive Lyft on the side as well!

  2. Love this article! I work at Starbucks during the morning & write as well as host a podcast, Let’s Talk Art With Brooke during the afternoon. Talking/interacting with so many people in the mornings gives me plenty of material to write about….AND it’s perfect PR. When I wrote my book, Reptiles on Caffeine, all of the clientele talked about it!…b

  3. I can so relate to this! I am a lawyer and a life coach. When I was just practicing as a lawyer I was frustrated that I wasn’t helping people on a personal level. Now that I am building my coaching practice, I appreciate my work as a lawyer more. It is proving to be a good start to a portfolio career.

  4. I love how openly you talk about this topic, Vanessa! It helps address the myth that the only successful and happy entrepreneurs are full-time ones. I gain a lot of meaning from doing both my day job counseling trauma survivors, and running my creativity coaching business and blog. Thanks for keeping this conversation going!

  5. I love how you were able to change your perspective and enjoy your business as a side project. Too much is All or nothing, I love learning/expanding/growing “no the side” Great post.

  6. It’s amazing what a good side hustle really does let you do. For some, it’s spending cash (or savings!), for others a creative outlet, but for everyone, it’s a way to do something you really care about which is the best feeling of all. Because if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t spend your free time working on it!

  7. I really enjoyed this writing. Having your own business and a career that depends directly on you might be fulfilling, but it’s important also to valuate what you have. It’s good to see that people even though love what they do, they are still ready to try different things. It really makes you feel alive.
    I wish you all the best, and good luck with your projects. :)

  8. I currently work at a large company. I joined them a month ago. I pulled way back from my own business went back to work for someone else. I’m still persueing my business on the side. I really enjoy podcasts and would happy to be a guest on it if you would like a guest like me.

  9. I absolutely love this! I have finally decided to start on my passion for writing as a side project , hoping to launch Friday. Hopefully it goes well! This gave me hope to feel “enough.”

  10. I love this article. I started a blog/freelance business recently as a “passion project” it’s a long way from profit – LONG WAY, but I’m also seeing benefits at work. Using social media has given me some ideas on innovation and social media that I would never have come up with before. such an interesting read!

  11. Pingback: The Benefits of Starting a Side Passion Project

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