How to balance a full-time job with running a business

Rachel Moan
Rachel Moan
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
22 January 2021

If you’re thinking about starting a business, you might have been put off by the thought of trying to do it while also holding down a full-time job. But it is possible to do both. 

Rachel Moan founded Train Like An Athlete, a performance psychology business that helps people to be their absolute best, with the help of a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp in 2015. She also works full-time as a contracts officer at Cheshire and West Chester Council. How does she do it? We caught up with her to find out...

Why did you decide to start your business? 

Starting a business was something I’d always wanted to do. I started off writing music fanzines whilst I was at school and selling them, so I would say I’ve always been a little bit entrepreneurial.

I actually trained professionally as a dancer. Then I became a chartered surveyor and now I work in contract management in the public sector. Strangely, the mixture of the creative side and business sense from those two professions has really helped. 

The concept behind Train Like An Athlete came from the need to have a go-to place for people to access performance psychology to give them usable advice to help them reach their potential. Many athletes and businesspeople work with performance psychologists to help them develop, enhance and maintain the mindsets needed for optimal human performance. My goal was to make that professional advice more accessible and affordable and to help support people’s mental health and wellbeing. It should not just be the top musicians, footballers and Olympic athletes who have access to that sphere – we all deserve the same support.

Rachel Moan
Rachel Moan

What’s the hardest thing about balancing a full-time job and running a business? 

Clocking off! Switching off the computer and just stopping – whether that’s in a day job or running a business it has always been a bit of a foreign concept. As entrepreneurs we’re always wanting to improve things, get involved and create, so that will overspill into free time. 

In my day job I’ve been involved in the coronavirus response across many different areas and I often feel the guilt of just switching off the computer and that’s it until the next day.

You do need to have that balance because running a business takes up so much energy. You are often fighting for a cause that you can’t just switch off from.

The last year has been increasingly difficult to balance the two but I have started delegating some areas of the business to people who are far more talented. We now have a team of performance psychologists and fantastic support on design and social media. That has certainly helped things and the business has come on in leaps and bounds in the past few months.

How does your full-time job help you run your business?

In my day job, I work in a team managing large and complex contracts, so experience in performance management such as setting KPI’s for suppliers and agreeing contracts has certainly been of use.

Working in a large organisation delivering children and adult care services is a huge eye-opener. There are many frontline workers who do amazing jobs against very challenging budgets and an incredibly difficult workload. That has certainly inspired us along the journey.

Of course, a steady salary is also always hugely beneficial and enables me to keep running the business.

Rachel Moan
Rachel Moan

Has running the business helped in your full-time job?

I think creating and running a business has been hugely beneficial and I would really recommend it.

Organisations really need to realise the value that those experiences can bring and I hope it’s something that’s encouraged. People with the creative skills plus the relentlessness to see things through are always going to be hugely valuable to an organisation. MBA’s are a great asset to have but what greater asset is there to a business than someone who can start and run their own business? The potential value that those people can add – whether it’s in the public, private or charity sector, is immense.

How do you balance your time between your full-time job and running your business?

The last few weeks have been all about preparing for a launch so it’s been organised mayhem!

From about 6.30am-8.00am I work on Train Like An Athlete. I will go through emails, perhaps draft content for our next video, check in with our team of performance psychologists and social media and design team. Some of our team are based in the US and we have many customers outside of the UK so it’s a good time to catch up on messages. I like to do any additional social media work in the morning as my brain is at full capacity. 

From 8.30am until 5.30pm is a typical ‘day-job’ work time, though the day job has been increasingly demanding with the coronavirus response. I tend to have at least an hour lunch where I will go walking through various fields near to the house. I always take headphones with me and that gives me a huge burst of creativity, most of my best ideas have come through listening to other people’s creations.

I will take a couple of hours out to have tea, annoy my husband, exercise, and catch up with friends and family. Then I’ll get back to Train Like An Athlete work, dealing with any pressing tasks for the day from drafting PR releases to checking sales, to approving changes for the website or catching up with our performance psychologists.

Rachel Moan
Rachel Moan

What helps you to balance your time between two demanding roles?

It’s vital to have a good support network. That’s from family and friends to ad-hoc WhatsApp support groups at work to more formal business support. I tap into a lot of start-up support networks such as Virgin StartUp and the Entourage in Australia. 

We have a lot of friends who also have businesses, so it is really helpful to catch up with them and throw ideas around.

What advice do you have for people who have full-time jobs and want to start a business?

Just go and try it. You don’t have to have it all figured out – just be prepared to keep learning and keep dedicated to the cause. We’ve gone through more versions and reiterations of things than I can count. But when you really need time away from it or you lack inspiration – just take time out as it can seem very overwhelming at times.

Having a job at the same time gives a much-needed source of income and helps the ability to manage risk. Whether that’s for the short or medium term.

Keep creating in whatever realm you’re working in – whether that’s a business, a charity or a full-time job.

Visit Virgin StartUp for more business tips and to find out about Start Up Loans.