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How to Start a 6-Figure Business While Working Full-Time in 2023

What does it take to start a business while working full-time? 

You’re in the right place! Today, you’ll learn how to build a business even if you have a busy 9-5.

Want to learn more? Read on!

Is it even possible to build a business while you’re in a 9-5? 


You might wonder if it’s even possible to build a business while you’re working full-time.

Let me share a quick story to show you how I did it — and you can, too. 

You see, 6 years ago, I was where I had always wanted to be (or so I thought). 

Growing up, I dreamed of being the CEO of a major corporation.

My parents are Chinese immigrants and they worked hard to create a life for us in a new country. I was taught early on that a steady job and paycheck were all that mattered. 

By the time I was 25, I had everything I had ever dreamt of. I had graduated from a prestigious Ivy League school (Princeton) and majored in engineering, a safe bet for full-time employment. 

my old cubicle
My old cubicle.

How I knew it was time to start a business

By now, I was managing a team and millions of dollars in business every year. I had a six-figure salary and proud parents. 

But on the inside, I wasn’t happy. I was sick of the endless meetings, being stuck behind a computer, and not living up to my potential. 

I wanted more out of my career and my life — and I knew there had to be something better than working a 9-5 I wasn’t passionate about.

Luisa Zhou bio

Because I just couldn’t imagine doing the same work, day in and day out, for the next 30 years. 

The wake-up call came about a year before I started my business. 

Within 12 months, everyone in my family had suffered life-threatening illnesses. My mom got diagnosed with cancer, my dad had to be rushed to the ER, and my sister nearly lost her eye-sight. 

It was a big “aha” moment for me. 

When my family needed me the most, I didn’t have enough vacation days to take time off work. I KNEW I wanted a life where I was in charge of my own time. 

And a business would help me get there. 

Why I didn’t immediately quit my job

But here’s the thing: I didn’t hand in a resignation letter and dramatically announce that I was quitting. 

Instead, I worked on my business on the side until I knew it was bringing in a sustainable income. 

Over the next 4 months, I built up an online advertising consulting business. During those 4 months, I made my first 6-figures and quit my job.

Coaching business income

Building your own successful business while working full-time isn’t up to luck or other external factors. What it comes down to is: you. 

Yes, you’re busy.

Yes, it feels scary.

But we’re talking about a business that lets you spend more time with your family and have a greater impact by helping people full-time. 

Today, I have the freedom and flexibility to adjust my schedule to my husband’s crazy work schedule at the hospital. I get to walk my dog and cuddle with him whenever I feel like it. And I have more time than ever to see my family. 

All of this while helping people do something that has a huge impact on their lives. 

ETE testimonial

That’s way bigger than the impact you can have in most full-time jobs. 

(There’s even research to back up the benefits of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are on average happier and healthier than employees.)

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How my clients (in all kinds of industries) are going from employee to entrepreneur

The best part about all of this?

This process works in all types of industries. 

How do I know? 

First of all, just do some quick Google research and you’ll find plenty of online businesses.

People start businesses in various niches. (To name a few: Helping people build tiny homes, sleep coaching babies, and teaching languages.)

Online business example

Second, my clients have started businesses with their own unique skills.

David helps people lose weight with herbs…

David Alsieux client example

Lorisa helps people become healthy with a plant-based diet…

Client example

Anna helps college students apply for their dream colleges…

Client example

And Ruby helps ambitious men find love.

Coaching client example Ruby

Overcome your fear of starting a business

Do you wonder if it’s even possible to build a business that lets you quit your job? 

I remember thinking, “Will this even work?” 

I didn’t have anyone who supported me in building my business. (My parents actively discouraged me from starting one.) 

And as I already had a great job, I didn’t want to risk having to find another job if my business would fail. 

Sound familiar? You might feel that you don’t have anything to offer or that you’re afraid of what people will say if you put yourself out there. 


It’s scary to start a business. In fact, it’s probably one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do in your life. 

You can go on to read hundreds of blog posts on this topic, but I guarantee that it won’t cure your fear. 

What will help you get over it is to get started. 

The sooner you start, the sooner you get to a point where you can finally quit your job. 

Here’s the thing:

You will “fail” in one way or another. 

I “failed” to find a business idea…

You know, my first online business wasn’t an online advertising consulting business.

It took me a good few years to FIRST figure out what type of online business I wanted to start. Then, I tried a few different things — Excel consulting and career coaching.

While those were things I knew how to do, I wasn’t overly excited about them and I quit. 

I got rejected ALL the time…

Once I did start my online advertising consulting business (that helped me quit my job), I got rejected all the time.

In fact, I got 30 rejections in a row. People would say, “You’re too expensive”, “you look really young” or “you don’t have proof.” 

Rejection email
Even today, I get rejected like this podcast pitch (and at this point, I’ve been featured on sites like Forbes and Business Insider and my business makes multiple 7-figures). It’s just part of being an entrepreneur and putting yourself out there. 

I was so afraid of putting myself out there that it took me months to get started…

When I eventually did start to market my business, I was SO scared of putting myself out there.

I remember doing my first video. It took me close to six months to actually get it done. It felt like the scariest thing I’d ever done.

Same thing for writing social media posts. It felt so different from how you’d present yourself in the corporate world. I thought, “Are people going to think I’m stupid? Are they even going to respond?”

But without overcoming those first failures, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

The same goes for you. Address your fear by expecting to fail (this is part of ANY business). 

If you want more, I show you how to overcome your fear in this video:

My simple strategy for keeping yourself accountable and finally making this happen? 

Tell 3 people that you will start a business. Do it today! (Write a comment below and let me know when you’ve done it. I’d love to cheer you on.)

What are the best business ideas while working full-time? 

What’s the main reason I was able to quit my job so fast? 

I used the right business model. 

People often think they need to have a unique business idea like “the next Facebook.”

The problem is: That’s an incredibly risk-filled business idea that requires a team, money, and a lot of time. And the business might still fail.

If you’re a risk-averse person like me, you want something that will safely let you quit your job.

A physical product isn’t the answer. 


You have to create a product and your profit margins will be low. We’re talking at least a year to get your business up and running.

The same goes for business ideas like software businesses. 

So, what WILL let you build a business fast and profitably? 

Basically, your existing skills that are packaged as a coaching, consulting, or freelancing business.

(Here’s my guide on how to start o ne.)

Charge premium rates for your services 

Here’s what I mean:

I figured out just how powerful this type of a business could be when I was still figuring out what business I wanted to start and noticed that online coaching and consulting were a thing.

At the time, it wasn’t a huge industry. But I realized that by taking my skills and turning them into a business, I could quickly build a great business.

That’s because selling your expertise has a high perceived value. You might start out at a lower rate (like $1,500 for a 3-month package). After just a few clients, you can raise your rates to $2,000, $5,000, or higher. 

Let’s do some simple math.

If your current salary is $70,000/year, you need 2 clients/month who pay you $5,000 to get to a point where it’s ultra-safe for you to quit your job (by doubling your monthly salary). 

From 9-5 to coaching full time table

(Here’s my guide on high-ticket coaching packages and here’s my guide on pricing your coaching services.)

You can get started NOW with a skill you already have

The best part? 

You can get started now — with the skills you already have. 

You see, you have all kinds of skills that can be monetized. Your job skills, things you’re naturally good at, and things you’ve learned. 

In fact, science even shows that people with work experience in their field are 85% more likely to launch a highly successful startup.

For example, I used my different skills to test a few business ideas:

My Excel skills, my skills in finding and landing great jobs, and finally, my online advertising skills that I had learned at work. 

My clients have used their skills to start businesses in niches like health, mindset, career, and productivity.

(Starting a business while employed can come with a few obligations on your part. For example, you might have a no-compete clause in place. Note: This is not legal advice — I’m not a lawyer and wouldn’t be qualified to make those recommendations.)

Write down at least 10 skills you have and use this as a starting point to decide on one skill. 

The best way to build your business

With a coaching or consulting business, you don’t need that many clients to make a good income. 

Still, you need those clients to start your business. So, how do you find them?

Good question. The fastest ways are:

  • To reach out to your existing network.
  • To build relationships with potential clients in online groups. 

I made my first 6-figures solely by engaging with my audience in Facebook groups and on Periscope (a livestreaming app). 

First, I signed up for a few groups and started posting valuable content every day. I’d answer people’s questions and be helpful in any way that I could.

social media facebook post
One of my social media posts that only
got a few engagements.

My purpose wasn’t to sell but to understand my audience and build up my reputation.

My first clients came from these simple things I did every day. 

I then started to post livestreams on Periscope (this was before Facebook livestreams existed). 

That’s not to say I was an overnight success. Far from it. 

People didn’t decide to sign up to work with me after seeing one of my posts or livestreams. In fact, I hardly got any engagement on my posts for many months.

But it was the consistent action I took that eventually helped me get in front of people. 

The thing is:

You only need a couple of clients to sign up for your services.

Once you’ve helped those clients get results, you get testimonials, which make it so much easier to get new clients.

You see, when these things stacked up, my momentum built up.

After my first 5-10 clients, it started to snowball when those clients gave me testimonials and others realized I could help them, too. 

Testimonial ETE

At this point, I had existing clients, so when their 3- or 5-month coaching packages were coming to an end, I asked them if they loved their results.

If the answer was yes, I would say, “You’ve loved these results and you’ve gotten great results from your investment. Do you want to talk about how we could work together over the next few months to get even better results?” 

About 30% of my clients renewed, so I didn’t have to chase new clients. 

Thanks to all these actions that I took, I had $50,000 in sales and processes in place in the last month before I left my job,

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When you sign up, you’ll also receive regular updates on building a successful online business.

How to manage a full-time job and a business

By now, you know what it takes to build a business while working full-time.

How do you manage both, though? 

Starting a side business while employed and growing it to 6-figures before I left my job was, hands down, one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. 

My 9-5 at the time was a startup in New York City. I was leading a team and overseeing a multi-million dollar budget. 

At the same time, 34% of Americans have a side gig. And they all manage to do both.

So, how did I manage both? It all came down to this system: 

1) Focus on a few things 

Contrary to what most “gurus” will say, I don’t recommend that you waste time on the wrong things, like a website or a nice logo.

Instead, focus on the things that will get you results right NOW.

In fact, try to do as little as possible. This is how I grew my business to 6-figures without having to be a superhuman and wake up at 4 AM every day. 

I focused on a few things I repeated every day to bring in clients. For me, these tasks were posting in Facebook groups and once I had a few clients, doing Periscope livestreams. 

Your tasks depend on where your clients are. Maybe it’s pitching one client a day, doing a livestream, or posting content in social media groups. 

If you focus on a few things, you don’t have to switch between tasks. (Switching between tasks is a huge waste of time. Research shows that it takes us about 20 minutes to get back “in the zone” when we’re context switching.)

But the thing is:

You need to be disciplined about your tasks. 

Think of them as one of those core habits you have, like when you make your bed or brush your teeth. (Personally, I haven’t mastered making my bed a core habit, but you get what I’m saying.)

This is how you get the fastest results. 

2) Use gaps in your day to work on your business

So, how much time should you spend on your daily tasks?

I used about 30 minutes to an hour every day, plus weekends. 

Those daily tasks were spread out over 15-minute chunks every day so that I could work on things during my lunch break and in the evening — basically, any “gap” time I had. 

The reason I was able to be so disciplined about this was that I scheduled everything. In fact, I still do it to this day. 

Business calendar first year
Caption: Here’s what my calendar used to look like…
Business tasks calendar
…And here’s what it looks like today. These days, I don’t have a full-time job to manage, but I still schedule my business tasks.

If something’s in your schedule, you’ve already booked out that time. So, you don’t have to use your valuable willpower to decide if you should or shouldn’t get your tasks done. 

(That’s a struggle you’re likely to lose — studies shows that our willpower decreases over the day.)

Fill your gaps when you’re most productive.

For me, it was 15 minutes right before work, 15 minutes during my lunch break, and 15 minutes after work. I’d create new posts in the evenings, but mostly during weekends. That’s also when I scheduled most of my client calls. 

3) Leave your job at the right time

Something my students will ask from time to time is this:

“What if I get too many clients?” 

My answer? If only. The problem most new entrepreneurs face isn’t getting too many clients but getting their first clients. 

That’s why you shouldn’t quit your job before you know that your business will continue paying your bills once you don’t have a steady salary coming in. 

And look: 

I know you’re itching to quit your job. I remember telling myself every week, “Next week, I’ll turn in my notice.” 

But I’m glad I replaced my income before I did. 

Think of your job as a way to have the freedom and flexibility to work on your business.

(Almost without exception, those of my students who say they’ll “figure it out” and quit their jobs before having a business will struggle more.)

I recommend that you quit your job when you’ve doubled your take-home salary. 

Why double?

Because you have other expenses in your business, like taxes, that you need to account for. 

If you focus on a few tasks every day, this isn’t a process that will take years. That’s the beauty of a coaching and consulting business — you only need a handful of clients. 

And look, this isn’t to say this is “easy.” 

When I was building my business, I basically didn’t have a social life for a few months. 

But it was worth it to not have to worry about my bills once I did quit my job. 

4) Be good at your job AND your business

If you’re focused on building your business on the side, how do you balance both?

The thing is:

It’s not that uncommon to have to juggle many things. 

Think about when you were in high school. You had to do your extracurriculars, you had to study for your exams and do well in classes. You applied for college, maybe you had a part-time job and other activities. 

This shows you that you CAN focus on more than one thing. In fact, it’s a luxury to focus on only one thing.

That’s why we focus on splitting your business tasks into 15-minute chunks.

Instead of you multitasking, you’re compartmentalizing your life: Your business time and the rest is your work time. They don’t overlap. 

This also means you need to spend your free time more wisely. You can’t spend weekends watching TV or hanging out with friends, but instead, focus on learning and then, working with clients. 

5) Manage your family and your business

Finally, you might have a family to take care of. How do you make the equation of a family, a full-time job, and a side business work? 

When I was building my business, I only had myself to take care of. But at this point, I’ve helped thousands of students, many of whom have families.

These students have used these same tips to make it work for themselves. For example, my client Jasmine who runs a 6-figure business teaching animation skills has children and a busy 9-5. And one more thing… She’s currently building a second business. 

Jasmine client example

Some of my other students who are also parents and building their businesses are Tony, who’s a career coach….

Tony Patterson website

…And Jenna, who’s a mindset coach.

Jenna Harrison website

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The 4 shifts you need to make to be successful in your business 

Finally, you can have all the strategies and tactics. But without changing the way you think, you likely won’t succeed.

Here’s what I mean:

I’ve had students who are successful in their corporate jobs. But they weren’t successful in transitioning to entrepreneurship because they overlooked these shifts.

Shift #1: Embracing a beginners mindset

Right now, you’re starting from ground zero. It’s a bit like when you started as an intern, at a brand new job or worked to advance in your job. 

Now, you need to learn a bunch of new skills — how to make sales, create content, and so forth. 

That’s why it’s so important to shift your thinking from “Why aren’t people buying from me?” to “I get it, I’m earning my stripes.”

My top students become obsessed with learning. For example, I have one client who I noticed started liking all my posts from months ago. She’s obsessively learning everything there is to know about building your business. 

It was the same thing when I started my digital advertising consulting business. I knew I had a lot to learn about copywriting, marketing, and creating videos. 

I focused on learning from a lot of different people who’re great at what they do in different industries. At all times, I asked myself, “How did I do this time? What else can I do?”

Facebook post example
Remember how I didn’t get a lot of engagement on my social media posts
when I first started building relationships in social media groups?
Well, I tweaked and tested until I DID figure out what people liked…
And that’s when I started getting likes, shares, and comments.

That’s how you “re-earn” your stripes. 

Shift #2: Embracing failure

Yes, failure sucks. But you need to get good at embracing it to succeed.

Think back at failures at your job. I bet that you’ve had your fair share of them in your career.

For example, in my 9-5, there were times when I knew I  would have to have an uncomfortable discussion about letting someone go or getting a raise. 

But did these uncomfortable situations and failures make you say, “I guess I’m not cut out for this so it’s best if I just quit right away”? Probably not. 

It’s the same with entrepreneurship. A few failures shouldn’t get you thinking, “Maybe I’m  not cut out to be an entrepreneur.”

There are SO many things you do in your business that will fail. You put out posts that get no engagement, you email pitches that get no response, and have sales calls where your prospect tells you, “I can’t afford this right now.” 

It’s just part of the process. Ask yourself what you can learn from those failures instead of going off to wallow for a month or giving up. 

Shift #3: Getting comfortable with selling

This was one of the hardest shifts for me. I come from a traditional Asian immigrant household where selling was seen as something bad. 

I remember how in school, we used to sell gift papers and pens. We had the option to sell 20 pens and get a free prom ticket. Thanks to a nice neighbor who took my pens to work, I was just 1 pen short of selling 20 pens.

When I asked my parents if they could bring this one pen to work, they got too uncomfortable and refused. 

But getting comfortable with selling (even if you have been raised to see sales as something scammy) is key.

There’s nothing wrong with selling. It’s about exchanging value. You offer something in exchange for money. If people want it, great. If not, it wasn’t for them. 

In my digital advertising consulting business, I helped business owners build ad funnels and get leads. Today, I help build online business owners go from employee to entrepreneur with courses and coaching. If people want it, great. And if not? That’s fine, too. 

Realize that your clients are capable of making your own decisions. Heck, people buy $100,000 handbags and cars. The way someone perceives value is always individual. 

Faberge egg
Case in point: Fabergé eggs. People are willing to spend millions on one ornament. 

Selling is not about being a sleazy snake oil salesman. It’s definitely not about pressuring or using scare tactics. 

Instead, it’s about you putting yourself out there so that you can have that exchange of value. 

Shift #4: Being at peace with money

This was even harder for me than becoming comfortable with selling.

My immigrant parents worked hard to pay for our education. They were very frugal with things like movies or eating out.

If you’re brought up in a frugal home and think, “Money is scarce and hard to earn,” you shut off your ability to make more money.

If this is you, you need to realize that money is a tool. It’s not tied to your self-worth. 

One of the best exercises to overcome your money blocks is to write down 100 memories about money on a piece of paper. This will help you see what limiting beliefs you have so that you can address them.

For example, one of my own memories was when I was a kid and my parents gave me the option to get 10 cents a day or a dollar a week to do the dishes. 10 cents felt like much more money, so I chose that alternative. 

After several weeks, my parents had to sit down with me to explain that I had chosen the option that paid less. This made me believe that I wasn’t smart enough to get paid money. Only by working on my money mindset did I finally overcome this belief.

YOU can start a 6-figure business and quit your job 

As you’ve seen, it IS possible to start a business while working a full-time job. 

What you need to do is stay focused and follow a few, simple strategies. 

The payoff is worth it:

A business that lets you have the freedom and flexibility you want and that has a real impact. 

ETE Testimonial

I get to work less than I would have in a 9-5, earn multiple 7-figures (note: this is after 5 years in my business), and spend so much more time with my family. 

image of dog

I’d love to hear from you:

How can YOU make more time for your business?

Let me know in the comments below — I read every reply.

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

Want to know how to build a profitable, meaningful business to replace your 9-5?

The proven blueprint for building your own online business - that frees you from the 9-to-5

When you sign up, you’ll also receive regular updates on building a successful online business.

4 Responses

  1. Thanks Luisa, great inspirational points. I have been feeling overwhelmed with the process of starting while keeping a full time job. This has lifted my spirits.

  2. A six figure business is possible if you know how you will automate and outsource your processes. This will help you have a business while having a 9 to 5 job.

  3. Worth reading this article. Now, i will try to find time slots when i can really do something great for business with my full time job. My actual problem is the commuting time to office which is a bout 3 hours a day.

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