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Home » Random

How to start a business in your spare time

Are you on Twitter? If you are you’ll be familiar with ‘Follow Friday’ where the Twitterarit share cool people worth following with the rest of us. In keeping with Follow Friday, we feature, on a Friday,ย  guest posts from cool people changing the world, one step at a time.

One such person is Murray Lunn over at – Murray is a professional freelance writer, blogger and web desginer and is guest posting today on how to balance work and a running a business.ย  You can connect with Murray on Twitter or get updates from his blog by RSS.

So today, our Friday Follow is Murlu #FF

Over to you Murray:

Jump in the time machine with me for a second and let’s go back a few hundred years – before we begin, we need to understand how we’ve got to where we are today.

Imagine; just a few hundred years ago it would nearly be impossible for the average person (like you and me) to start their own business. It wasn’t that opportunity didn’t present itself; it was simply that people didn’t have the mindset, family opportunities and technology to push their ideas to the world.

What we have today is a platform that has given us the most powerful form of influence on the world: the web. Could you imagine having thousands of people listening to your opinions as you stood in front of them? No? Well, it’s a reality – just look at social media!

Okay, I had to set the stage, we’re good, you good? Good…

Matthew had been reading my blog ( and decided to contact me about a guest post. Matthew asked if I would like to write about balancing work, blogging and freelancing without going insane *cackles*. What did I say? Of course!

A little bit about me

By this time you’re most likely wondering who the heck I am; well, allow me to introduce myself.

Hello, my name is Murray Lunn and I am an entrepreneur with a side of insomnia.

For many years now I’ve been very busy learning (and failing miserably) the in’s and out’s about working online. That’s the trick to this entire thing; you must understand that along the way you may fail but if you learn from your mistakes, your next venture will be more fulfilling than the last.

Here’s something I’m not particularly proud of: I used to farm and sell gold when I played World of Warcraft. Yeah, seriously, but it wasn’t just some nerdy quest to sustain my gaming addiction – I was learning some of the core business ideas I still use today.

It’s through the web that I have found a great opportunity to work in web design, freelance writing, running a small (occasional) business and still hold a full time job.

How do you balance it all; what do you do?

The question Matthew presented to me was “how”. I sat at my desk contemplating this for a while and then it struck me.

If you want to get things done, just do it.

I can’t say I listen to motivation speakers all the time but there is one which you must watch:

Do you get it? Just do it.

Every morning I wake up at 6:30, get ready and head out the door to my job. For 9 hours I work away at what I love: web design, product launches and being within a small business environment.

Upon getting home, I take an hour to collect my thoughts, calm down and brainstorm. I believe brainstorming can be one of the most important activities. Within that one hour, I imagine myself doing each of my upcoming tasks, develop new ideas and set myself into the correct mindset.

Following my brainstorming session, I spend roughly 2 – 3 hours writing. This may seem like a stretch but you’ll be amazed at what’s possible when you don’t watch TV and shut down your instant messenger.

For these blocks of writing, I’m in total flow. I write prolifically, never editing myself because this is what will destroy your mindset and wrap you up in wasteful activities.

This writing period produces (generally) 3 freelance articles and 1 blog post. But it doesn’t end there.

Following my writing session, I take time to work on the business side of things.

Here’s the single greatest tip I can give you: create a business which you don’t have to run.

It may not be complete passive income but it allows you to earn a living with minimal input – during this time, you can do other activities such as writing, spending time with family/friends or even starting another business.

And that’s my secret. I sell a range of items online. Really, anything I can get my hands on from comics to electronics.

Building the empire

I break my business into two tiers:


I told you it was simple.

My active work, as I mentioned earlier, revolves around work such as web design, freelance writing and working on my websites/blogs.

When I first began learning web design, I used great resources such as Smashing Magazine, Line25, CSS-Tricks and others. But web design was only a launching point you see – it was a means to an end.

A while ago I thought to myself: I know these web design skills which I use for others; why don’t I use them for myself? So I began creating my own websites.

Within the time, I’ve worked with local businesses while simultantiously launching small niche websites about the things I love. These websites are ever growing and bring in what I’m going to discuss next: passive income.

Do something once, get paid forever.

That’s what should run through your mind whenever you think of passive income.

For my (semi) passive business, I do a variety of things such as listing items on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist and other websites. Within a few minutes, I can list items which I’ve source or have people given me for commission.

This passive approach allows me to work on my active income while everything else runs on (essentially) autopilot. When an order is place, I spend a few minutes to get everything in check, box it, label it and set it aside for when I head off to work.

It’s really that simple.

At this point though, I want to turn the tables. I don’t want this post about me. Matthew and I agree that posts shouldn’t simply be about theory; it should include something you can take away and implement in your own life.

So here it goes…

Balancing life, the universe and everything

Believe me, to some extent I have to give credit to my insomnia. Staying up for days on end and barely sleeping has given me plenty of time to work on my projects but this isn’t what makes or break what I do: it’s time management and passion.

Actually, strike that first bit. Time management. I hate that term, don’t you?

The problem I see (and perhaps you do too) with time management is you’re trying to manipulate an outside force (time) when in reality it’s all about managing yourself.

It truly drills down to just one thing: passion.

Passion is what will take your ideas from a hobby into something which you’re able to sustain yourself. It just so happens that the web becomes that bridge between passion and business.

My advice is this: Find your true passion. Passion will create an environment in which every hour you place turns two fold for your business. Not only will it never feel like “job” but you’re going to have a lot of fun doing it.

You’re not on your own

The hardest part about entrepreneurship is the sense of loneliness as you’re out against the world coming up from the bootstraps to make a business for yourself.

This; is a myth.

One thing people overlook when reading or hearing about entrepreneurs is how they did it all by themselves. The truth is networking plays the single biggest influence of starting and running your own business.

Every time I think of how I got to where I am today, although I’d like to say I did most of it myself, I have to acknowledge that if it wasn’t for the support from friends and family I’d still be at point zero.

Make a mental note of all the people that influence and inspire you. These are the same people you should seek to build your business and these are the same people you can find through social networking.

We are no longer on our own. If you ever need help, send a message out to the people of the web – you’ll be surprised how helpful they can be.

Letting go of the “boss” mentality

Now is the part that where I get a little tough on you.

Ask yourself: why haven’t I started a business yet?

It’s certainly not the lack of resources. It’s you.

Don’t have the skill set? Outsource at Elance..
Trying to find products to sell? Look on Salehoo, Alibaba or Yellow Pages.
Can’t find employees? Get virtual assistants on oDesk.
Need to learn a new skill? Google it.

You get my point.

Don’t let small things such as money or time get in your way. If you’ve been mulling an idea in your mind, now is the time to implement it. The infinite resources available online are there for your taking – don’t let the “boss” mentality control your goals.

The “boss” mentality is a mindset that makes you feel compelled to control ever aspect of your business. This is the feeling that you must develop, implement, market, sell, service customers and handling shipping – this isn’t your job!

The addiction of entrepreneurship comes from developing and implementing ideas; this is why you’ve sat on an idea for so long, the work required to start your idea seems overwhelming but the actual development is what you enjoy the most.

Fear of work? Not any more.

If you have passion for what you want to do you can certainly find others that can handle the work that is beyond your reach. Instead of trying to build an eCommerce site yourself, outsource it to designers and coders – you see what I’m saying?

As an entrepreneur, your main involvement should be creating the ideas that will start and successfully run your business. Give all the daily tasks to your employees that are what you hire them for.

What you can do right this minute

You may not know it but you have unbelievable power at the tips of your fingers to set yourself free from industrial mindsets of the past. The information age is here; it’s your time to control your life now get out of my time machine and rock the web – widdlywaaaaaah!

Here is a 5 step (no BS) guide to doing exactly what I did:

1. Grab a sheet of paper and write your goals and business ideas at the top.

2. Underneath, write the skills you have. I donโ€™t matter how little or well you know these skills because you can always learn or outsource these later.

3. Imagine and write down your ideal business and culture. Don’t be held back by limitations such as money, time and effort – write down exactly what you want to do. Write down exactly how you would run this business, how you’d interact with customers; how you’d handle employees – get this on paper and stick it to your forehead (a wall is fine too).

4. Find your sources. If you’re using your own skills, look deep in yourself and get everything you need ready. If you need products, find sources through websites like World Wide Brands, Salehoo and eBay.

5. Bite the bullet and begin the with your first step. Make some phone calls, shoot out emails, hire someone – do anything to get that first step rolling. Don’t worry if your idea isn’t “complete” yet, you can hash this out later.

6. Begin your active approach to developing your business. Find customers, market the hell out of your products and services, and begin building your brand now!

7. Start to perfect your business. With your current knowledge, you can run a successful business but it’s only after experiencing the real world that you can master it.

8. Make your business into something remarkable. As Seth Godin would put it, find the purple cow. Assess what makes your business great, focus on that and use it as your base.

9. Start the process of stepping away. As your business develops, keep a strategy which would allow you to transition from active to passive. Find employees to handle the daily activities.

10. Start it all over again. By this point, your brand has sprouted its wings. Your next projects will take off even easier. Keep the passion for everything you do but always keep building.

All this takes time but if you stick to what you love, what you’re passionate about, what you understand you can do and what you need to work toward, you will be on your path to success.

The challenge is upon you

Matthew contacted me about writing about balancing a full time job and working on my own projects but I hope I gave you so much more than what you were expecting.

I’m modest and can honestly say that I don’t do anything magical to accomplish my goals. Everything I do, you can too.

But it’s all going to take time and effort. You could pull strings and go after the “get rich quick” schemes but in the long run you’ll suffer. Avoid this path by controlling your own destiny through what you already know – you just needed that little push.

So now the challenge is upon you. Will you continue to toil around, failure to launch or will you take the charge and plunge head first into your passion?


  • Hulbert Lee said:

    Hi Murray, it’s nice to see another freelancer and ex-gamer on Matthew’s site. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s funny that you say you were embarrassed selling gold on World of Warcraft. I remember back in the past I bought a digital bow on Diablo 2 for actually cash. I kind of laugh at how how nerdy “that” was, haha.

    I like what you said here about balancing a business in your spare time. From what you’ve written, I can definitely see that you have had a lot of experience providing different services and selling different items that helped you make money. Really cool stuff. Passive income is definitely the way to go in terms of having more freedom to do other things in life. One site I particularly enjoy reading is called Experiments in Passive Income ( that’s written by a person named Moon Hussain.

    Thanks again for teaching us the steps to how to start a business with our spare time Murray. Although I write freelance articles and will be taking classes soon in an English teaching credential program, I still feel like I’m living a passion that I have with blogging. In conclusion, if we have a goal that we want to reach or a business that we want to start, like what Art Williams said, do it!

  • Murlu said:

    Hi Hulbert,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post and thanks a ton for the additional resources.

    Now that you’ve reminded me…I used to sell items in Diablo II and level characters for people too haha.

    I’m sure you’ve found, as I have, that writing can open a world of opportunity online. Text drives the web which makes this skill one with the most opportunity.

    The web will continue to evolve and move toward video and audio but text will continue to be there.

    I’d be interested to hear how English is going to evolve in terms of teaching. We’re all getting use to web writing. Perhaps you can revitalize your students by getting them into blogging as well! Imagine, instead of giving them homework, you could have them blog about a topic ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the comment Hulbert.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Excellent idea. Maybe for your next GP Murray you should consider Gaming as a way of running an online business? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Hulbert, thanks for the comment. Art’s video is just brilliant!

  • Tammi Kibler said:

    Hi Murray – I love that you are “an entrepreneur with a side of insomnia.”

    I think you are so right that goal setting and list creation are critical to the success of a start up. You will have to work long days and keep track of multiple inputs and you risk dropping the ball on something small but important because you were tired or distracted. Seeing your goals helps you work a little harder, a little longer. Having a list of the things you have to do each day, especially the mind numbing repetitive stuff, makes it easy to follow through on the “rinse and repeat” of passive income streams.

    @Hulbert – cash for a digital bow on Diablo2? I can believe it. I tell my sons constantly that if they could channel some of that gaming energy to starting an internet business they would get all the rush plus real ka-ching. But what would I know?

    Cheers to your success!

  • Murlu said:

    Thanks for the comment and additional insight Tammi.

    Those little, annoying tasks are the real killers to productivity but we all have to get them done. It’s almost painful when you work on them but once you create a great habit out of getting them out of your way, you can really get a lot done because not only have you knocked them out of your mind but you’ve cleared a path for productivity.

  • Eric | My 4 Hour Workweek said:

    Fantastic post, Murray and Matthew. One of the more inspiring ones I’ve read in awhile. Thanks!

  • Murlu said:

    Thank you Eric.

    We all have greatness inside us, we just need to let it out. I’m glad you found inspiration in this post and hope you can use the information to find your own – you’re well on your way, just don’t stop ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dev | Technshare said:

    Hey Murray,

    Awesome to see you here man. You’re doing awesome Job. Some great points there bro. Thanks for the awesome tips. .



  • Murlu said:

    Thanks for the comment Dev – it’s great to see people around our age taking the charge. Think of how different it has changed, the opportunities given to us because of the web. If we don’t notice it, we’ll be left behind but I know you’re well on your way to making a mark!

  • Mark Petherbridge said:

    Cheers for this, appreciated ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Got Time? Start A Business! My Post @ BigRedTomatoCompany said:

    […] I did a double take to make sure the email was addressed right but low-and-behold, Matthew opened an opportunity to write a guest post which I happily accepted and thus: How To Start A Business In Your Spare Time. […]

  • Karen said:

    Wow, Murray, what a fantastic article with a lot of useful information.

    I have to tell you though, that I’m warped from listening to the video. I can’t get the “Just do it” out of my head! I think I’ll be hearing Art say that for the rest of the day. ๐Ÿ™‚ Great motivation though.

    I couldn’t agree more with this: “The problem I see (and perhaps you do too) with time management is youโ€™re trying to manipulate an outside force (time) when in reality itโ€™s all about managing yourself.” We often know what we need to do, but just can’t manage ourselves in order to do it. As you say, that’s where passion comes into play – if you have passion and a big enough reason why, then you will “just do it’ and find the time to ‘just do it’ so that you reap the rewards.

    So, just do it already, right? ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Murlu said:

    Spot on Karen!

    It’s really easy for us to put off the things we need to do. We get so wrapped up in the “fun” aspect of thinking of the new ideas but never get down to brass tax and just do it ๐Ÿ˜›

    I hope this post helped to get at least one idea in motion. Even if it’s just one small thing, you’ll be one step closer to accomplishing your goals!

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