How to Start an Online Business While Still in Your 9 to 5 Job.

Grace Nelson is the co-founder of an organisation called 1 Less Stress Connect, which is her own business. Grace is a business startup expert working mainly with female entrepreneurs, and she runs a boutique agency specialising in business startup growth, podcasts, and social-media influencer marketing.

I know that Grace’s story is really going to resonate with those of you who are stuck in your 9 to 5’s and wanting to know how to start an online business. Grace has been where you are; she set up her business from scratch, alongside raising her two young children.

So tell us Grace, how did you get into the business of helping other people get into their own businesses?

In 2013 I was in a corporate role and at this time I was at a very low point in my life, mainly because of the employment. I was feeling very much unfulfilled, underappreciated, and this all stemmed from one particular person in the workforce. When I look back, it was really work place bullying. That type of never being praised for the work I was doing or everybody that I was helping. I worked with a multitude of businesses at the time; they were all enjoying the work I was doing and singing my praises, but for this one particular person anything I did was never good enough. In my appraisals there would always be something minor that this person had to pick on.

I remember going to a nearby coffee shop with her one day to have a one to one chat, and she just made me feel so small, really un-picking everything I was doing at the time. Just going on and on and on, and I remember I was actually trying to hold back the tears because of how this person made me feel. I just kept thinking to myself don’t let her see you cry. We left the cottage stopped and went back to the office, and I went away thinking there’s got to be so much more to my life than this. Also I suffer from autoimmune disease, and it was under control a couple of years prior to this particular event, but during that time within this particular workplace it really flared up because stress is one of the the factors that spurs on inflammation or swelling in joints. There were times when I couldn’t actually get out of bed, not only because of the physical side of things I was going through but the emotional side too. I actually felt sick in my stomach every time my alarm clock went off, and I would have to think about going to work. Thinking what comment or remark is this person going to say to me today. And I wasn’t the only one being targeted with this; other colleagues were going through this who had been there for years but had just stuck it out. They kept saying to me ‘Grace don’t worry, we all get it’. But I thought no! I don’t have to take this.

So I remember at the time that myself and Charlotte who is my business partner now and bestie, we would meet up every Friday night and go to war with the world! Party, but playing the victim as well. But we knew that that we were greater in terms of our potential; much greater than the situation that we were in at the time. So we decided to put our skills, strengths, and expertise together and we came up with our first business partnership which was an event management company. It was something that lit us up, and we would do the entire spectrum of events; marketing, social, corporate. But at that time we didn’t have any clarity of direction. We didn’t really know how things would pan out, and very soon demand started to outgrow our time. Which is a fortunate position to be in, I should say!

But we were still in our corporate jobs trying to juggle everything, and I remember we started being very visible on social media still not knowing what the hell we were doing! But through putting things out there we started to attract a community of people just relaying some of their challenges that they were going through, and we were sharing ways to overcome that. As things started to evolve and grow we actually started to attract clients that said they’ll actually pay us for our knowledge. And of course Charlotte and I have got a wealth of business experience behind us; from my previous roles, and I’ve got a degree in business management as well. So between us we felt we had the strengths and expertise to this.

From there we just grew a community of mainly women who were still in their 9 to 5’s but they knew they had a greater purpose, just like we did at the time, and that’s when we decided to start our second business partnership which is now known as 1 Less Stress Connect. Today we serve on a global scale; we serve women who are still in their 9 to 5’s who seek to start and grow an online business. The main elements that we teach is striking that balance – how are you going to juggle everything? So you’ve got your job, you’ve got your family, you’ve got other commitments, and you want to do your business. What is very key and integral as well is shifting your mindset from employee mode to what Charlotte and I call SheEO mode.

I love that term SheEo! So let’s break some of this down there, because there’s a couple of things that you just mentioned there that I think will really resonate with anyone reading this who is stuck in a 9 to 5 right now but doesn’t know how to get started or how to start an online business. One of the things that I just wanted to pick up on there for the listeners is that you went out and built a community. And that’s what I think social media is about; being social, building community. I would say for anybody who is out there right now who wants to get out of their 9 to 5 and wants to run their own online business – anyone can start growing a community!

How did you start growing that community, I’m really interested to know how you planted that seed. Did you did you start online, or did you start face to face?

It was very organic. So firstly, because of our first business partnership, it was very much face to face. People were talking about what we were doing, the overall customer care and service we were giving, and that started to grow on the offline side. But then we wanted to also have a presence online, so primarily we took to Facebook because that’s where everybody’s hanging out these days. We started a business events page first of all, and then that evolved into a group because people were really warming to what we were saying and wanted to learn more essentially.

We wanted to grow an audience of people linked to the events management industry, so photographers, wedding planners, the whole spectrum of people. But then more people were coming from different backgrounds who wanted to know more about how to start and grow their respective businesses, and they were from all walks of life and all areas of business. That’s when we decided to start our first group, and that grew organically but it grew to quite a good volume of of people, men and women admittedly. Since then we’ve had many iterations in terms of our community, really defining what our niche is, who really likes us, and who we like working with. And that’s how we came to this point of solely working with those females – flying entrepreneurs who are still in their 9 to 5’s.

It’s a real journey isn’t it and I think that’s the great thing about when you start your own business. You just have to get started, and then as you get started you might start with one and then you pivot. That’s that’s the great thing about being an entrepreneur; the ability to just be able to create whatever you want to create because you’re your own SheEO! You have the ability to be able to do that.

For somebody who finds themselves in that position right now – they’re in a 9 to 5 job and they want to know how to start an online business – what would be some of the tips that you could give them for how they get started? Where would where would they start?

Well firstly I would definitely say start now. Done is better than perfect. So if you’re feeling that burn, that desire don’t sit on it any longer. Just start. One thing that’s helped me and Charlotte is that we have adopted something called our power hours which just a way to leverage our day. All of us have the same amount of time in a day, in the week, but why is it that some people are more successful than others? It’s because of how they’re efficiently and effectively using their time. So it’s a case of just breaking down your day to see where you’ve got some dead time. Could it be that you’re sleeping a bit too long in the morning, keep pressing that snooze button. Could it be that you start waking up an hour earlier in the morning to work on your business? There’s also the commute time into work, the lunch hour which I’ll talk about in a bit, and also maybe an hour before you go to bed or after you put the kids down to bed. Before you know it you’ve actually freed up about four hours in your day which we call your power hours, and that’s where you can start to focus on audience building.

With defining your message you know what your business is all about, and you can leverage your lunch hour. This is something that magnetised a lot of people to Charlotte and I, because more than often in our lunch hour we’re mindlessly eating or not really doing much, so it’s the perfect hour to really leverage. So why not start to put yourself on social media, start connecting in relevant Facebook groups where you feel your target audience is – the people that you feel are your dream clients. Find out where they’re hanging out and start to connect and nurture relationships. Within my lunch hour I would even try and go to nearby networking events, because essentially business is all about building relationships. That’s how you start to make those connections with people who can become either your co-builders, so people that you collaborate with, do joint ventures with, or become your clients. So that’s definitely one way; leveraging your time by adopting power hours.

What is integral is shifting your mindset from employee mode to what Charlotte and I call SheEO mode.

Grace Nelson

I love that. How often do we just sit and scroll through Facebook, which is wasted time? And one of the the common blocks for some people is that they don’t have time. We all have the same amount of time it’s just how we allocate it and how we give purpose to it. I’ll be really honest, I’ve really struggled with this in my business and I’ve had to really focus on time blocking my diary. 15 minutes to do emails, 15 minutes to do social media replies, 15 minutes to go make a sandwich, 15 minutes to go for a walk. I’ve had to really focus on blocking time out of my diary, otherwise I do just sit there as we do.

What I’m interested in Grace is in terms of going out and building your audience and building community, how do you know what kind of business you should be even starting? What was it that drove you two to set up the type of business that that you’d created initially with event planning? How did you know that was what you wanted to do?

For me definitely it was a case of sitting down and really drilling down as to what my strengths are. Making a list on a piece of paper of all the things that I feel that I’m good at, or I’ve been praised for, then taking that list and going a bit further to see what are the things that really light me up. The things that even if I wasn’t paid for doing this over the next five years I am still doing. For me that was helping people putting on special events. Just transforming people’s lives essentially. That transformation in itself was a reward for me, and that’s come over to what I do now in terms of empowering others help them find their purpose. It just lights me up. Even if I wasn’t paid to do this I would still go out my way to help people. I’m that heart-centered entrepreneur and I want to give back. Sure it’s great that I’m earning an income for doing this, but I want to take my skills and help those that can’t quite afford my services as well.

So take some time with yourself. Go sit outdoors in the park or a hotel lobby, where it’s just you and you can work out what are your strengths and what really lights you up. Then from there look at how you can monetise your passions.

I was having a chat about exactly this with a lady in my Facebook group. She was saying she’s in a 9 to 5 and she wants to go out by herself, but she doesn’t really know what she can do. We were talking about making a list of her skills, her qualifications, and things that light her up. Often just starting there is a great place to then get some clarity. What kind of things do I want to be spending my time doing? Where is there an opportunity to be helping others? Then crafting a business idea around that.

So from that point then Grace, what other tips would you give? If someone has created this Power Hour in their diary, what kind of things could they be doing to get their online business off the ground?

As we say – content is Queen! People need to know that you’re out there essentially, so it’s starting out with your message and your story because that’s what sells. In order to be unique and position yourself online, the one thing that does it is your story. Start to plot out on a piece of paper what makes you stand out from other people in terms of your story. what were the the challenges and the problems that you went through that have actually helped you to reach this breakthrough moment. That’s what people want to know about, and that’s how you actually start to magnetise people into your world. Being quite open and authentic with your message and putting yourself out on social media – Facebook and Instagram are good places to start. Facebook has got over billion active users, and you’ll find everybody hanging out there.

Start to put out some messages, your story, what you’re thinking. Facebook lives for engagement and interaction. And actually tell people I’m thinking of starting this business, I would love to learn or hear your feedback. You will be surprised about the number of people that will be very supportive, even people that you don’t know, and be willing to help you, support you, and give you advice. And who knows, they may even become your first client!

Did you have any fears about getting yourself out there when you first set up your business?

For me it was will people really buy from me? What sets me apart from other people in the same industry? When you’re building a business online it’s a crowded marketplace, so how do I stand out in all that noise? I’ve learned over time that my story is unique. When I’m showing up and talking about the fact I’m building an online business, I’m still in the 9 to 5, and I’ve got autoimmune disease so I don’t know how I’m going to be full day today – it resonates in certain people. They think my gosh I’ve got no excuse. She’s got two young children and she’s juggling all of that. So it’s just about showing up and being very consistent with your messages. Showing people that it can be done. I would rather just put things out there – some may stick some may not, but that’s the whole process of being an entrepreneur. It’s very much trial and error and finding out what works and what doesn’t. It’s an evolving process.

How to Start an Online Business while still in your 9 to 5 job, with Grace Nelson, co-founder of 1 Less Stress Connect

Did you work with any mentors or coaches in the early days of growing your business?

That was really the game changer for me and Charlotte. When we started out we had no real brain map in place. From day to day we were bouncing from this world to the next, but when we got our first mentor he just he lifted that dark cloud from above our heads and really started to help us define our niche. That’s what set the tone for our business journey today, and from there as we’ve grown we’ve had many coaches who are helping us in different areas of our life. Whether it be mindset, showing up as that goddess, as well as those that teach the very practical technical side of business. The whole automation side to help you to leverage your time. Best investment ever, and one of the things that if I were to look back now I would definitely have invested in a mentor a lot earlier.

How did you find your mentors and coaches?

It was really a case of word-of-mouth so a friend of a friend of a friend. We were very new to the online space, and didn’t quite know how to utilise Facebook to our advantage. A friend actually recommended us to this guy; he was very much big on online programs and online courses, and we just connected from there. We even went to do a lot of in-person masterminds and workshops with this person, and it just unlocked a whole new world to us. More knowledge to be consumed that we could apply there and then to our business.

One of the challenges I find from a lot of female entrepreneurs when thinking about how to start an online business is cash flow. They’re maybe being paid a salary but that salary is being used to fund their lifestyle and their bills, and what stops them in their tracks is knowing where to go from a financial perspective.

From a financial perspective, were you held back by cash flow? Did you did self fund those mentors, go out and get sponsorship or investors? How did it work from a financial perspective for you guys?

One of the beauties of building a business alongside your 9 to 5 is that you have a regular income coming in. So I actually self-funded a lot of my personal development. It was a case of ‘Grace if you really want this then you will invest in yourself’. So it was taking some of my regular monthly income and actually putting that aside to invest in myself and my personal development, with the aim of having that return on investment. I’ve never gone externally for sponsorship, it’s very much being self-funded through my personal income, and now it’s the case that the business is paying for it as well.

I would definitely say start now. Done is better than perfect. So if you’re feeling that burn, that desire don’t sit on it any longer. Just start.

Grace Nelson

Amazing. Are there any other tips that you can give to anyone who’s listening to this that wants to learn how to start an online business?

I would definitely say start now. Just to reiterate this; done is better than perfect! Even if you don’t have all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together, that’s fine because they’ll start to come into view as you’re growing your business. So start now start getting visible on social media in terms of connecting with people. Look out for Facebook groups. One of the most underrated things on Facebook is the search bar. Just typing in certain keywords that actually link back to where your passion is. If it’s personal fitness or healthy eating just type it in and a whole wealth of things will come up you. Join groups, connect with people. It’s very important in business to surround yourself with like-minded individuals, people that will add value to what you’re doing, lift you up, and not just be a yes person. People who will be very much there to support you and give you the advice or constructive feedback that you need, as well as to spur you on your journey. As well investing in a coach or mentor. I think is a very integral thing to do. Look for somebody who’s 2-5 steps ahead of you, who’s been there done that. Someone who’s actually overcome the challenge that you’re going through now, and can show you their experience.

You don’t have to be wholly confident at doing this because in time you will grow. Keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, feeling the fear but doing it anyway, doing whatever it takes.

And finally having those non-negotiables whereby you’re letting other people in your life about these very clear boundaries. Tell people in your life that you are starting a business, you need to dedicate this hour in the morning or this hour in the evening, and people will start to work around you. They’ll see that you’re serious. I really believe in the magic of the compound effect, so if you’re consistent on a daily basis because you will start to see the results in time.

Thank you so much for sharing those tips Grace, there’s so many pearls of wisdom in there. From a mentoring perspective; this is one of the things that I spoke to my Money Circle members about last week. I think sometimes it’s understanding what sort of person you are – if you’re a doer you probably need a mentor that’s going to help you to slow down a little bit and focus on strategy. If you’re somebody who is not clear on what you need to actually do and maybe you’re a procrastinator, then finding someone that can shimmy you along and encourage you to do the doing can sometimes be useful.

What would you say would be the one biggest reason why people don’t get started?

I think the one biggest reason would be that they get stuck in their heads. You start to make so many excuses or reasons as to why you shouldn’t be doing this, why it will never work, and then that just keeps you standing still. It keeps you living that complacent mediocre life where you’re very scared to go against the grain of grain of society. Get out of your head! Start doing things, and stop comparing yourself to others. You’re comparing your chapter one to someone else’s chapter ten. And we just need to stop doing that and slay in our own lane!

I love that what a great way to finish!

Thank you so much for sharing what you experienced in your in your job. It’s something that’s come up quite a lot her recently; I talked about bullying in the workplace last week, and Lisa Johnson shared similar experiences a few weeks back with us. So it seems to be a really unfortunately common occurrence. We are way more deserving as women to not put up with this crap! So find something that drives you, find something that gives you passion and purpose, and create a business from it. There are tons of other people that will be in exactly the same situation and you can bring your skills and your experiences and your personal stories to help them, and that’s what makes us get out of bed in the morning isn’t it?

With the bullying side of things, it took me years to get over that. I would torment myself and say her name over and over again in my head, and then one day I was in the kitchen washing up and I just felt this overwhelming sense of gratitude. Because I felt without her I wouldn’t be here doing what I do and love most. That’s actually helped me to heal inside. So that’s the way of re-framing that if you’re going through similar.

That’s amazing that you’ve got to that stage of forgiveness and it’s actually powered you to get yourself into the position you are now. Just incredible. Your story I know will have inspired lots of people, and I know you’ve got lots of exciting things coming in your business as well. Thanks so much Grace for sharing you tips and tricks on how to start an online business!


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