The Amazing Balancing Act Between Working Freelance And Your Day Job

Whether you’re a full time student or 9-5 employee, you can effectively balance your busy life with freelancing – without going completely insane or burning out.

Every week I work full time at a web firm, write a new article for my blog, work on personal lettering projects, have an active social media presence and maintain a fruitful freelance career. So if I can do all that and somehow still manage to have down time, you can too.

Make sure there’s no conflict of interest

When thinking about taking on freelance work outside your day job, you need to first figure out if there might be a conflict of interest for the company you work for. If you offer services that are a little too similar to what your company offers you could be in danger of breaking a non-compete contract with your employer.

Ask yourself these questions to prevent and sticky issues with your boss:

  1. Are my freelance services the same as what my company offers?
  2. Am I using the same client base as the company?
  3. Will I be using any of my employer’s physical or intellectual assets for my own business?

If you answered yes to any of these, you may want to re-think the services you offer for your side business. Or at the very least have a conversation with your boss before accepting new freelance clients as a courtesy. Some employers don’t mind hiring designers with a side business, but it’s always best to be safe than sorry.

Keep your priorities straight

As tempting as it might be to get some freelance work done on company time, resist the urge. Posting a few quick tweets or replying to emails are fine on a break but working directly on side projects on company time could land you a negative reputation to your freelance career.

You don’t want to burn bridges at your current job because sometimes they can be a great resource for future referral work.

So no matter what, your main priority should always be your day job because if your work starts to slip, your boss might blame your side business. Not to mention you may be forced into full-time freelance a little faster than your ready for.

Test the waters little by little

Maintaining a full-time job while working on freelance projects can leave little time for fun. So understanding your limits can go a long way, especially since most of your nights and weekends will be spent working. You need to mentally prepare yourself to juggle both jobs. No one said this was going to easy. No work, no reward right?

So at the beginning, ease into freelancing by taking just a few assignments here in there to test the waters. By doing this you can catch a glimmer of what it’s like to be self-employed, understand the self-discipline required and find out first hand if freelancing full-time is for you.

Figure out your availability

Every month you need to know exactly how many billable hours you have to spend on freelancing along with the non-billable hours needed to market and grow your business. You can’t just accept everything that comes your way without knowing whether or not you have the time to do it.

Personally, I work on my freelance business 2-3 hours on weekdays and 5-8 hours on Saturdays with Sundays off. This leaves me with about 40 billable hours a month with 20 dedicated to marketing my business through blogging and social media.

Even with all that time dedicated to freelance I’m still able to focus on my day job, have dinner dates with the boyfriend and even have time to catch up on my favorite weekly shows. So when it comes down to it, it’s all about time management and knowing your schedule.

Now, if you’re getting more clients then you have time for then you will need to turn down the work. Sometimes saying “No!” is the best thing you can do for your business and your sanity.

When this happens to me, I try to schedule the project for next month (if the client isn’t in a hurry) and take a deposit to reserve a slot. Do this enough and you’ll quickly fill up your availability and have a nice steady additional income on the side. Whoop whoop!

Be super selective

Many freelancers have a starvation complex when it comes to accepting new work. But, the whole idea behind freelancing part-time with a full-time job is to gain projects that you’re passionate about that expand your skills with the possibility of doing less work for a higher hourly rate. Doing it this way will allow you to slowly build your client base without having to work out of a scarcity mindset.

Think about it, doing a job well done for one client is definitely better than taking on 3 small freelance jobs for little fun or pay. It’s totally fine to turn down work if the project doesn’t fit your current schedule, skill set or if the fee is too low.

Also, I’m sure you have a few friends in your industry that wouldn’t mind the referral. That’s why I have a Partner Program where me and other freelancers can help each when we’re booked up or if a client needs work outside their focus.

Know when your most productive

The great thing about freelancing is that you make your own schedule so you can choose to work when you’re most productive. For the longest time I use to wake up 3 hours before my day job to work on my freelance gigs because that was when I was most awake and excited.

Although your day job should be your priority while you’re actually at work, I recommend giving your best hours to your passion.

So really think about it. Are you more of a morning person or do you prefer to burn the midnight oil? Or maybe you prefer to work extra hard on weeknights so you can have your weekends completely free? TOnce you’ve identified your most productive times of the week, the easier it will be to schedule projects.

Take mini-vacations whenever you can

It’s important to to pace yourself when balancing your day job with freelancing or you could run the possibility of burning out. If you get vacation days, consider only taking a few days at a time throughout the year, rather than just taking off big chunks. It’s nice to add extra vacation days on holidays or weekends to spread out the relaxation throughout the year.

Regardless if you have vacation days or not at your day job, you still need to take breaks. Consider taking 2 nights off a week when you come home from work to spend time with your family–maybe even binge watch a little television on Netflix.

The moral of the story is…don’t be a workaholic. Life is too short to work all the time.

Take a real break and make sure that you don’t use your vacation time to do more freelance work. If you don’t give yourself a breather every once in a while, you will burn out and could start to give up on freelancing all together.

Stay healthy to prevent burnout

If you’re putting the effort to work full-time and freelance, you’ve have to remember to take care of your health. I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t follow my own advice on this but when I have a week of eating healthy and exercising, I’m 100% better at both my jobs. And don’t forget, getting sick means missing work at two jobs, instead of just one.

Here are some tips you can easily implement to improve your health:

  • Stay away from junk food: Keep away from all the junky food and eat more greens. They sell salads at McDonalds too people.
  • Drink less coffee: Try to stick to just 1 coffee a day, even though it’s apart of the workhorse stigma.
  • Drink less alcohol: Try to avoid grabbing a beer when you get off work and save your partying for the weekends.
  • Drink more water: Bring a water bottle to work and you’ll passively drink it throughout the day. A great way to drink less coffee too!
  • Take breaks: Stretch at your desk every hour and make time to go for a short walk, especially if you sit in front of a computer all day.
  • Sleep more: Stop staying up past your bedtime. You know you need at least 7-8 hours of beauty sleep to stay on your game. If you’re a night owl, take a short nap when you get home to recharge so you can do your best work later in the day

With these tips you can achieve a healthy balance between your full-time job and freelancing. If your goal is to quit your day job then these are the tools that will get you there. You just need a long game mindset and to stay organized so you can keep all of the elements of your life running smoothly.

Got any tips of your own for maintaining the balance between a full-time job and freelancing? Let’s hear them in the comments below!

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