How to Balance a Full-Time Job & Freelance Work
Oh hey guys. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving :)
I don't think there was ever a time I wasn't having my full-day of school or job + "side gigs" after hours. It's certainly a juggling act, sometimes easier than others – but nonetheless create rewarding experiences.
Working your buttered buns off in your free time can definitely take the wind out of your sails, especially when the last thing you want to do after a hard day of work or school is to do more work. I've been there (for years,) and through trials and tribulations I've taken note of how to balance it all while managing my clients' (and my own) expectations, (and getting that extra dough!)
Whether you're a student looking for avenues of extra income and practicing your newly-found skills in the real world, or chipping away at your current full-time/part-time gig – hopefully these thoughts can help re-direct your mindset if you find yourself over capacity or are thinking about taking on some extra work.
1. Have a good sense of discipline & time management
This kind of goes without question (I would think... lol.) It's much easier said than done, but with that being said – learn about yourself and your work ethic. This comes with years of various experiences, even down to your own personal projects. I've had freelance gigs while I was in high school, college, college + an internship, and now a full-time job with my own business. From all of those different experiences, I've come to ask myself a few questions over time:
When do I work best? (Morning, after dinner, or keep on pushing through after work/class while I'm in the working mindset?)
How much time will this project roughly take, and how can I split that into chunks throughout the week & weekend to get it done?
Do I need to physically schedule time blocks out for me to work on this, or can I trust myself to intuitively just do it? ...Nike
If more than one freelance job in the same time-frame: What needs to take priority to work on right now?
Discipline & time management takes time, but are soft skills that are quite sought after. Master those (or at least get good at them,) and you're freakin' unstoppable, kid.
2. Learn how to shift mindsets from work/school to client's work
This can be easier or harder depending on when you choose to work on your side jobs. Although I don't do this as often as I'd like to, I have found that working before or continuing right after work/class tends to be easier, simply because you're still/starting in that "working" mindset. Gears are turning, you feel somewhat stimulated mentally, and you can put that energy into a different project before/after something totally different. But – this implies that you have the energy to keep going LOL.
Sometimes (as in most times) we just flat out don't. And that's totally okay. I usually do my "side stuff" as I call it after dinner, and allow myself to have a little breathing room in between work and, well, work.
Again, this comes with time and learning how you work best. Sometimes it takes a little while to get in a rhythm – and sometimes you're like, "psh, yea. This freaking works." Do what's best for you and your schedule – but more importantly, just do it! ............Nike
3. Manage your client's & your own expectations – (and be honest)
This is quite the kicker here. Now we're dealing not only with your own accountability. We're also dealing with not accidentally over-promising and under-delivering with your client who's putting their faith, trust, time & money into you & your work.
The best (and most respectful) thing you can do for yourself and your client is to be straight up with what you can provide and the timelines you can provide to. It's so easy to get excited when landing a side gig with (hopefully) a cool client and (hopefully) a cool project, but not lay that foundation of mutual respect of time and what's realistic.
And yea, I know – "what if I don't know how much time it's going to take and I'm just spitballing?" Before responding to that email with a brisk "I can get it to you next week! *Cries softly not realizing how much work that ends up being,*" simply respond with "let me take a day to go over my estimated hours and rate, and I'll get back to you." And do just that. There's no shame in needing some time to crunch some numbers. Until you get in a rhythm of knowing those numbers off the top of your head, it's good practice to learn more about how much time it takes you to do yo thang.
4. Be reliable and always deliver when you accept a job
Just because Batman lives a double life doesn't mean he can act shady whenever he wants and leave Commissioner Gordon hangin' when trouble arises. Having the double-life of "Full-Time-XYZ" & "Freelancer" means more responsibility, if not being more attentive to your clients' needs.
From beginning to end, nurture your relationship with your client – even if they're a recurring one. Put them at ease. Make them think "They've got this." It's easier said than done, because clients also wear many hats sometimes – like producer, sometimes designer, director, etc. They can be nervous about asking someone to do something for them and may not be sure about the outcome, simply because they just might not know you and how you work sometimes. Totally warranted. They totally have the right to feel that way – but its up to us as the part-time freelancing unicorns that we are to hold their trust like a little baby bird (or bat in this analogy) and take care of it ;)
Plus, these are opportunities to have other gigs, job offers, collaborations, etc. down the road!
So don't screw it up!!!
Just kidding. Kind of. ;)
5. Remember that you can say "no" when you're at mental & physical capacity
We're always tempted to take newly-found freelance gigs as an opportunity to whisk the new client away on a magic carpet ride of great work that they'll never forget. Feel free to take those chances and wow them with the awesome and talented person you are... But remember that not only is your time valuable, but the experience, education, practice, and investment you put into your craft are even more valuable.
When you can tell you need to give yourself a break, there's nothing more liberating than not feeling like you have to accept a job every now and then. There's plenty of moments where I could confidently turn down a job and reserve some of that me-time back before it was even booked up. It might not always be as easy of a decision at times, but take advantage of those moments where you do have the option to say "no thank you," and use that time on a personal project or something just for you.
That does go with saying that it's a good rule of thumb (at least in my book) to try and give a referral or two to your almost-client and help them out in some way. And, it could also help out a colleague/friend of yours who could actually use the work; be sure to give them a heads up or ask them if they'd be interested in the job beforehand :)
Share the wealth! Spread the love! Pass the torch! All the good sayings.
6. Chip away at freelance projects a little over time – save time for yourself at the end of the day
If there's anything I learned from college, is how great it feels to procrastinate, and how gut-wrenching it is to try and catch up. I'll admit, I still struggle sometimes. But when you have more obligations and responsibilities to tend to as a post-grad adult, procrastination becomes less and less of an option. The compromise is to just chisel it away with a metaphorical icepick to make a pretty frozen sculpture. Hopefully it's a sculpture of that giant check you'll get from your client. ;)
Not only does this save you a lot of energy and stress, but can give you some time back into your evening that could otherwise be spent cramming to get something done.
It goes without saying that doing a little bit over time can go a long way and cut out the work for you – you just gotta, well, do it.