The process of becoming self-employed can take a number of paths. One common situation is doing freelance work on the side while working a full-time job. This allows you to build up a client base, generate some financial reserves, and have time to do the rest of the necessary preparation to give yourself a running start when you finally take the plunge.
The biggest challenge is time. You can essentially be working two full time jobs when you’re trying to jumpstart a solo career and maintain your primary job. In many cases, mine included, it eventually gets to the point where you have to decide to go one way or the other – cut back on the freelance work or quit your job. That’s an exciting time and one that will define you in many ways. But what about the weeks, months, and maybe years that led up to that defining decision? Here are some ways to help you juggle your split lives and stay sane while managing both successfully.
1. Plan Ahead
It may sound simple, but it is much easier said than done. If you have vacation time, holidays, or other scheduled time off from your full-time job, plan to focus on freelancing work on those days. It’s also helpful to give yourself extra time for all projects you’re doing on the side to avoid the all-nighters.
2. Keep Them Separate
For many reasons – legally and ethically, especially – you will probably want to keep your freelancing work far away from your full-time job. Sure, you could work on your lunch hour or during slow times, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk. When at your job, focus on that and save the freelancing for after hours.
3. Give Something Up
Juggling a full-time job and moonlighting work is draining, and you may find that you need to give something else up to have the time to manage it all. Look at what’s expendable in your schedule, like your weekly poker game, going out with friends during the week or weekend sports, and put those activities on a temporary hiatus.
4. Take a Break
While giving something up may be the only way to find the extra time you need to do it all, keep some downtime in your schedule. This time is vital for staying fresh and excited about what you’re doing.
5. Start Slow
Come up with a plan that provides enough time to start your freelancing career without feeling overly pressured. Start slow and steadily build your business as you go.
Taking care of yourself is vital. While you may need to work some early mornings and late nights, be sure to take time to sleep and recharge.
7. Be Honest
Your freelancing clients may wonder why you’re not available during business hours and you may have a difficult time explaining that if you’re trying to keep your full-time job a secret. Be upfront and honest about your work situation if this becomes an issue.
8. Get Organized
The last thing you want is to spend an hour after work trying to find the information you need to work on your freelance projects. Being organized will save you time and stress.
9. Track Your Time
The only way to see where your time is going and become more efficient is by tracking your time. Use a time tracking tool to track both billable and non-billable time and see where you’re putting in the most effort.
10. Avoid Distractions
This is another one that is easier said than done, but do whatever you can to get away from distractions when you’re working on your freelance projects, including kids, pets, phone calls, TV, and e-mail. Create time that is off-limits to those distractions so you can make the most of your time.
11. Be Realistic
Your solo career is not going to happen overnight. Be realistic about the work, time and energy that you will have to put in. It will be well worth it in the end.
12. Keep Up the Quality
Yes, you’ll probably have some days at your full-time job when you’re flat out exhausted from working on your side projects all night. But it’s no excuse for letting your work quality slip at your job. Strive to maintain your performance at your full-time job — you need it (for now at least)!
13. Be Flexible
You can make plans and set schedules, but there will be times when things happen that throw you off track. Being flexible and able to go with the flow will make you more resilient and able to make up for lost time.
14. Keep Goals in Sight
Freelancing on the side is hard! But it’s possible to do both. Keep your goals in view and continue to push, even when things get difficult. You will eventually get there.
What is your experience with juggling a side career while working full time? Do you have any tips to add to this list?
Image credit: Stephen Henderson
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