How to Balance Freelancing with Working Full-time

In May 2014, I was wrapping up a time and energy-intensive freelance commitment. As a full-time “side” job, the project had stolen most of my evenings and weekends over the course of five months. I loved the experience and the opportunities it created for me (both professionally and financially), but working a full-time job and then coming home to continue working into the night left me feeling like I was a hamster stuck in a wheel of production.

Yet even with all the pressure, I was buzzing with ideas. I have never felt more creative than when I was stressed out of my mind working two full-time jobs. I remember constantly jotting down new thoughts for projects and challenging myself to pick up new skills. I loved the character-building demands balancing two jobs created, but was ready for the commitment to come to an end (and for summer to begin).

Establishing an end date for the freelance work helped me to continue to produce quality work when I was struggling to stay motivated. That deadline and the following guidelines pushed me to successfully freelance while working full-time:

Develop a schedule (and stick to it!).

When I sat down to work on my freelance projects, I knew what I wanted to accomplish before getting started. If I couldn’t work one evening because of a prior commitment, I made sure the client knew I wouldn’t be available and tried to avoid worrying about not producing content that day.

Know your limits. (because sleep is important!)

I’m not a robot, so expecting myself to work during every free moment was not logical (let alone healthy). Some days I just had to accept that I could not check off my entire task list before bed. On those days, I had to learn to adjust my expectations and accept that a new day would bring clarity and renewed productivity.

Manage expectations — both yours and the clients.

This was tough at the beginning, but I got better at it throughout my experience. Referencing my contract helped me to determine if a task was my responsibility and explain to the staff when it wasn’t. I received a fixed rate each month, so managing expectations was key to making sure I was working the amount of hours that made sense financially.

Have a clear motive.

Whether you want to freelance to earn extra money, challenge yourself, or beef up your portfolio, make sure you know your motivation before taking on extra work. Freelance gigs will put more money in your pocket, but they take a lot of extra effort and time. During the five months I balanced working full-time with a heavy freelance commitment, I had many nights of choosing work over quality time with my husband. It was a crummy situation, especially since we were newlyweds. Ultimately, reminding ourselves of my motivation for accepting the project in the first place was what got me (and our relationship) through the late nights and early mornings. I truly believe that establishing a strong rationale for your efforts and communicating it to the people who matter will make all the difference if you find yourself struggling during a freelance commitment.

My list is short, but as I continue to take on new projects and learn balance I know it will grow. I’ve found that I prefer time-intensive projects during the winter, when I’m less likely to feel like I’ve lost an evening to a glowing computer screen.

Have you ever freelanced while working full-time? What helped you manage the workload?

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