The Harpoon Blog

How to Balance Freelancing with your Day Job

by Sylvia Burleigh in Business Tips

It’s inevitable. If you’ve been in the workforce for any length of time, it will cross your mind. Initially you’ll flirt with the idea of freelancing. Maybe you want to know what it’s like to call the shots; to decide when, where and on what projects you’ll work on next intrigues you. Maybe it’s the lure of financial freedom or the lack of boundaries that has you considering freelance work. Or perhaps, it’s the potential of turning your freelance lifestyle into a permanent gig. Very few people can leave their day job behind and immediately cruise into freelance work. Whatever your motivations might be, you need to start somewhere. Working part-time as a freelancer gives you the best of both worlds. You can keep that full-time job while you poke your toe into the freelance waters without a huge investment in time or money.

In fact, you’re not alone. According to an Intuit survey, by the year 2020, they estimate that 40 percent ( PDF) of U.S. workers will be freelance. Currently the Freelancers Union reports that nearly one-third of the U.S workforce, or 42 million workers, are working freelance. If so many freelance part-time, just how are these folks balancing freelance work with their day job? Here we look at a few tips at balancing freelance projects with your full time job.

Be Sure There Is No Conflict of Interest

When contemplating projects or freelance work outside your regular job, determine if there might be a conflict of interest. The last thing you want to do is lose your primary paycheck or burn bridges when you begin a second career, so it always helps to do your due diligence. Ask yourself if the services you offer are similar to what your current company offers. Consider whether or not you’re using any of your current company’s assets to get your freelance career off the ground. Are you using any physical and/or intellectual assets of your current company? Determine if you and your current employer have the same clients. Does the vendor list a little too familiar? More importantly can you market your skills without mentioning the experience you’ve gained from your current employer? If the answer is yes, you either need to rethink your strategy or determine if there is another alternative skill set you can market as freelance.

Be Selective about the Type of Freelance Assignments You Take

This may sound counter-intuitive. Your instinct may tell you to take whatever job or project comes your way to build a client base. But the whole idea behind freelancing part-time while you have a full-time job is to dedicate yourself to those projects that not only expand your skills, but indicate a possibility of more work and better pay. Doing a job well for one client is definitely more advantageous than taking on 3 small freelance jobs that have little future or pay. A job well done for one major client not only means the possibility of more work, but a possible recommendation that can be used in future project proposals. It’s also an opportunity to network directly with others interested in your field of expertise. So, just put that fear aside. It’s okay to turn down work if it doesn’t fit your current schedule, skill set or if the fee is low. At this stage, there is no added pressure to find steady clients to maintain your lifestyle.

Set a Two-Career Schedule that You Can Live With

It’s up to you to decide how much time you can devote to freelance projects. Considerations need to be made if you take support calls on a rotating shift. Also creating contingency plans can help in situations where you need to work for a colleague who has called in sick. Prepare a schedule each week that revolves around your full time position, mindful that things can change. Factor in these changing possibilities, sick colleagues, overtime, family time etc. into your deadlines. To further your success into part-time freelancing, make note of when you’re most productive. Are you a morning person or do you prefer to burn the midnight oil? Are do you prefer to work weekends? Once you’ve identified your most productive times of the day, the easier it will be to schedule projects.

Time Zones May Be Your New Best Friend

Laptops and tablets have made it easier than ever to work from home at any given time. We’re no longer bound by being at a particular location at a particular time. This can make balancing freelance work with a regular job seamless. It can also free you from the possibility of any interference with your full-time position. Answering phone calls or emails can be difficult at work, if you’re client is in a different time zone can give you an added advantage.

Understand the Realities of Freelance

Finally, we can’t really discuss what it’s like to freelance with a regular job without separating the reality from fantasy. Working full-time job while accepting freelance assignments leaves little time for fun. Basically most of your nights and weekends will be spent working, so understanding your limits can go a long way. Remember that bidding on too many projects initially can put you in a tough spot as well. So, make sure you and the client understand the details before beginning any project. By accepting assignments that work with your schedule , 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. 

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