Balancing Full Time with Freelancing
For a lot of people, freelancing is just their side gig. They have a steady 9 to 5 by day and become a freelancer by night. For a lot of creative people, having that extra outlet of creativity is crucial for a lot of different reasons, but can get hard to manage. These tips are for you if you’ve already started freelancing, or if you’ve just started to dip your toes in.
If you already have a full time job & income, why freelance? There are so many reasons, but here are a few:
Extra Cash - During college, I didn’t have time for a real job, so freelancing was my only source of income. I kept freelancing even after I graduated and got a job because my husband is in school getting his doctorate (he finally graduates in May 2019!!). Now, with student loans to pay off and vacations to save up for, I’ve taken on more freelancing than ever!
Creative Outlet - I have the privilege of working as a designer at an ad agency full time, but not all creatives have that. If you’re working at a desk job, or waiting tables, or doing anything that you’re not passionate about, doing freelance on the side is a great way to fill that creative void. It allows you to do what you love, but no have to rely on it fully to pay all your bills.
More Variety - When I was working in-house, everything I did was for one brand. Posters, t-shirts, social media, video - it all fit into one brand’s guidelines. I got to do a lot of fun work, but I still craved a little more variety. Since I was working with one brand, they didn’t need logo designs or branding (we did do a brand refresh, but then it was established). Since logos & branding are my favorite thing to work on, I made sure to get freelance jobs to fill that hole.
So how do you manage it all?
Everyone’s situation is different, and what works for me might not work for you. But I wanted to share how I’ve been managing everything with the hopes that it’ll help someone out there who might be struggling. So here we go!
Know your limits.
Think about how much time you really have in a week to spend on freelancing. If you get home at 5:30, do you want to work from 7-9 every night? One night a week? Only on Saturdays? Be very realistic with yourself so that you don’t get overwhelmed. The last thing you want is to get some clients but then blow it by missing deadlines or not being able to finish a project. I know that I could spend 25 hours a week freelancing, but that would mean never having dinner with my husband and never seeing the sun on the weekends. I really don’t want that, so I make sure that before I take on a new job, I look at my schedule and see if it’s all going to work out.
You knew it was coming. There is no way to have a full time job, freelance, and have a life without a lot of organizing. Once you start working on multiple projects, things just start to blend together. Deadlines get mixed up, you forget about a whole piece of a project, you forget to respond to someone’s email. It happens. But when you’re trying to be professional and build up a clientele, you really don’t want stuff like that on your record. Here are some of the things I use to organize my life:
Priority Lists - Anyone else out there love making lists as much as I do?? I have lists for literally everything, so freelancing was no different. But the way I organize my list is the important part here. First, list all the pieces of every project you’re working on. Then put the due date next to each item and put them in order from due soonest to due latest. For anything due within the same few days, I look to see what the project is and who has priority. If client A asked for something on August 18th first, then client B came along and asked for something on August 17th, I make sure to have client A’s project done days before it’s due so that I can also get client B’s project done on time. If I hadn’t listed it all out, I wouldn’t have realized how close the deadlines were and I would have been scrambling at the end to get everything done.
Inbox Categories - If you keep every single email in your inbox and not in categories, YOU ARE CRAZY. Email categories changed my life. Not really, but it really improved it. I have a freelance tab and under it a tab for each client, as well as a tab for potential clients. Go organize your inbox. Now.
Use And.Co - For years I used Google docs, the notes app on my phone, and pen & paper to keep track of all the work I was doing. BUT NO MORE. I discovered And.Co and I’m never going back. It’s FREE and amazing. It’s designed for freelancers, so it has all the tools you need to keep everything organized and professional. You can create projects, make task lists, send invoices, track time - it literally does everything you want it to do. So after you finish organizing your inbox, hop over to And.CO and get yourself set up. (Not sponsored, just love them)
Have a system for your files - Come up with a way that works for you to organize all your files. For me, I have a folder for each client. Then there’s an assets folder that holds everything like imagery, fonts, etc. that I might need for the project. Then I have a psd/ai folder where I keep all the working documents. Then there’s an exports folder with all the final exports. Lastly, I usually have a folder for the proposal, contract, and invoices. This is what works for me, so find out what makes sense in your mind and put everything where it belongs!
Find some space.
Where can you go to work where you’ll be the most productive? It’s probably not laying in your bed or on the couch with the tv on. It might be something as simple as sitting at your kitchen table or going to the nearest coffee shop. I have a desk in the guest room, so if I’m going to spend a full day working, I’ll sit there. It helps my brain really get into work mode when I’m sitting in a real chair at a real desk. But if I only have a few things to do, I’ll sit on the couch or go with my husband to a coffee shop. If you only have a few hours to dedicate to freelancing, you really want to make those hours count. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re going to get two hours of work done while simultaneously watching your favorite show.
All in all, having a side hustle is really fun. If you’re able to take what you’re passionate about and make some extra cash doing it, go for it! The last thing you want is to have to stop because you can’t keep track of everything.