How to start freelancing with a full-time job

You're ready to have a full-time job and pursue your dream life in freelance! Learn about what will help you get started on this busy and exciting journey.
How to start freelancing with a full-time job
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It’s finally happening. You’ve taken an idea or maybe a skill you have and you’ve started turning it into a form of freelance work. Congrats! You’re officially on what we think is one of the most unique and exciting journeys in your career. Now it’s possible that with that journey comes the inevitable challenge of balancing your freelance work and your full-time job. It can take a good amount of time for you to build your client base and eventually be able to take the leap of doing freelance full-time. This means you could be splitting your time between a 9 to 5 and working on projects for clients in your down time. That’s a lot, so we wanted to make sure we give you some helpful tips to make sure that this season of work goes as smoothly as possible. 

1. Find your work flow

Now that you’re starting to dive into the world of freelance it’s time for you to figure out how you’re going to manage your time outside of your full-time job. First, we highly recommend asking yourself if you work better early in the morning or if life as a night owl is a better fit for you. Finding times when you have the mental capacity to do your freelance work outside of your full-time job and other life obligations is essential. Breaking projects into smaller chunks can also help you find your work flow. Maybe one day you’ll be able to spend a full day cranking out invoices, contracts, and projects for your freelance clients, but it’s okay to take smaller bites in this season.

The more you find what works best for your flow, the more successful you will be in balancing both jobs. If you’d like some more specific tips on managing your schedule as a freelancer you can check out our article, Freelance freedom: How to put together an effective work schedule

2. Communicate clearly with your clients (and yourself) about your capacity

This tip may vary depending on who your clientele is and what projects you are working on, but in most situations letting your clients know that freelance work isn’t your full-time gig (yet!) can be incredibly helpful; you start your working relationship off with honesty, transparency, and space to establish boundaries and reasonable expectations

Communicating about your capacity also creates a sense of accountability for yourself. When jumping into freelance while you have a full-time job it can be easy to grind in your off-time because you’re trying to prove your value to your clients and that’s great! But it’s important to hold boundaries between your full-time job, your personal life, and your freelance work. If you push yourself beyond your capacity because you overestimated your ability to complete projects outside of work, you could end up hating what you do as a freelancer. 

3. Leave room for flexibility

Life happens, especially when you freelance and work a full-time job. Tight deadlines might not be your best friend in this season depending on how demanding your full-time job is. I’ve had a couple of instances in my freelance photography work where I’ve committed to getting a client a gallery within a week and later realizing the improbability of said deadline because of how chaotic my full-time schedule would be. I immediately regretted not giving myself more time to get the gallery done and ended up pushing myself beyond my limits to stick to my word for my clients. Looking back, I now know that giving myself more time to complete those projects rather than saying what I thought my clients wanted to hear would have been ideal.

Working yourself to the bone just so you can meet an unrealistic expectation (set by you or by your client) is not what we’re about here at Hectic. The more room you leave for flexibility in your freelance work, the more excited and motivated you will feel about doing the work. Building flexibility within your freelance schedule will result in a sustainable work-life balance.  

4. Take breaks during busy seasons

The fact that you’re a freelancer now does not mean you are not allowed to take breaks. Saying no to new freelance projects during busy seasons at your full-time job is okay and even wise. If you have some big projects or events coming up at your full-time job, try your best to communicate in advance to your clients that you won’t have time to take on new projects during that busy season.

Burning the candle at both ends is a recipe for burnout. Give yourself room to breathe when you know you need it. 

5. Religiously protect your rest/off time

While we’re on the topic of avoiding burnout, let’s practice an affirmation that you can use as you balance full-time work and freelance in this season: <tweet-link>I DESERVE REST. Say it again. Then say it five more times. Then say it every time you feel like you’re starting to push yourself past your capacity.<tweet-link> 

Blocking out time in your calendar for rest can be a really helpful tool. The key will be to hold yourself to that time. Maybe you can even dedicate one day a week to not thinking about anything related to your full-time gig or your freelance work. If you absolutely feel like you need to get some freelance work done before you can have some down time then do so, but commit to carving out time afterwards to rest. Committing to your self-care is a must. Religiously protecting your rest will make your freelance work more enjoyable. 

We know that taking on the challenge of working a full-time job while also starting your freelance work can be truly daunting. We hope these tips can help you on your journey and we look forward to hearing about how successful you are as you pursue your passions. 

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Marissa Morrow
Marissa Morrow is a Colorado native who loves all things poetry, photography and music. Currently a full time staff member with Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Marissa spends her off time doing photoshoots with her husband for their photography business, Morrow Manor Photography, and hanging out with their two cats. Marissa has been writing ever since she was young and finds storytelling in the form of poetry and photography to be one of the best forms of therapy. As a former advocate for victims of domestic violence she is passionate about social justice issues, self-care, and inspiring others with her art.
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Hey, Freelancer.
Control your freelance business so it stops controlling you. From client to project management, time tracking, invoicing, and everything in-between — Stay on top of it all in one intuitive platform with Hectic.

I highly recommend this platform if you're a freelancer seeking a client/project management system that allows you to focus on nothing else but the quality of your work.

Jason Little