Let’s get real, no one is ever going to be ready to just quit their full time jobs and start freelancing without having a stable source of income in place first.
And that of course, makes complete sense.
What you need to do is, start freelancing while you still have the security of a full time job. You can rely on your income while you carve out a spot for yourself in the freelancing world. I call this the overlap period and it’s definitely something I recommend.
Why do You Need an Overlap Period?
Starting anything for the first time is always a daunting experience. Freelancing is no different.
The overlap period is your security blanket. You have the security of a stable income to fall back on while you give yourself the time to learn, make mistakes (you WILL make mistakes) and gain experience as a freelancer.
Some people will say having a security blanket can make you less motivated because you always have your income to fall back on. Yes, that’s kind of true. But, I will never recommend anyone to just quit their job on a whim, without first seeing if freelancing works for them. So you know, find that motivation in you to start freelancing and just do it.
But what I’ve learnt from my experience as a freelancer is that freelancing while working full time is a lot of hard work and it can be tricky.
How to Be a Freelancer (and Still Work Full Time)
I spent a lot of time in the overlap period. I failed at managing the two worlds a few times before I succeeded. Here are my tips on how to be a freelancer and juggle both your jobs without going insane.
1. Be A Good Employee
Sounds counterintuitive when you’re trying to break out into freelancing doesn’t it?
Truth is, you have a commitment to your full time job and that should definitely not suffer when you start to freelance. Also, you should never ever use company time or resources to get ahead with your freelance work. To me, that’s just Ethics 101.
Oh and make sure you check your workplace policies/ employee handbook for no-compete clauses or anything else that might be relevant to you working freelance for someone else.
My full time job was within within an in-house marketing team. My employment contract had a no-compete clause that obviously prevented me from working for anyone else in a similar industry. That’s cool. I wasn’t planning to anyway.
The freelance work I did while working full time was mostly internet-marketing related blog writing. I also worked for an agency in Melbourne creating social media strategies for their clients. Had I been working for a marketing agency as a full time employee, it definitely wouldn’t have been right for me to take on freelance work with another agency.
2. Don’t Over Commit
When the freelance work starts coming in, it’s very exciting and it might be tempting to say yes to everything that comes your way.
First, you don’t have the time. You’re still working a full time job so don’t promise to do 5 articles in 24 hours when you know you’ll be at work for most of the day.
Second, start slow. Take the time to learn and gain experience before saying yes to everything.
And finally, when you overcommit and can’t live up to your promise, the quality of your work will suffer.
Take on smaller amounts of work but do it well.
3. Make Time For Work
Before you jump into freelancing, have a good hard think about when you will be doing the actual work.
Can you spare a few hours, a couple of evenings each week? May be you can commit your Saturday mornings to freelance work?
Whatever it is – make a realistic assessment of what works for you and stick to your schedule. Otherwise, you will get so caught up in your regular working week that time will pass and before you know it, you will have missed your freelancing deadline.
4. Stay Organised
Juggling your freelance work while still holding down your job will seem overwhelming at first. You will have a million things to do, at work and at home. Don’t give into the chaos.
Instead, take control and start organising your to-dos in a way that works for you. You have to become really good with managing your time. This is especially important so you never miss a project deadline.
I am borderline obsessive compulsive when it comes to being organised about my work. I have lists and lists of lists. Not even kidding.
Staying organised soothes me. It also makes me more productive and makes sure I stay on track with my tasks. I use tools like Trello, Google Calendars, Wunderlist and good old pen and paper to keep my work organised and make sure I never miss a deadline.
5. Be Honest with Clients
Make sure your clients know that you have a full time job and are only available part time. Most clients are happy for you work on your own time, as long as the work is completed as per deadline. However, sometimes they will expect immediate responses to emails.
Make it clear from the start that you are unable to respond during the time you are at work. If you set expectations from the outset, clients are less likely to become upset when you don’t respond to their emails within the hour.
6. Don’t Take Your Pay For Granted
Like I said before, the great thing about the overlap period is having the security blanket of being paid your salary. But don’t become complacent about this unless you want to work a full time job and freelance part time only.
Train your brain to think of your current salary as fleeting. Work on growing your freelance career so you can eventually quit your job and your freelancing income is good enough to replace the income you had from your job.
7. Don’t Burn Out
And finally, give yourself a break. Yes you need to work doubly hard right now but it’s important to make sure you don’t burn out. Make time to relax, unwind and spend time doing things you enjoy.
If you don’t, I promise you will start to resent the idea of freelancing and it may make you want to give it up because it’ll feel like you’re working all the time. I know because I definitely burned myself out by working more, exercising less and sleeping very little at one point. Never again.
Anyone who has worked two jobs at the same time will tell you that it’s hard work. Freelancing + working full time is the same. But, if you’re really committed to starting your freelance career then this is definitely the best way to ease yourself into it without having to worry about not having an income.
Are you thinking of freelancing? How do you think you will manage your full time role alongside your freelancing? Let me know your thoughts.
After turning her back on office life in Australia, Radhika set out to create a life lived on her own terms (a constant work in progress). As co-founder of Fulltime Nomad, she is super passionate about helping others live life with more freedom and flexibility, and a bit of travel thrown in for good measure.