Gain a work-life balance, even when trying to build a side hustle empire under the moonlight
Really don’t know if this was always the case, but it seems like recently all I hear and read about is freelancing. While many people do not have the luxury to go full-time freelancing, many professionals dip their toes in it. Me included.
The thing is, though, if you are good and you put yourself out there, and I mean really put yourself out there: conferences, guest blog posts, podcasts, your own website, the whole shebang — you will soon start drowning in work. Trust me. I’ve been there.
So, being the ambitious little monkey that you are you will try to be the master and the slave at the same time, desperately struggling to keep it together. I’m here today to guide you out of the mess with 7 tips on how to balance freelancing with a full-time job.
1. Track your productivity and eliminate bottlenecks
Productivity tracking is your number one friend when trying to balance freelancing with a full-time job. There are plenty of tips about increasing productivity out there, so I’m not going to go into too much depth.
What I want to focus on instead is the why. Why should you track your productivity?
Well, time is money, especially when you are freelancing.
Having taken the step to go freelance, I imagine you are in a role where productivity is rewarded with time off. Meaning — you work productively and get your job done in 30 hours as opposed to 40, you get rewarded with time off, not more work.
If you are in a role where productivity is rewarded with more work or doing someone else’s job — start looking for another one.
Tracking your productivity will help you understand a few very important things about yourself, which will ultimately make or break your freelancing game:
- when are you most productive (time of day, day of week)
- how much time you are spending on different tasks, projects, and clients
- where are your bottlenecks
Identifying these three things can help you skyrocket your schedule. Finding out bottlenecks can help identify opportunities for alliances and partnerships, which can ultimately reduce the friction in project delivery.
Personally, I use an app, called Rize, where I’ve got multiple categories set up for all of my commitments and projects, as well as time for personal development, growth, and writing.
2. Outsource and create partnerships to scale.
Freelancing is hard.
It requires not only a lot of discipline and effort, but also it requires you to wear multiple hats at once.
Let’s take the client acquisition process as an example. Without going into too much detail, I’ll share what I did to create a consistent stream of clients:
- grew my presence on two social media platforms, i.e. social media marketing
- started consistently publishing content in my niche (SEO, Growth Marketing & Data Analytics) on Medium and in guest posts, i.e. research and content development
- created a website, i.e. web development and SEO
- started speaking at conferences, i.e. pitching, deck preparation, public speaking
That is all fine and dandy, but this is just the front-end, or otherwise — what people see. Here is what this also took on the back-end: accounting, time management, project scoping, services and fee market research, project management, communication, small business set-up (i.e. legal), admin.
Some of these I have experience with.
Some come easy to me. Others are quite frankly a pain.
So, the tip here is: find out what you are good at and what comes naturally and do that. Outsource everything else.
For example, you can partner with an agency to get your projects. The outcome of this is you no longer have to deal with the client acquisition aspect, only focusing on specialist work. Before doing that, of course, make sure that is what you really want to specialize or develop in. Once you’re in this mindset of execution, it can be hard to just shake it away.
Let’s look at another example. You start tracking projects, you realize you are spending too much time on projects that are paid per project, not per hour. You have negotiated several of these projects for the next few months, but now realize there are better uses for your time. You have two options:
- Coach: partner with juniors in the niche and coach and mentor them to do the parts that you will spend too much time doing, providing them experience (with pay, of course!) and entry into the industry
That way you will have more time to focus on client acquisition, marketing, and growth. Bear in mind that this also requires you to set aside time for error checking, coaching, and mentoring.
- Partner: hire another freelancer to help you with the workload
With this option, there is no mentoring or coaching needed, just some interviewing. Building out your network of freelancers will be really handy when you’re overbooked, so this one is really recommended. Bear in mind many people are disadvantaged from opportunities so referring clients to such folk is literally doing god’s work.
But before I close this section off, something really crucial. A third option:
- Outsource: get help in commonly overlooked areas (like admin or household work — yes, ladies, I’m looking at you)
Studies show that since the start of the pandemic, women are doing even more unpaid work. Honestly, to the women who might be reading this — get some help.
Whether that is getting help with household chores, or hiring a VA, just get help, honestly.
If you are a mother, or if you are in a relationship, where you are being expected to do the majority of the house chores, or even if you end up doing them because you are working from home and your partner is working in an office (like I am)— get some help!
There is no shame in asking for help and it will definitely not make you a stronger woman to run yourself to the ground trying to balance freelancing with a full-time job, and will household commitments, too.
You will burn out. Or ruin yourself mentally or physically by trying. There is only so much a human alone can take, so definitely get some help if (no, strike that — when) you need it.
3. Don’t forget to take care of yourself
Freelancing alongside a full-time job can be absolutely exhausting, really.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
This can be anything as simple as remembering to take a shower or taking some time at different points in the day to stretch or do a quick yoga session.
It can also mean setting aside time in your calendar to go on a dinner date with your partner (remember, the one you’d likely start avoiding as soon as you experience any growth whatsoever unless you’ve implemented rules 1 and 2). If ever needed, it can also mean booking a session with a career coach or therapist or going on a retreat to unplug.
Listen to yourself, your body, and your mind, and remember — any job can replace you in a heartbeat, but at home and for your loved ones you cannot be replaced, so that is where you really need to focus on being truly present.
I have to be honest, this tip is the hardest one for me personally to implement and I’m still working on it. It’s really hard to prioritize time off, especially when it feels like things are just now starting to fall in a place financially and career-wise.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that work and a career is what we should be striving for in order to be successful, but the reality is far from it. Success is something felt within, and quite honestly, in my opinion, it should not be tied to something that is related to your occupation, the number of hours you work, or your salary.
4. Continue meeting new people, even when you are fully booked
Don’t stop meeting with people to discuss opportunities, even if you’re fully booked.
At the beginning of each month, you should know what capacity and availability you have — and that is considering the time for family, well-being, and mental health, as well as that elephant in the room we are not discussing in this article, i.e. — your full-time job. Ensure you always include a day off (fully) each week.
Meeting with people is a great way to get a pulse check on where you’re at, what other possibilities are out there, what other projects are available on the market, etc.
Even if you personally cannot take a particular project, maybe someone else can, this can be someone you know in the same industry, or even a fellow freelancer (remember that list of freelancers in your network mentioned a while ago — here is where it can be utilized in its full glory).
Recommending someone is a great way to build long-lasting relationships and bridge the gaps between yourself and other people in the industry.
Just recently I spoke to a client, with whom I did not have the capacity or the niche expertise they needed. Knowing that I could not give it one hundred percent and that it would require a significant stretch on both ends, I suggested recommending a list of fellow SEOs, who can do a much better job at this niche project than me.
As a return of the favor, the person I met with, introduced me to a fellow of his, with whom I met and as a result of the instant fit in need and capacity we started working together within a matter of days.
Help others when you can in order to ensure that when you need it, others will help you, too. Don’t just expect to have a safety net, because as the past two years have shown — anything can happen in a snap of the fingers.
So really — help others and build relationships, even if you are fully booked.
5. Be open and transparent about your work, your limits, and your commitments
Seriously — don’t.
Be open, honest, and transparent about your other commitments with the people you onboard. I know I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will in case anyone needs to hear — read all your contracts and NDAs rigorously.
Participate in meetings with the full awareness of what you can and cannot do for the particular person, and in what timeframe. Communicate this clearly.
At the end of the day when you are freelancing it’s just you on the line, vouching for yourself with your reputation, so it’s important to not disappoint people and overcommit. As well as that, it’s also crucial to ensure that your performance on your full-time job is not suffering as a result of your extra curriculum activities.
Always have a list of people you can recommend for particular tasks in case you yourself cannot help. It will be more important for the people you work with to know that you want to help them, as opposed to making the impression that you are greedy or just want to make a buck at the expense of their results.
Never go in a project with the full awareness you are overstretched and might not be able to give the project 100% of your attention and effort.
Set boundaries, too.
Remember, that day of the week when you are not working — make it apparent in your email signature. Let people know what your working preference is — are you a sprinter or do you work continuously throughout the day? Maybe you’re a night owl? I know I am. Or maybe you prefer getting things done over the weekend but not being bothered during the week, as you’re too engaged with your full-time job?
Your clients need to know all of this, so they can adjust their expectations accordingly.
Also, how do you want to be paid? Really important, too.
I’m not going to do in-depth about this, as it is a whole other topic on its own but this is super important for people to know. An important thing to put in your contracts and invoices, too!
6. Be visible and never stop working on your personal brand
Working on your personal brand is something that happens all the time. It is the ethic and works culture with which you complete tasks. It is the way you treat people when you meet them and how your work relationship evolves, it is where and how you present yourself.
It’s important to always continue developing your personal brand in order to ensure that even when you are fully booked — you are visible to people, you are a voice in the industry you are in, a thought leader.
There are many opportunities for this.
There are private communities if you are a bit more introverted. There’s also one-to-one coaching and blogging. You can also try developing a presence on other platforms, such as Medium, Newsbreak, or Vocal.
For the more extroverted or adventuristic bunch, you can try video tutorials on Youtube, as well as conference speaking and webinars.
The opportunities are endless, really.
The beauty about this is that the more you engage with different communities, the higher the likelihood of you being noticed and finding your type of ‘people’ or otherwise, important personas in your niche that you can connect with — be it other freelancers, people that can help propel you career-wise, or potential clients.
7. Don’t negotiate with yourself
Recently, I saw this post by James Laurain on LinkedIn, the caption of which read: STOP NEGOTIATING WITH YOURSELF. And honestly, former me really relates to this.
Current me, too, a bit.James Laurain on LinkedIn: #LinkedIn #copywriting #freelance | 150 comments⚠️😱 FOR THE LOVE OF CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER – STOP NEGOTIATING WITH YOURSELF. 🚨⚠️ 😳 Hey freelancer… I see you. 👀…www.linkedin.com
Many freelancers undercut themselves due to a fear of having their offer rejected.
This is the worst thing you can do. Don’t negotiate with yourself. Do your research, set a price and just stick to your guns in negotiations.
For research, always refer to current market prices for freelance and agency services in the niche you are working in. Also, ensure that you are taking in factors such as local market competitiveness.
Talk to other freelancers to always have a pulse on prices. Money talks should not be dirty topics, especially with people you work with. Finally, I recommend this awesome newsletter by Carolyn Lyden, called Salary Negotiation Pro.
So, what did we learn today? Let’s quickly recap the seven rules for freelancing, while maintaining a full-time job:
1. Track your productivity and eliminate bottlenecks — use productivity tracking as an ally to help you skyrocket your schedule. Find out your bottlenecks, identify opportunities for alliances and partnerships, and ultimately reduce the friction in project delivery.
2. Outsource and create partnerships to scale — freelancing requires wearing many hats. Coach, partner with, or outsource work to help you focus on what really moves you forward.
3. Don’t forget to take care of yourself — set time aside for yourself, your partner, and your wellbeing. Never compromise on this, you are not a slave.
4. Continue meeting new people, even when you are fully booked — make connections, help others, and build relationships.
5. Be open and transparent about your work, your limits, and your commitments —communicate clearly and ensure that you can give each project 100%. Don’t build a reputation as a money-grabber.
6. Be visible and never stop working on your personal brand — take advantage of existing opportunities in your niche and become a thought leader to build a consistent stream of new clients
7. Don’t negotiate with yourself — Do your research, set a price, and just stick to your guns in negotiations.
Balancing a bunch of commitments is hard. Don’t make it harder on yourself by not having the right systems in place.
~ Thank you so much for reading. I hope this helps you in your freelancing journey.
What did I miss? Share your tips in the comments 🔥