In any article about leaving your full-time job to pursue a creative passion you’ll find a common caution – stay at your job as long as possible to save up money and create a safety net. But most of these article neglect to tell you exactly how you’re supposed to work two (or in my case four) jobs all at the same time. It’s not an easy thing and it takes an enormous amount of planning and ambition to keep it all together.
Here are my suggestions for balancing freelance work with a full-time job…
Figure out how many clients to take on: Something I learned early on – if you’re pretty awesome at what you do, clients don’t mind waiting a couple weeks or even a couple months to work with you. Start with one client per week and then layer in a second and a third until your schedule is full enough that you are still able to take a few nights and weekend day or two off. Google Calendar is great for visualizing this – give each client a different color and set them to ‘all day’ then you can drag them around to make your schedule work. I try to schedule a week break every other month, which inevitably ends up being used to finish up client work that spills over the scheduled time.
Schedule everything: Work, blogging, designing, friend time, make-out time, dog walks, exercise – if it’s not in your schedule it doesn’t exist. Keeping a tight schedule will help you stay on track. If you’re jut working whenever you have free time you’ll end up in the weeds real quick.
Say no sometimes: This is the time you need to pick only the best projects. You have a lot on your plate, your time is precious, so only choose clients who will make you happy & add something great to your portfolio.
Ignore the nay-sayers: Your mom, your boyfriend, your boss – hopefully you will have nothing but supportive people cheering you toward your goal, but if you run into a Debbie Downer you gotta learn to put on your ear muffs and ignore them. You already know what you want, you’ve done the planning, and while it can be hugely difficult at times, it’s worth it. You don’t need to be defending yourself. Their negativity probably comes more from their life than anything you’re doing. So nod, smile and keep going.
Give yourself a break: If you’re going to be working multiple jobs at once at some point you are going to end up tired, stressed, overwhelmed, and possibly crying your eyes out over the amount of work you’re taking on. Remember when I said to schedule everything…this is one is super important. If you’re a busy worker bee like me you will happily keep designing until 1am and then get up for work the next day, so make sure to include a night or two off – something relaxing like a massage or yoga if you’re bad at not working when you’re home.
Evaluate: What parts of your jobs are most important and are moving you toward your goal? Are daily blog posts, networking, Tweeting/Facebooking/Instagraming/Pinning helping or wasting time? Take time once a month to make sure you aren’t spending time on things that aren’t benefiting your business and find better ways to use that time.
Stay healthy: Exercise regularly (I finding something with punching and kicking is always helpful), eat well, take your vitamins. I’ve said it over and over, working two jobs at once can be mega stressful and draining. If your body doesn’t feel good then your brain will not feel good and your end product will be a waste. Stress can your lower your immune system making you more susceptible to a winter cold or flu bug & trust me, you do not want to have to take a week off and then figure out how to double up your schedule to get it all done.
Any questions? Do any of you 9 to 5-ers & escapees have any other advice?