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6 Tips for Freelancing While Working a Full-Time Job


From the time we graduate college to the time we retire, approximately 32 percent of all non-sleeping hours will be spent at work. While we want to enjoy our life off the clock, there are times when working additional hours outside of our day job makes life easier. Whether a new career, starting a business or just earning more income is your motivation for putting in over 40 hours all seven days, there are ways to freelance your way to a desired outcome.

I first started freelancing in 2007 out of necessity. I was in need of work, and I found an ad on a job board that read “Get Paid to Write Articles Online!” I remember thinking “how hard can it be?” It was extremely tough at first, but I learned how to become an efficient writer and discovered new ways to provide services through freelancing. I continued to freelance during several full-time jobs, and I recently left my well-paid full-time position to pursue my own business, which started with writing as a freelancer. I am not able to set my own hour or pick my clients, but I have a much more enjoyable and manageable work life.

Ready to get into freelancing? Follow these six tips for freelancing while working a full-time job.

1. Set Limits, Create Goals

Before you start working on side projects, you need to set limits on how much work you can reasonably do on the side, and decide what you hope to accomplish with your freelancing. If you think you can add an hour of freelance work on top of your current workload each day, plan to take on just five hours a week. Project-based freelancing can be hard to manage due to not being able to estimate how many orders you’ll receive in a given week and how long they’ll take. But if you assign a general amount of time to each service you provide, you can turn your offerings off when you get to a maximum amount of purchases.

Creating goals is important to determine what you want to get out of this effort. My goal is to give myself a creative outlet and earn $250 a month to help with expenses. Goals will help keep you focused and make sure you’re working toward something instead of just finding additional things to work on.

2. Schedule

Always schedule time in your calendar for freelance work and stick to your schedule closely. Scheduling freelance work for one hour in the evening after work will help you not only finish freelancing projects, but give you time to work on promoting and creating new offerings when orders are slow.

I hate to turn down customers, but your schedule will keep you sane, and sometimes turning away work is a necessity. Planning and sticking to that plan has helped me avoid burning out, even when that means turning away work.

3. Utilize Away and Vacation Settings

Don’t ever assume you won’t get orders when you’re not ready to take on extra work. A few years ago, my wife and I went to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to visit friends for a weekend. Since I thought I could handle an order or two after we got back Sunday night, I left all of my offerings open. While at a softball game that night, my phone kept buzzing nonstop. When I finally looked at it, I had 25 new orders in a two-hour span after having one of my services posted on the front page of a freelancing site. I spent the weekend freaking out and answering emails instead of enjoying time with my wife and friends. Make sure to manage your services carefully and never assume that you won’t get a sudden increase in orders.

4. Avoid Crossing Ethical Boundaries

Depending on your work, your employer may be uncomfortable with you providing similar work outside of your nine to five job. As a teenager, I once used an employee discount to purchase discounted items and resold them online. This wasn’t illegal, but my employer was not happy when they discovered I was doing this.

Make sure your freelancing is not violating non-compete agreements and don’t use any time or resources from your full-time job to do work for outside clients.

5. Don’t Base Work Value on Your Salary

Employers pay you a rate per hour based on industry averages and what they pay your co-workers, not based on the value you provide. When freelancing, it’s important that you price yourself based on the value you’re providing others. By doing this, I often averaged over twice as much as I did on a per-hour basis from my employer. If in doubt about what to charge, do some research and see what others are charging for work similar to yours.

6. Do What You Enjoy

Only offer what you enjoy and can make money off of. I learned this the hard way. When starting as a freelancer, I knew that I could offer a lot of value writing articles for businesses. Since I was using Fiverr at the time, I offered articles starting at just $5, which many other writers across the world were also offering. It quickly took off, and I started receiving several orders every day. After doing some basic math a few months in, I realized I was making less than minimum wage.

Don’t base your offerings on what you’re good at, base them on what you enjoy doing and what you can do in a timely manner. I now offer business naming, tagline creation and mission statement creation. These are all easy to do in a reasonable amount of time and I enjoy doing the work, which is what we all should be aiming for.

Want to get started as a freelancer? Read How to Start Freelancing with No Experience, How to Start Freelancing (Without Quitting Your Day Job), or email me and I’ll help you for free!

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