Freelancers

How to Navigate Freelancing When You Have a Day Job

Working a job all day and freelancing the rest of the time is tough bu digital tools are making it easier.
How to Navigate Freelancing When You Have a Day Job
Image credit: Carlina Teteris | Getty images

Many people have some experience juggling two jobs at the same time, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always go to plan.

The tech industry recently saw an example of this play out in real-time. Tech news site The Verge made an announcement after discovering one of its editors had been hired by Apple -- the editor had continued to work both jobs at the same time until he was discovered, causing a stir in the tech world.

Not exactly a winning strategy.

Now, of course, this particular case is more about following rules than finding extra work. But we do know that many people are taking on extra work outside of their full-time job and working for different people at the same time.

Related: We're Turning Into a Freelance Nation. Here's What That Looks Like.

For many side gigs this is fairly simple. Driving for Uber, for instance, doesn’t require you to handle clients’ demands, respond to leads or do your own marketing. But for the increasing number of people who are eager to create a service business or consultancy outside their regular 40 hours, growing the business can be a problem.

For example, take a graphic designer. Their typical client will probably be other businesses, and those businesses will want to have meetings and discussions during normal business hours. Obviously, with another job on the line, that’s going to be hard for the designer who’s employed by another company full-time.

This puts a strain on growth. As any owner of a new business would know, fires pop up all the time and you never know when they’re going to hit. Things like research and website updates can all be done after hours, but what happens when a client has an urgent problem that needs to be addressed right away?

If you’re stuck in your full-time job, responding to those types of requests is going to be difficult.

Finding new clients is also going to be a challenge, as most new business will want to meet face-to-face during regular business hours.

This all seems tough and at times, overwhelming. But the truth is that it’s never been easier to strike out on your own, even while juggling your own full-time commitments. The growth of the flexible workplace, highly accessible technology and changing expectations with regard to working life means you’re able to take advantage of a change in the cultural tide.

Related: How to Make It as a Freelance Entrepreneur

You just need to follow some key principles. 

The first is this: accept that you’re not going to be able to multi-task. When you’re at your normal job, focus on that 100 percent. Distracting yourself by trying to get freelance work done hoping no one will notice will see the quality of your work decline -- both for your employer and your clients.

Instead, become diligent with time management. Get serious about waking up early and making the most of your lunch break. Set aside specific hours throughout the week for clients or to get through certain tasks. Build in a few minutes after each interaction to stay on top of the administration side of things as you go so it doesn’t pile up on you.

Use tech to optimize your process every step of the way. Tools that help you create estimates or send invoices, like Invoice2go, are available on mobile so you don’t need to carry a laptop everywhere.

As for meeting with clients, be upfront about your situation. They’ll understand and if your work speaks for itself then they won’t care. Simply state that you can only take work meetings during your lunch break or in the hours before or just after work.

Many successful business owners are up early anyway, so breakfast meetings aren’t out of the question -- they may even prefer it. Also use your relationship with your employer here to your advantage. If you’re a model employee, see if you can start slightly earlier, then leave slightly earlier to accommodate meetings with clients. Whatever works for you.

Periodically use vacation days to squeeze in all the face-time you can. Be strategic about those days to meet as many different prospects as possible. It doesn’t have to be that often, and even once every few months will make a big difference. You can also look for clients in other time zones. At Invoice2go, our Australian team often works with people in the United States who are doing freelance work on the side. It’s after-hours for them, but working hours for our team -- it’s a good arrangement.

Related: 7 Steps to Launch Your Freelancing Career Full-Time

Juggling full-time work and freelancing isn’t easy. But digital tools are making this easier than ever and a little time management goes a long way.

But if you’re doing something you love, this little bit of extra work won’t matter too much. Just remember to schedule some down time for yourself to ensure you’re not overwhelmed and remind yourself why you’re putting in so much effort. If you really love what you’re doing, your clients will see your passion come through and they’ll be begging to work with you.