Can You Successfully Balance a Full-Time Job and Freelancing?

In today’s freelance market there is a whole host of would-be freelance writers. Hopefuls who trudge through the arduous nine to five, come home after a long commute and then sit down to work on their freelance side gig. And repeat the process from Monday right through to Friday.

Here’s a secret: one such freelancer is writing this very article.

Can You Successfully Balance a Full-Time Job and Freelancing?

Balancing work, fun time and freelancing can be difficult, yet not impossible

The life of balancing a full-time job and freelancing is full of tired grumblings, writer’s block at the worst of times and the inevitable staring at the clock during the day, wondering, ‘Why am I even here?’ more often than not, it’s also taking on way more work than you should and cramming it in during times you shouldn’t be working at all.

But, why should it be like this?

Balancing work, fun time and freelancing can be difficult, yet not impossible if you have the right plans in place. Here are a few ways you can claw back some time in your day to day for freelancing:

1. Wake Up Early

What? Sleep less? Seriously? Well, chances are you are already sleeping less than you should be. Instead of doing so in an unhealthy way, there are a number of ways you can change your routine which would be both healthier and more productive for your freelance career.

One way you can do this is sleep at the same time every day. Put yourself to bed at eleven o’clock every night – no matter what – and then wake up at six to work on a couple of projects before work. You create a strict sleeping pattern, don’t risk burning the midnight oil, and the extra time used for freelancing in the morning can transform into free time in your evenings.

You could also choose to sacrifice your weekend lie-ins. Those extra hours of sleep could easily be used for freelancing rather than spending time later in the day, family bonding time in some cases, working on your projects.

2. Write at Lunchtime

Depending on your full-time occupation, lunch time can be prime time for a quick catch up on all of your freelancing efforts. Check your emails, create a few outlines or even send off a few pitches if you have the time; all very time-consuming and great to get out of the way early in the day if you can. This use of your lunch hour also removes the possibility of urgent client emails going unanswered for several hours.

Nothing is more motivating than a tight deadline, as many freelancers undoubtedly know. Trying to write something meaningful during your lunch hour, then, can be its own special challenge.

If you have less flexibility at work then keep a notebook on hand. During lulls, downtime or breaks you can write down a few ideas that may come to you. Doing so can keep you motivated and on the ball for when you get to the freelance once home.

3. Create a Workload Calendar

This may seem simple, but so many freelancers fail to do this from Day One and so fall into bad habits. Completing projects as and when you get them can be done, but the more you get the harder to balance this method becomes. For example, if you come home to three new projects one night and attempt to complete them all then and there you could be up till the crack of dawn. Good for your freelance client, bad for your full-time boss and energy levels.

A simple calendar can change all of this. Set aside time every week that you will use for freelancing, whether that be every day or not, so when projects do come in you have time already to complete them in. The more clients you gain, the further into the future this calendar may stretch. Try to stick to your calendar as much as possible, creating one and then ignoring it does defeat the purpose after all.

Good content calendars for freelancers include; Teamup which is great for working in a team (the clue is in the name), Trello is great for a more visual calendar, and of course, you could simply use Google Calendar. There are a lot of free options out there, so it’s just a case of finding what works best for your work process.

Remember: work smarter, not harder.


4. Set Appropriate Deadlines

The demand for a quick turnaround is something many freelance writers face on a daily basis. However, agreeing to next-day projects regularly can be one of the quickest ways to burn yourself out on top of your regular job. Writers may naturally have an affinity for the wee hours of the morning, but when you have to be in the office by nine o’clock it’s not a feasible option.

When accepting projects, ensure your agreements include a sensible deadline. Twelve-thousand words by end of play tomorrow? That’s a firm no. It’s a mix of knowing your abilities – for some this kind of turnaround would be nothing and power to them! – and standing up to yourself against pushy clients. A good client will realize that quality takes time, rather than push for content-farm-esque deadlines.

5. Protect Yourself From Risks

When balancing freelance and a full-time job, it is often a case of necessity rather than choice. Obviously, if you could, you would be writing full-time. So, losing out on either income can be extremely frustrating. If a client was to seek damages or the like then you have no employer to protect you in this situation. Legal costs and proceedings might not only cost you the hard won money from full-time and freelancing, but you may need to take time out of work to deal with such issues. Losing you even more of your income.

If a client does become unhappy there’s a chance you may need something along the lines of freelancer insurance. It may seem overly cautious when freelancing is still your side venture, but if a client were to become disgruntled it is a case of better safe than sorry.

Starting to Feel Burnt Out?

Even after implementing all of the above steps, do you still feel exhausted and finding the balance hard to maintain? Then before you burn out completely, create some down time for relaxation and recharging.

Plan to take a night off from freelancing and simply read your favorite book. Or even take some time off your full-time job and freelancing to go on holiday. You may also want to set certain boundaries with yourself; no working after nine o’clock, only work in the morning on weekends and so on. Often, it is the simple case of remembering to take the time to breathe.

What about you? Do you have any helpful tips for keeping on track with your freelancing, even when you spend most of your day working full-time.


About The Author

Zack Halliwell is an administrative assistant by day, budding
freelance writer by night.

Leave a Reply


Thank you for writing this article, Zack! This is something I’m going through right now. I work second shift so coming home at 5pm is unfortunately something I don’t do very often. Having a schedule in place for writing has kept me from freaking out about finding the time to write, especially when I stay over and work a double shift.Reply to Lisa
This is really good advice. Thank you ZackReply to Sharon
Hey Jack, Awesome post! I love your tip working through lunches. I worked my full-time job and freelanced for eight months (but just handed in my notice!) and working though lunch was definitely a major game changer for me! EliseReply to Elise
For sure, Elise! Working on my lunch is how I get things done some days, freelancing and a full-time job can be tricky to balance. Hoping to make a move to just freelancing in the near future, congrats on your success! Best, ZackReply to Zack