People get into freelancing for different reasons.
Some enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from anywhere while traveling.
A passion project might be emotionally and spiritually fulfilling, but it doesn’t exactly pay the bills like regular freelance work does.
Others like setting their own schedules and making more time to spend with their children.
And then there are those independent workers who see freelancing as a way to support themselves while pursuing a long-term passion project.
Perhaps you’re a novelist working on a series of books in the morning while tackling freelance assignments later in the day.
Maybe you’re a filmmaker looking to raise funds for your next documentary or film festival short.
The problem a lot of these people run into is that their passion project often take a back seat when their freelancing career takes off.
It’s easy to see why. A passion project might be emotionally and spiritually fulfilling, but it doesn’t exactly pay the bills like regular freelance work does.
Plus, it’s rewarding — both financially and emotionally — to work on the projects people value enough to pay you for.
Eventually, though, you may feel regret for not pursuing the projects that made you choose a freelancing career in the first place.
It’s kind of a Catch-22 — you want to be a successful freelancer, but you don’t want to sacrifice the time that take you away from writing, painting, or performing with your passion project.
Fortunately, there’s a way to work on freelancing projects that support your creative endeavors while also paying the bills.
By taking careful stock of what you need to for your passion projects, you can start building a career that fulfills you both creatively and financially.
Here’s what I learned about balancing your personal and professional projects.
View Your Freelance Assignments as Paid Research Projects
When I first began seriously pursuing freelance writing, I knew I wanted to take on assignments that would pay well while leaving me enough time to work on a series of fantasy novels I’d been outlining for some time.
It seemed like a great plan — invest a few hours each week writing blog posts and online articles for other people while using the rest of the time to work on my real writing projects.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way… at least not at first.
Establishing myself as a professional writer meant taking on assignments that ate up a lot of my time.
I needed to invest money and effort into building up a portfolio of professional work and developing a network of contacts for future freelance work, which didn’t leave a lot of time open for dreaming up new characters and outlining my stories.
Plus, even when I did get a few free hours, I found that I was burned out creatively and needed to spend the time clearing my mind — just so I could work on the next freelance assignment that came along.
It was discouraging — but eventually I worked out a way to work on freelancing and passion project simultaneously.
I began viewing all of my freelance work as paid research projects to help develop my personal work.
Sounds strange, but it helped refocus the way I looked at my freelancing career.
Sure, I needed to find jobs that paid me a decent wage, but if I was going to spend so much time writing for other people, shouldn’t the topics also help further my own personal education as well?
Think about it.
Regardless of what kind of passion project you’re working on, you need to spend time researching the various components that make them work.
You also want to spend time with experts in your field, both for inspiration and motivation to finish your work.
In my case, I wanted to have time to flesh out the characters of my stories and discover what made them tick.
So, I started pitching article ideas to the entertainment websites I was working for to write listicles and feature stories on similar characters in the same fictional genres my stories were set in.
This allowed me to write for a living while keeping my mind focused on the topics I needed to explore for my creative work.
As I worked on my freelance projects, my mind began coming up with better ideas for my stories which made my drafts richer and more focused.
And since my freelance work was now related to my passion project, the articles and blog posts I produced for money also functioned as examples of my creative insights — which led to more opportunities within the industry I wanted to be a part of.
Enhancing Your Freelance Career with Your Passion Project
Even better, I knew working on my stories was actually helping my freelance work (and vice versa), so I didn’t feel guilty about taking time away from work to focus on my novel since my projects were suddenly reinforcing each other.
Viewing my freelancing as personal research also led me to more lucrative assignments.
For instance, at one point I got the opportunity to interview some thought leaders in the entertainment industry and write some articles on their work for my blog.
Since it was a personal project, the work didn’t pay — but showcasing the articles on LinkedIn helped reinforce my expertise as a freelance entertainment writer which led some creative artists to contact me and offer me a contract to write articles on their work, with the possibility of more regular assignments.
Making these connections will also most likely help me publish and promote my books when the time comes isn’t lost on me either.
As you give yourself permission to find work that’s both profitable and supportive of your personal interests, you’ll find yourself seeing freelancing as a creative pursuit in and of itself — which will lead you to make connections and offer services in areas you may have not considered previously.
Meanwhile, you’ll also be growing as an artist and feeling more liberated to take chances not only with your professional career but your passion projects as well.
Finding the Sweet Spot Between Your Passion and Practicality
The fact is, there’s a lot of overlap between your passion project and your more practical work — and if you can find where the two intersect for you, you can figure out what type of freelance work you should be focusing on to get you to where you really want to go.
Filmmakers can always learn something new by analyzing the work of all the innovators who came before them and turning that analysis into educational materials people will pay for.
Offering to help established musicians with their websites and promotional projects can further your own music career.
By seeing freelancing as something that not only supports but also feeds your creative work, you’ll take on much more fulfilling projects that help you carve a niche in the industry and culture you want to be a part of.
Over to you: What passion projects got you involved in freelancing?
How has freelancing helped support your passion project and vice versa?