How to Manage Freelance Writing and Working Full-Time
June 8, 2023
This isn’t one of those articles that will tell you to quit your full-time job, I promise
As a writer who’s finally gotten into freelancing and is actually being paid for her writing (which, I must tell you, was much harder than all the articles on here would like to make you think), I’ve been learning how to balance my new clients with my full-time job. It’s a lot harder than you would think, and I’m still figuring it out!
I work a 9 to 5 (or rather, 8 to 4:30) Monday through Friday every week, and while it is sometimes flexible and allows me to take off early or adjust my start and end times for the day, my line of work requires a bit of rigidity in scheduling due to meetings and the like. This means that when I started freelancing earlier this year, I didn’t fully realize how much of an adjustment my schedule would require. I assumed that I could squeeze writing into every free nook and cranny in my schedule rather than prioritize it, and that left me feeling exhausted at the end of each day. I wasn’t giving myself any time for resting or relaxing — two things I’ve come to realize are crucial to productivity and an overall sense of wellbeing. When my main freelance client brought up the possibility of me taking on even more work (and making more money,) I felt overwhelmed at first rather than excited at the prospect of furthering my goals.
This is when I knew I needed to figure out my writing time, work time, and relaxing time in order to make it work, or my commitments would end up controlling my life!
Juggling freelancing and a full-time job when first starting out is the norm, but I find that the articles, videos, and general advice I’m bombarded with when it comes to managing a freelance business typically revolves around one main suggestion — quit your job. That’s not feasible for me yet, and likely won’t be for a while, and if you’re reading this, you’re likely in the same boat.
So what’s a girl to do, then, when her life is suddenly overrun with work and she can barely come up for air?
Figure out the areas of your schedule that do have flexibility
This may seem obvious, but it’s an important step! During the past year of work-from-home life, I’ve slowly let myself sleep in more and more every day since my commute is only a few steps to my desk. This meant that instead of getting up two hours before work started like I was pre-pandemic, I was getting up fifteen to thirty minutes before I needed to be online. Talk about wasted time!
Yes, those extra couple hours of sleep were amazing, but I could function perfectly fine without them. In fact, those extra two hours or so were putting me over my eight hours most nights anyway, so they weren’t necessary. Mornings are the spot in my day where I have the most flexibility, so I decided that I needed to get up earlier, like I was commuting to the office, and use the time I would have been packing a lunch, putting on makeup (another part of my routine that’s been significantly streamlined now that I’m only visible over video most days), and driving across town, to prioritize my writing. By doing this, I’ve found almost eight hours a week that I can devote to freelancing that I was using for sleeping in (something I’ll now save for the weekend!)
Figure out if areas that seemingly don’t have flexibility have workarounds
Some of you might not be sleeping in until the last minute and rolling straight out of bed and to your computer every morning, and I get that. Not everyone has the luxury of waking up earlier than they already are (unless they are planning on getting virtually no sleep every night), and your schedule might seem more rigid than mine — especially when kids and spouses are involved! So what do you do if you don’t have extra time every day?
There’s a decently high likelihood that even those areas of your schedule that seem rigid have some flexibility that you might not be thinking of. Could you, for example, use some of your vacation time once in a while to ask for a day off and spend it catching up on writing? Can your lunch hour become your writing hour? Could you sacrifice one of the TV shows you’re so dedicated to every night and instead squeeze in an extra forty-two minutes of personal work? If you have kids, is there a fun activity or friend who would be willing to distract them for a couple of hours every Thursday so you can work on your side hustle?
These strategies likely won’t bless you with eight extra hours of work time a week, but they can help you take a step in that direction at the very least.
Figure out if your expectations are too high
This can be a hard one to confront, but the reality is that you might have gone into this whole freelancing thing with expectations that were altogether too high. Or you might have come to the realization that you need more time and have expectations of where you can squeeze in extra time that are too high.
I am not a mom, but I’ve been devouring the videos on the #MomsWritersClub YouTube channel lately. One of the videos I recently watched was all about Genre + Comp Titles and ended with a few questions that Jessica and Sara answered from some of the #MomsWritersClub community on Twitter. One of the questions was in a similar vein to this article, though I’m paraphrasing a bit here. The question was, “how can I find more time to write when I’m constantly busy as a mom?”
The advice that stuck out to me (and again, I’m not a mom) was that maybe you need to lower your expectations. It’s not the end of the world to occupy your child with the iPad for twenty minutes a day and savor those minutes to write a page or two in your work in progress. Similarly, maybe you can really only squeeze in time for your freelance writing on the weekends or at night after the kids are in bed. That’s okay — take the moments you can get from the spare corners of your life and run with it.
And if you’re still struggling to find time for your freelance writing, maybe you need to reconsider the number of clients you’ve taken on. Or maybe you need to have a chat with your boss about going part-time instead of full-time. There’s always an answer, so take a deep breath and see if you can figure it out!
Trying to break into a career in freelance writing is not always as simple as the plethora of articles on Medium and the abundance of videos on YouTube might make you think. Freelance writing takes time — something we all wish we had more of! But with a little bit of intentional forethought and planning, you can undoubtedly succeed with your freelance writing (without needing to quit your full-time job!)