So, you are a freelance writer (or a freelancer in general) but not working full time yet? If that’s a “yes” then you know very well how difficult it can be to reconcile all your responsibilities and be able to maintain high productivity in both – your job and your new freelancing career. Not to mention your personal life, family, and so on…
Don’t sweat, though. Such a situation is in fact very common among freelance writers. Actually, scenarios where someone becomes a freelance writer as their first ever job are very rare. Most of the established figures in the freelancing space have their own experience juggling both – a day job and a new exciting freelancing thing at the same time.
As real life shows us, quitting your job and devoting 100% of your time to freelancing is a dangerous and difficult step to take. So if this transitional phase is exactly where you are right now, here are some tips on how to find a good work balance, so you can grow your new career and remain sane at the same time.
Let’s start with what I would call the main problem…a thing that prevents many freelancers from succeeding.
Identifying the threat
Tell me if the following sounds familiar. So you get back from work after, say, 8 hours of effort, and now you want to get some freelance writing done. But before you manage to eat a proper dinner, space out with your family/friends or spend some quality time with your kids and so on, it’s probably 10PM already. And at this point, you don’t really feel like doing anything one would call “work.” So instead of building your freelancing career and taking it one step further, you end up watching TV or playing Call of Duty. The next day the same thing happens.
As specific as this sounds, it’s actually a very common scenario… Essentially, the simplified version is this: Job > Home > Tired > TV > Sleep > Job > repeat.
And the real career-killer here is that this doesn’t bring any serious short term threats, so it stays under our radar. I mean, living like that for a week or even a month just because there’s an important project going on at work won’t have a dramatic impact on your overall freelancing career. However, if this is the lifestyle you continue to follow for the next 3… 4… 6 months, then you can kiss your freelancing career goodbye.
Crafting your productivity
I actually feel kind of bad because I’ve spent a big part of my freelance writing career writing about how other freelancers can freelance better (survey: how many times can you use the word freelance in one sentence?).
Anyway, I don’t get tired with this topic because productivity and being aware of your productivity is still the most important element of having a successful independent career.
I would even risk saying that being productive is more beneficial than being talented. For instance, if you look at me, English is not even my first language, yet this didn’t stop me from freelancing.
Back on topic, Karol, back on topic!
Right! So I remember the time when I was taking part in three separate projects, each with very different goals and responsibilities. (1) There was my new freelance writing and online career. (2) There was a web design business I ran together with a friend. (3) There was my “becoming an academic” journey to write a doctorate and do science.
Even though two of the above projects are no longer a part of my life, I didn’t abandon them because of lack of time or anything like it. In fact, the following are the simple rules I followed to diversify my working time and run each project with (kind of) similar efficiency:
1. Divide your responsibilities into different types of activity
If you are working (a job) and building a career at the same time then you can draw a line and put all your job responsibilities on one side and your career responsibilities on the other. The thing is that these groups are usually bound to contain different types of tasks with some overlaps here and there.
For example, some parts of your work might require much creativity, while other parts might be more repetitive in nature. Also, some might require the input of other people, while others can be done in solitude.
In my case, my work at the university consisted of many creative periods as well as some time collaborating with my colleagues. The web design business was mostly reactive on my part. This means that I had to show up, analyze the situation for the day, check some projects that were being run, make some decisions, and also plan the next ones based on the real-world feedback. Freelance writing was my most creative type of work.
Once you distinguish your individual types of activity (and give them a name), you can proceed to the next step and start crafting your productivity.
2. Find the perfect time of the day for each activity
Doing this is purely based on your personal preference, so it will take some time to find the best schedule for YOU. However, just to give you an example of what I’m on about, here’s what I did:
I quickly realized that my most creative time of the day is the morning. I found that articles written in the morning are the best, the edgiest, and the easiest to grasp for the reader. Writing in the morning was also much quicker for me than doing it in the evening (when I’m tired after the whole day of work).
So, I devoted to do my writing in the morning before I did anything else, and then switched to handling the remaining tasks for the day. As a result, I was done with my writing pretty quickly and I was also happy that I’ve already managed to write everything there was to write for the day even though it’s just 9AM (for example). This gave me a big confidence boost for the rest of the day.
Therefore, the advice I have for you here is to find your own most suitable time of the day to do your freelancing work and then stick with it. Make it a daily habit.
If your experience is similar (meaning that you’re most creative in the morning) and if you start your job at, say, 9AM then sorry but you’re going to have to get up really early to work on your freelancing career. Even though this might sound like a big deal, it has the potential to make you much happier with the direction your career is heading. Thus, the effort put into becoming an early riser can pay off big time.
If it’s the evening when you’re the most creative then feel free to adjust your schedule. The main idea is still the same: Do your freelancing work during the time of the day when you can get the best results in the shortest time.
Setting habits like that might take a while before they start feeling comfortable. But after roughly 30-40 days you will no longer struggle to execute your new schedule.
Better job performance
As counterintuitive as this might sound, doing things this way can also have good impact on your job performance. Quite simply, once you know that you have your freelancing career covered (through good planning), you will be much more focused at work. Your mind won’t be running through hundreds of things related to your freelancing that you’ve suddenly remembered you have to do.
Well, at least I was surprised when this happened to me. This sort of conscious work-time segmentation really is a great productivity booster. But don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself.
Which brings me to the final question: What’s your current approach at balancing your job and freelancing?