Note: I originally wrote this post when I was working a full time technical writer job and saw the need on the horizon to return back to freelancing.
I currently work for a federal government contractor for 40 hours a week but still pursue freelance writing projects on the side. Having such projects makes me feel safer with a second income stream but also help provide me with new professional challenges and keep my skills sharp.
Working a full-time job and freelancing may seem daunting to some but there are some simple things part-time freelancers can do to ensure success in their day job and freelance projects, while living a good life.
Set clear expectations about your schedule. I’ve been pursuing part-time projects for large chapters of my career and every so often come across people who want to hire a part-time contractor, but expect full-time availability. Over the years, I’ve come to spend a bit more time up front qualifying part-time projects and coming up with a list of communications options between my client and me that won’t jeopardize my day job while maintaining a professional level of service.
Reserve time for yourself. It’s easy for some personality types to get lost in work much more so when they pursue off hours projects. My biggest advice here is to reserve time for yourself (away from the PC) every week so you don’t spend your life going from PC to PC. My weekly calendar includes time blocked out for me to go to the gym six times a week.
Look into adjusting your schedule at the day job. Many employers offer flex time for their employees, and I recommend you looking into it if you want to freelance on the side. Because of my employer’s flextime, I am off work at 3:00 or 3:30 pm meaning it is not too late for me to make calls or return emails about a freelance project during regular business hours. It works out even better if the freelance client is in another time zone. Take, for example, the time I was able to attend a product briefing for an article after work but before the gym.
Learn your natural rhythms. I am a nighttime writer for sure and have some colleagues who do their best work in the morning or late in the afternoon. Time has taught me to become a morning writer especially when I am working on a client site that gets noisy. Another example, Saturday afternoons are more productive for me than Friday afternoons. These are all examples of knowing your natural rhythms because if you can’t be productive in the evenings after changing gears from your day job than part time freelancing is going to be next to impossible for you
Move your project files to the cloud. A local hard drive or external drive is the traditional means of storing project files in a home office. However, as a part time freelancer you may run into situations where you may need to access a project file while you are not in your home office. I recommend looking into a Dropbox, Box, or OneDrive account for your freelance project files. Even if your client is averse to sharing files through one of these services, you can at least have peace of mind that the files are available and accessible if needed during the day or at another time, you are away from your home office PC and your client contacts you about needing a particular file.
Move your email to the cloud. Cloud-based email services are a popular option for email these days, and a must have for part-time freelancers. There is a load of options out there even if you own your domain. My email is current hosted on Google Apps for Work. Just the other week, I was at the pool on my day off and got an email from a freelance client who couldn’t find a reviewed document I sent them. Using my iPhone, I was able to go into my email’s Sent folder and resend them the email with an attached file. All of this was done without ever leaving my poolside chaise lounge. After resending the file, I was able to enjoy the rest of my sunny afternoon.
Move your calendar to the cloud. Successful part-time freelancing is going to require even more diligent scheduling of personal and professional time. My calendar has been in the cloud since Google Calendar launched but now resides in Google Apps for Work. Because it is in the cloud, I can access it from any of my mobile devices or PCs.
How do you manage part-time freelancing while having a full-time job?
Originally published at willkelly.org on August 27, 2011. The post has been edited and revised since its original publication.
Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.