7 Tips For Balancing Freelancing And Your Full Time Job
You may want to dip your toe into the freelance world for various reasons – you may need a little extra money to make up a shortfall, or you may want to explore a talent, a growing hobby, or perhaps you can see a market opportunity. Whatever your reason, you know you need to get out there and start freelancing, but it’s daunting to go straight from a reliable income to being your own boss.
Doing some freelance work while holding down a full-time job can seem like the ideal solution – a way of testing the waters without drowning. Freelancing in your spare time can be a good compromise, but there are some golden rules to follow to make it a success, and we’re going to cover them in this post.
Let’s get straight to it!
1. Be Upfront
People argue about this one – some insist it’s easier to keep your new work secret. I’d argue that secrets tend to get out, and it’s better to face any issues from the start.
Before you even approach your boss, check your contract. There may be clauses that prohibit you from working in direct competition, or on work that might bring the company into disrepute. Make sure that there are no conflicts of interest, and when you do approach management, stress that although you’re trying something new, it won’t affect what you’re doing for the company.
2. Be Disciplined
Freelancing on top of a full time job can be tiring, and it’s very tempting to find reasons not to put in the hours if a nice summer evening beckons.
Committing to a set number of hours that you’re sure you can cope with will keep you on track – while it’s easy to put something off till later, this can cause deadline trouble further down the road. Even if you don’t have a project to work on, you could be spending that time networking and seeking out new clients – freelancing really does require you to be very proactive, so don’t waste your precious time.
Committing to set hours will also enable you to identify whether you’re doing too much, leading you to be exhausted and burnt out. To avoid piling on the pressure keep an eagle eye on deadlines, and make estimates of the amount of work needed for each task so that you have control of your workflow.
3. Know Your Limits
Don’t be afraid to turn work down if you can’t fit it into your schedule.
Full time freelancers know all too well the temptation to say “yes” to every project for fear that a client won’t use you if you’re not permanently available. But if you have a job to do as well, in order to survive and stay sane you have to avoid the temptation to work all night. Besides which, if you bite off more than you can chew you will find yourself producing poor quality work, which will affect the reputation you’re carefully building.
4. Make Sure Your Commitments Fit Your Lifestyle
If you have a lot of commitments in your free time already – either from family, other groups, or perhaps your work might involve attending events in the evening or at weekends – are there going to be times when everything clashes? If so, do you have anyone who can help out, or a strategy to make it all work?
Clients appreciate reliability – there’s nothing worse than saying you’ll do something and then pulling out at the last minute.
5. Don’t Forget The Day Job
Remember, this is the foundation from which all your dreams are being launched, and you are going to have to put everything into this to prove to your boss that you’re not going to neglect your work in favour of your exciting new project.
Regardless of how well informed they are, they may feel a little unloved, and the best way to make sure that they don’t is to give 100% to the day job. Above all, don’t work on the side at your freelance projects when you should be doing your job – that really is a shortcut to trouble.
6. Make Sure It Will Pay
In the UK, Inland Revenue rules on freelance working on top of full-time work mean that you will be taxed – though there are no limits to the hours you can work if you are self-employed (other than the strict laws of space and time!).
The tax system will treat your day job as your main employment and will apply your personal allowance – the amount you can earn per year without paying tax – to that. If your second income is from freelance work, it’s more complicated than if you have two regular jobs because your income is likely to vary and come from a number of sources. You will have to keep detailed track of all income and expenses – or spreadsheet (at the least) will come in handy.
Make sure that HMRC knows about your freelance work, or you could end up paying too little or too much tax. If HMRC doesn’t know about your other work and what you earn from both jobs, they will put you into the higher tax bracket.
Conversely, you could end up paying too much tax if the income from both jobs is below your personal allowance. You can ask HMRC to split your allowance between your full time and freelance work, or ask for a refund at the end of the year.
You will need to work out whether taking on freelance work is going to be worthwhile – if you’re just outside the higher tax bracket and your initial earnings will be modest, you will have to factor in the extra tax you’ll be paying.
7. Be Efficient
Freelance work can be messy and complicated. Be efficient with your time, and plan thoroughly and as far ahead as you can. Use organisers, spreadsheets – anything that keeps track of what you’re doing and when it’s due. Try to automate as many tasks as possible. Make sure that you have the details of any work set out in writing: what you’ll be paid, the deadline(s), and the scope of the work and client expectations in as much detail as you can get.
Prioritise carefully and always keep track of where you are with every project. If you are asked to take on work for short deadlines, check that it fits with your existing commitments before agreeing.
In addition, plan as far ahead as you can for the unexpected. Take care of your health to try to minimise illness – if you’re responsible for others (for instance, if you’re a carer or a parent) try to work out ahead of time what will happen if your charges are ill or have an accident. Try to cover all eventualities – you can’t, but the more preparation you do the better you’ll be able to cope when misfortune strikes.
Heading in a new direction can be immensely rewarding – if you’ve put in the groundwork first. Here’s a quick recap of those seven points:
- Be upfront.
- Be disciplined.
- Know your limits.
- Make sure your commitments fit around your lifestyle.
- Don’t forget the day job.
- Make sure it will pay.
- Be efficient.
If you have all this in hand you’ll be able to start enjoying your new venture, which is what it’s all about.
How do you balance your freelancing with your full time job? Let us know in the comments below!