How to Start Freelancing While Working Full-Time

Career Advice, Content Marketing

With so many working professionals craving more flexibility and control over their work, it’s totally understandable why you might be thinking of trading in your 9-5 corporate job for a full-time freelance career.

You start to imagine what it would be like to spend your days doing what you love, without having to answer to anyone. I mean, getting to take mid-day naps or work from the beach sounds a lot more appealing than back-to-back Zoom calls, right? 

Still, giving up the security of a steady paycheck to dive into freelancing can be pretty terrifying. But what if I told you that you didn’t have to? Freelancing while working full-time is a pretty common way to dip your toes in the water without fully diving in. In fact, a 2019 survey found that the number of part-time freelancers in America increased by 43% since 2016 to 15 million people.

Now don’t get me wrong – juggling a full-time job while freelancing on the side is no walk in the park. It’s a balancing act, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But with determination and good time management, it’s not only doable but also extremely rewarding. 

Here are some tips to help you start freelancing while working full-time.

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Don’t get fired

If your freelance work is in the same field as your full-time job, you’ll need to tread carefully. Dig out your employment contract and look for any clauses that mention conflicts of interest. Even if there isn’t anything clearly spelled out in a legal document, you’ll still want to make sure you do your due diligence. 

Set up a meeting with your manager and let them know that you’re planning to start freelancing. Reassure them that it won’t interfere with your job and that you won’t take on competitive clients in direct competition with your employer.

Ideally, you have a supportive boss who will be excited about your new venture. And, if not – that’s even more motivation to build up your business in pursuit of that elusive full-time freelance life.

Find a mentor

Did you ever have a reading buddy in school? An older student that likely seemed way cooler than you, and who was definitely smarter than you? Well, get ready to buddy up.

Finding someone who walked the same path you’re about to head down is invaluable for anyone beginning a freelance career. Especially if they did so while maintaining a full-time job. They can tell you the true pros and cons of freelance life and perhaps even connect you to potential clients.

So where can you find this master Jedi? How does one search for an experienced freelancer who would welcome the opportunity to impart their hard-earned wisdom to an eager disciple? Think about your network: your friends, family, colleagues. You likely already know someone who’s doing, or did, exactly what you want to do.

Can’t think of anyone? Join some freelancing Facebook groups and post that you’re looking to connect with someone who’s freelancing while holding down a day job. People will likely be happy to help you out and meet for a quick coffee or phone call. 

Shift your priorities

Since you’ll now be essentially working two jobs, you’ll need to carve out time to tackle your freelance work. This will most likely be during evenings and weekends. To make it all work (without burning out), you’ll need to be extremely organized. 

Fortunately, there are a lot of tools that can help you. Whether it’s a time tracking app like Toggl or a task management system like Asana, there is no shortage of apps and sites out there to make the freelance journey a little smoother. And if mapping everything out on an old-school wall calendar is your tried-and-true method, there’s no shame in sticking to that either.

Managing a full-time job with a freelance side hustle will leave you with less free time than you had before, but you don’t have to give up on your social life or self-care completely. You’ll just need to plan ahead and possibly get a little creative. For example, you can multi-task by calling a friend while cooking dinner or listening to a podcast while out for a hike. 

Get the word out

This isn’t the time to be modest about your talents. Whether you’re freelancing as a copywriter, a graphic designer, a web developer, or anything else you’ve got your heart set on, be confident about what you can offer to potential clients. You have a skill, maybe even multiple, and someone out there needs it. I wish I could tell you that your potential clients will just fall into your lap, but the reality is that you need to go out there and find them. 

Post on social media that you’re launching a freelance business, and make sure to link to your website or portfolio to showcase what you’re offering. Ask people to share the link with their friends and colleagues. Get on LinkedIn and ask if anyone in your network is looking for a (insert whatever you do here) freelancer. Join networking groups. Search job boards that are relevant for the work you’re looking to produce. 

Tell your mom. Tell your mom’s friend. Tell your mom’s friend’s son’s girlfriend’s brother. Shout it from the rooftops, and then do it again tomorrow. The more work you secure, the closer you’ll get to reaching your goal of becoming a full-time freelancer. Don’t be afraid to make some noise!

Freelance Creative Business Checklist - The 10 Things You Need To Do Before You Launch Your Freelance Business

Take the leap

It’s easy to come up with a laundry list of reasons not to launch a freelance career on the side of your full-time job. You don’t have enough time. You’re not experienced enough. You don’t have the right skills. You don’t have the right network. You might fail.

There will always be reasons not to pursue your passion. There will always be that little voice in the back of your head saying you can’t do it. Don’t let it get the better of you. Did you know that Harper Lee worked as an airline ticket agent while pursuing writing in her spare time? True story. Does this mean you’ll go on to write the next To Kill A Mockingbird and become an iconic figure in literature? Maybe not. But you’ll never know what you can achieve unless you try. And the beauty of this part-time freelance setup is that you’ll still have your full-time job to fall back on if your story doesn’t immediately result in a Hollywood ending.

Freelancing while working full-time is no easy feat

It takes commitment and drive, with a whole lot of self-promotion thrown into the mix. But if you follow the tips above and work hard, you’ll be that much closer to achieving your dream of pursuing freelancing full-time.