How to Play the Field at Work: Freelance Advice From Real Freelancers

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More than 54 million people in this country work as freelancers. Some of those who take on freelance work maintain a full-time career as well. With freelancing, there is no guarantee of income or steady work. Many freelancers choose to continue in another more stable line of work to get that regular paycheck. Working a full-time job and a freelance job can be a challenge if you don’t set up boundaries within each working relationship.

To find out how to balance two different types of work, freelance and a full-time career, we asked the experts, real freelancers in a variety of fields. Here are some of their top tips for juggling a full-time job and a demanding freelance career.

Freelance Work: How to Get it Done With a Full-Time Job

Don’t Neglect Your Main Squeeze

The most important thing to keep in mind when freelancing while full-time is to make sure you give enough attention to your primary job. Most people who have freelance work on the side rely on their full-time job as their main source of income. Neglecting the work at your regular job because of freelancing could be bad news for your career.

Instead, you have to make sure you show a true commitment to your full-time job 100%. Continue to put effort and enthusiasm into your regular work. Freelance interior decorator and designer Terry Jett also manages a chain of coffee shops for his full-time job. He says this, “If your freelancing is taking over your full-time job, it may be time to scale back.”

Find Your True Passion in Other Work

Another tip to help you manage freelance work and a full-time job is to pick something you are passionate about for your new side job. Freelancing can be a labor of love and a huge time commitment beyond a full-time career. Sometimes, you can find even more enjoyment in your life if you use your time away from work to focus on a passion. Many people turn this passion into a successful side job or freelancing career.

Reuben Burrows, a full-time music educator, works as a freelance composer during the times of the year when school is not in session. He says, “I love it. Like any artist, whether critically acclaimed or hobbyist, I have a need to create.”

This driving passion for doing something outside of a full-time job can help fulfill some people’s dreams in other fields. If you’re not completely satisfied with what your regular career does for you, a freelance job could help you finally get that fulfillment you’ve always been seeking in your work.

Make it an Open Relationship — Be Transparent

Next, you’ve got to make sure you are open and honest with your full-time employer about your freelancing work. While most employers won’t feel a need to ask about contract work on the side, some positions may frown upon the practice. If your work contract requires a certain time commitment or has specific language prohibiting other employment, you may need to stop your freelance work.

For Jett, he has always been open about his extra responsibilities beyond his work day. Because the coffee shops are only open during the week, he says, “I can devote my weekend time to my interior design work and not feel like I’m neglecting the coffee shops.”

Use Your New Obsession in Your Main Job

It may also be possible to use your freelance work and new skills within your regular career. Sometimes, if the two jobs are in similar fields, you can help get an advantage in your full-time work. Freelancers can also add these new areas of expertise to their resumes to help them further down the career road.

Gina Baker, a full-time special educator, has been tutoring on the side for more than 10 years. She says, “Tutoring sharpens and enhances my skills.” She has learned things about what works for individual tutoring clients. This knowledge has helped improve her teaching practices in the classroom.

Because of his successful freelance composing work, Burrows has taken on more opportunities in his full-time career. He says, “People seek me out to contract me for clinician work or guest director work.”

Don’t Be a Two-Timer: Make a Schedule to Keep Tasks Separated

Freelancers should also be careful about over-committing to their freelance work in their schedule. It’s important to make sure you aren’t working on freelance projects while you’re on the clock for your regular job. Most experts recommend that freelancers set aside time in the week or during the day, outside of their regular working hours, to work on freelance projects.

Jennifer Newcomb, a full-time project manager for a government contractor and freelance fashion consultant, takes this advice to heart. According to Newcomb, “You have to schedule carefully and realistically. Block out the time for your full-time job, and then block out time around it for the side gig.” This way, you won’t try to work on freelance jobs during your regular work day.

Keep Your Finances Sweet — Don’t Forget About Taxes

One last thing to keep in mind when managing both a full-time job and freelance work is money. For many freelancers, the extra income is welcome. Getting another paycheck besides your regular source of income can be something to look forward to each month.

It’s important to understand how taxes work for freelancers or independent contractors. Because most of this work is independent, your pay won’t have employment taxes already taken out. That means you’ll need to make sure you have enough at tax time to cover self-employment tax. Tax experts recommend that freelancers keep track of their expenses throughout the year. This way they can take advantage of tax credits and deductions and lower their liability.

Want to Start Freelancing?

For most freelancers, their careers didn’t happen by accident. Juggling a freelance career with your regular job can be tough. If you want to get more out of your work and dive into freelancing, you’ll need a stellar resume listing your accomplishments. Take advantage of the easy to use resume builder from MyPerfectResume for industry-specific text examples. Use our bank of customizable terms, phrases, and words to make a stellar resume for your passion in freelance work.