While the juggle of freelance and other commitments has been something I’ve been trying to balance for a little over five years, this past year was the first time I took on the responsibility of full time employment. This has been a hard transition for me, as I’ve had the tendency to bite off way more than I can chew. Literally and figuratively — I’ve been to the doctors a couple times this year because food keeps getting stuck in my throat! Serious there, but kidding aside, I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way that have been born out of some serious mistakes as well as taking notes on what was going well. If I can give you one over-arching tip, it’s to notice what’s going right, and to keep doing that.
Anyways, here are my 6 tips for creatives working full time and freelancing on the side:
Since moving to Ohio, I have worked on all sorts of projects on the side. I’ve taken on styling and photography, copywriting, consulting, branding, web design…the list goes on. What I’ve been learning over this past year is that I feel best when I am working on shorter-term projects. For now, I’m trying to focus on contract lettering projects. I can concept and letter over my lunch breaks, and then come home to edit and send off finals and be done with a project within a week. Getting work out the door on my off time, while still having a weekend full of fun feels incredible. I give this up a little when I take on bigger projects that require full-days of work that I can only do on the weekends. I’ll take them on here and there, but for now my heart is with these lettering projects because of the flexibility they afford my schedule and the passion I have towards doing them.
2: Under promise, over-deliver, and over-estimate
Over-promised, missed deadlines, apologies, and guilt. Been there, and I’m through. Keep lofty goals to yourself, and tell your clients about half of what you hope to accomplish. It’s not deceitful, it’s just honest. I’d much rather the client be happy with what they 1: assume they are getting and 2: a little something extra, than to be promised something huge and grand and end up with something less than. This is a huge one that I’m still working on. I get ahead of myself, and I let my passions speak louder than what my time allows. Also, over-estimate the time that it will take you to complete a task. Unless you’re up against a strict client-given deadline for a certain deliverable, double up the time you think you could get it done in. If you get it done early, your client is happy, and you’re happy! If you run in to snags, you have that buffer time to smooth them out.
3: Learn to say no, to say yes
My 2013 goal was to learn to say no. It’s treated me well. When you’re working a full time job, you usually have the liberty to take on only the projects that you’re super passionate about. Your regular work pays the bills, and the freelance is a little something extra. When you’re taking on these extra projects, they should be fun. This is one of the huge perks of doing both! You get great creative projects to do at work, and you get different projects to balance out those other creative needs on the side. Say no to anything that doesn’t immediately have you saying heck yes! When you say no to the so-so, it opens your schedule to say yes to the thrilling projects when they do come along. It’s so worth it.
4: Connect with peers in and out of work
Working for a creative company, I’m lucky to have so many other people who are in this very same position. A group of us have a monthly sushi lunch where we catch up with our lives, and usually end up talking through the struggles and benefits of doing this working full time and freelancing thing. Being a blogger also lead me to finding one of my creative soul sisters at work, which has lead to us collaborating and chatting about so many things we tackle in life as creatives. Outside of work, it’s been important to me to connect to others through instagram, by leaving comments on others’ blogs, and to be active in the online creative community. I definietely had my moments where it was all too much, but a blog post here, a ‘great job’ comment there, it all adds up! All of this leads to a network of people that are there for you in different but necessary ways. These connections help keep me inspired, and they help me gauge some of that ‘what’s going right’ business. It’s too much burden to be a solitary creative. Reach out, open up, and find out the possibilities of what some of these creative relationships can do for you all!
5: Take smaller bites
This is something that I’ve been learning since I went to Pursue in April. One of the speakers (eeep, I can’t remember who! Giving myself a wrist-slap) showed us how writing out to-do lists for our to-do lists in teeny tiny steps actually helps you get more accomplished. Herm!? Yeah. So what you do is that for each task you have that seems a little daunting or that you can’t quite make yourself manage, you write out every tiny step that is put in to that to-do item. Maybe it’s as simple as buying a new calligraphy pen — yeah, lettering girl at heart here. For example:
1 – open safari
2 – google ‘calligraphy pen’
3 – browse for a calligraphy pen shop
4 – compare prices at different shops
5 – choose which one works for you
6 – put it in your cart
7 – get out your wallet
8 – type in your card info
9 – click purchase
10 – celebrate!
Kidding, kind of, on that celebration part, but honestly this does work. I’ve been breaking up to-do’s at work and it has been helping me manage things that seem a little daunting to me. By breaking up to-do’s for freelance, I’m able to get small aspects of work done on my lunch breaks that I would have otherwise spent worrying about how I was going to get the whole project done during the nights that week. Taking bite-sized pieces of work, and of food, is just the way to go for a more productive you.
6: Give yourself grace
This is the biggest one of all. I have extremely high expectations for myself, and it’s bitten me in the butt in the form of emotional sabotage waaaay too many times. Look at you, you’re basically working two jobs! That’s excellent! You did your dishes this week? CONGRATS. Learn to give yourself the opportunity to mess up, and learn in the process. Smile and solve when something does go wrong. The freaking out wont help the matter. I realize this is all simpler said than done, but it’s something I try and remember when I feel like I’m just going about life all wrong.
And that’s that! For those of you who are working full time and freelancing, do you have anything else to add? This is certainly a work in progress, and I know we’re all just trying to figure it out one day at a time. Hope this helps full time workers, freelancers, and anyone just trying to manage their work load.
PS: you’ve got this!