My Work-Work Balance: Freelancing While Employed

by | Mar 17, 2016 | GrammarSpot, Writing Tips | 2 comments

There’s a lot of talk these days about work-life balance, and I get it—it’s important. But for me, I have another type of balance in my life: work-work. That’s because I’m a writer freelancing while employed at another full-time job. I know that might sound bad, but it’s not as toiling as it sounds. I’m not a workaholic who pushes herself to the point of exhaustion daily. I’ve actually worked hard (pun intended) to not make it hard.

How Do I Balance Freelancing With a Full-Time Job?

Being successful at working full time while freelancing is possible but not automatic, at least it wasn’t for me. That’s right – what feels easy to me now felt anything but at one time. I admit I thought about quitting my freelance gig more than once. But I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t. I made myself look at things in new ways to figure out what I needed in order to achieve my work-work balance. Here’s what I found I need.

Structure and Routine

In general, I’m one of those people who does better with a routine. I like to go to the gym on the same days at the same time, run the same routes on the same days, grocery shop on the same day, etc. I realized that applying this principle to my work would be wise. Many of my freelance projects are recurring, so I can do this. I know ahead of time what days I will get assignments and what days they are due. I know how much time I need to get them done so I schedule that into my regular weekly routine.

I find ways to create routines and processes in how I get things done in order to be most efficient. For jobs that entail writing multiple pieces of the same type, I take a bit of an assembly line approach, doing all like administrative tasks together.

Keep the Calm

Even the best laid plans sometimes fail. I might get extra writing requests at a time or one particular project ends up taking longer than I expected for whatever reason. Then there’s also this little thing called life that can creep into my planned work time. I wish I could say that I’m naturally calm, but the reality is that my wiring is type A. I’ve had to learn how to dampen the panic that starts to set in at these times. Advice I gave my daughter years ago was the ultimate ticket. It’s what I call “the hot dog approach.”

Boy eating hot dogs

When you eat a hot dog, you don’t shove the whole thing in your mouth at once. You take a bite, chew, swallow and then take another bite. That’s what I do with my work now. I start in on my list one project at a time. I put everything else on my desk away so that I only focus on the piece I am working on at that time. Then, when it’s done, I bring out what I need for the next piece. And so forth until everything’s done.

As I said, this approach was anything but automatic for me. But, with a good dose of consciousness, I’ve managed to make this relatively natural now—and it’s very freeing. In this way, freelancing while working full time has actually been good for my personal growth, and that’s always a good thing.

Have a Life

All work and no play makes Melissa a grumpy girl. I’ve learned that sacrificing too much sleep, axing workouts and declining social invitations just to keep my nose to the grindstone does not work. It doesn’t produce a happy me, it doesn’t cultivate oh-so important relationships with friends and family, and it doesn’t result in my best work.

When I’m rested and refreshed, I actually get more done in less time. My brain literally works better. I love my family and friends. They need me and I need them. This is something I can never lose sight of. Maybe it’s not so much work-work balance that I seek but work-life-work balance.

Why Do I Do It?

Ok, so now you know some of my tricks for how to manage a job and a half. But, you might also be wondering, why in the world I do it.

I’ll be honest – this little practical matter of earning extra income drew me to the freelance-while-working life. My daughter will head off to college next year, so saving more toward that was a big motivator. While money got me into this, it’s not the only or the main reason I continue.

I love to learn. I feel more alive when I do. Freelancing lets me do this. I write such a wide variety of things, it’s crazy. By this I mean both type of piece and topic. I learn more about the craft of writing as well as what I write about than I think I could any other way. It makes me a better writer and satiates my ongoing desire to know more.

There’s one other really, really, really important reason that I keep freelancing while employed: The people I work for at BKA. I really like them. They are the best. The very best. I’ve never met any of them in person, although I feel like I have. They are the most positive group of folks I think I’ve ever encountered in a professional setting before (and let’s just say I have more than a few years of professional experience under my belt…). It speaks volumes to each person individually, but also to the company as a whole. Whatever it is they do to create their company culture of positivism through every single person in their organization is something more companies should try to replicate. It’s a beautiful thing indeed.

That’s My Story … What’s Yours?

Thanks for sticking with me on this journey of how and why I work as a freelance writer while holding down a 9-to-5 job at the same time. While I might sound like I’ve got it all figured out, I don’t. I’m sure some of you have ideas that I could really use, and I’d love it if you shared them with me—please. Feel free to comment with your recipe for freelancing while employed success.

For now, it’s back to my next bite of the hot dog—oops, I mean my next assignment.

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