A Method to Madness: How to Handle Having Both a Full-time Job and Freelance Gigs


I have not done a post in this feature, A Method to Madness, in a while. When I saw how some visitors seemed to like what I wrote about taking that leap to start freelancing, I thought it’s time for another follow-up post that is related to it.

Freelancing takes some effort, passion and dedication in order for it to pay off. In other words: It’s still like any other job, except that you get to work at home and your work hours are more flexible. When you have a full-time job, you have a strict schedule to follow. You have company rules and policies to adhere to. (But there is free coffee and your co-workers can become wonderful friends.) Some freelancers I know are full-time at it while others, like me, still have their day jobs. What if you belong to the latter group of freelancers, like me? I know it sounds crazy to even take up freelance gigs when there is already a stable job. Reasons vary and to be honest, I have two main reasons why I still keep my day job:

  1. The job is stable. Ergo, I have a regular flow of paychecks coming in.
  2. I love what I do. Hey, I work on websites and I could not ask for more.

I freelance at times but I make sure I still keep everything in order. It was a bit messy when I first started out freelancing a couple of years back. Since then, I have learned to be more conscious of my decisions and actions. I have learned to weed out what works for me and what doesn’t. Having a full-time job and taking on some freelance projects can be tricky. Here’s what you can do to save your sanity (and time!):

◆ “Do not bite off more than you can chew.”

It’s cliche but hey. It is absolutely true. When you decide to take on a freelance gig, make sure you are not ignoring your full-time job. Take a moment to assess the freelance job. How much time would it  need for you to finish it? Just one project already needs your time, energy and effort. With that said…

◤ Choose which project you’ll work on.

Be careful of not spreading yourself too thin. Remember: You still have a full-time job. It wouldn’t be fair to both your client and boss if the quality of your works suffer because you overestimated yourself in terms of what needs to be done in a given amount of time. Carefully review the freelance gig offered to you. Assess it, think ahead and be honest if you will be able to commit to it without hurting quality.

◔ Learn to manage your time effectively.

Be more conscious of your actions and decisions. I can never stress this enough. When you just plow ahead without thinking, sooner or later something will fall apart or blow up in your face. Start with knowing which to work on first and then proceed to how you’ll work on it. Personally, I always keep a to-do list for both full-time job and freelance gigs. That way, I know where I am at and what I should do next simply by just glancing at my lists. (Of course you would want to  keep a list for each.)

▤ Know your tools.

What do you use that help you make your job faster and easier? A trusty pen and paper? An online tool such as Trello and Mural.ly? Here are mine and what I use them for, at a glance (just the basic ones):

Full-time job Freelance gig
an Excel spreadsheet to help track the progress of my tasks and projects a notebook that serves different purposes (ex. ideas, reminders, etc.)
a notebook for my to-do list and to take down important notes during meetings different colored pens for when I brainstorm and note things down
some sticky notes for important reminders (usually slapped on my desk, where I  could see them right away) Gmail – I color code so I’d know where to find what.
at least two highlighters with different colors for not-to-be-missed details or reminders spreadsheets for keeping track of articles, resources, materials used, etc.

◷ Devote a couple of hours a day to your freelance gig.

Yes, every single day. Having a full-time job is no excuse to ignore your freelance gig for a day. If you miss out on just one day, think of what items in your to-do list could have been crossed out. You know your own work rhythm and flow. Work around that. When you are at ease and comfortable, working on both jobs will be easier. Usually, I let myself rest for an hour or two when I get home during the work week. Then once I am rested enough, I tackle some to-dos for my freelance gig. I try not to burn myself out by working on it for two or three hours per day. To avoid being burned out, make sure your pacing is good. This ensures that you won’t be rushing frantically to make last-minutes changes or arrangements.

▻ With that said, I think it’s possible to take on both full-time job and freelance gigs. Just make sure that you know what you are doing and that you are not hurting both day job and client. It all boils down to time management, focus and commitment. Once you know what to expect, I think you can start learning to build your schedule around your commitments and taking it from there. Good luck and happy freelancing!


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