How To Juggle A Day Job + Freelance Work + A Blog + Life

Looking for freelance tips? Or side hustle advice? The truth is: it's hard to do it all and there isn't really a magic solution. But these self-employment tips will help! Click through to learn 9 ways to make working for yourself easier


Dear Sarah,

I am right now working on my own website and trying to cobble together a little freelance writing business. I was just wondering if you could speak to HOW YOU DO ALL THE THINGS? And HOW YOU DID ALL THOSE THINGS WHILE ALSO WORKING FULL-TIME?  I frequently look over my To Do List and there’s like eleventy jillion things on it. I mean, writing that list is exhausting enough. And then DOING it? And THEN trying to get clients to find me, let alone HIRE ME?!
– Lauren

Oh, girl.  I hear you.  For those of you who don’t know, when I first started Yes and Yes, I worked full time as an ESL teacher. Back then I taught, blogged seven days a week, and took freelance clients. Now I ‘just’ blog seven days a week and take freelance clients.  It’s way easier.

 

How to juggle a day job, freelance work, and everything else.

1. Opt for quality over quantity

You probably knew that already, right? But it bears repeating.

It’s better to have two amazing freelance clients, who are a joy to work with, whose work you can proudly include in your portfolio than 10 clients who hassle you.

It’s better to write one perfectly optimized, SEO-ed, lead-generating post per week than five “I just need to get something up!” posts. It’s better to learn how to navigate one or two social media platforms really, really well – rather than fumbling your way through all of them.

If you're looking for permission to do less and to do it well, this is it, <3 Click To Tweet

2. Write less, promote more

I blog seven days a week because I have So Many Things To Talk About, but you totally don’t need to! Create an editorial calendar (Tuesday and Thursdays at 6 am, for example) and stick to it. Write two great blog posts each week and then promote the sweet bejesus out of them.

Because of how we use social media, it’s possible to tweet about something seven times over the course of a week without anyone really noticing or getting annoyed.  I would suggest writing different tweets each time or using different images for Facebook updates.  This will keep things fresh and attract different people.

3. Stop writing everything on your blog yourself

On Yes and Yes, I have four post series that I don’t write myself – True Story interviews, Real Life Style Icons, Mini Travel Guides, and the occasional guest post.  On this blog, I host bring in experts to write about topics I know nothing about.  These posts cross pollinate my readers with my guest posters’ readers, bring in fresh content, and save me tons and tons of time.

4. Schedule everything

Devote a few hours at the beginning of the month to scheduling. Take yourself on a DIY writing retreat and write all your content for the coming month. Schedule client invoices. Use Hootsuite to schedule Twitter and Facebook updates.  Use Boomerang to schedule emails.  I love being able to schedule things months into the future and then forget about them!Life changing.

5. Lovingly and diplomatically establish boundaries

If you live with roommates or have a partner, make sure they understand what you’re trying to accomplish with your freelance career.  Don’t let them guilt trip you into a night out when you’ve got a deadline.  Don’t tolerate any “You’re no fuuuuuunnn!” BS.

Before you sign a client, share your ‘collaboration guidelines.’  If you’re months into a professional relationship that’s not working, take a look at these great scripts that will help get things back on track. 

6. Get seriously productive

Make lists, use the Pomodoro technique, download Leechblock.  Turn off your phone and gchat.  If you remember an important task and it’ll take less than five minutes, just do it now.  It’s worth freeing up that brain space so you can stop thinking “Oh, right!  I have to remember to send a follow-up email to that editor!”

7. Realize you’ll have to make sacrifices

Know that in order to make this happen, you’ll have to miss some parties.  You might have to pull some all-nighters.  Maybe you’ll have to give up your $5 coffees.

For the first two years of Yes and Yes, I spent every lunch hour, every weekday, networking with other bloggers.  That’s 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 2 years.   If my math is right, that’s 375 hours that I did NOT spend picnicing in the park or trying the good Thai place down the street. But now I get to picnic all I want!

8. Cut a few corners now and then

You’re going to be really busy getting your career going.  That doesn’t mean you should drop out of the rest of your life, but it does mean you might have to cut some corners.  Buy something at the deli to bring to the potluck, buy gift cards in bulk for Christmas, buy a case of wine so you won’t have to stop at the liquor store every time you’re invited to a dinner party.  Resist the urge to drink all the wine yourself.

9. Remember that you have a life outside of work – and your work will probably suffer if you drop out of your life

As busy as you are, make time for your friends, family, and partner. Get outside. Unplug. Go to art galleries and concerts and costume parties and stupid movies.  If you don’t give yourself a chance to recharge, you won’t have any energy to take over the world.

How do you guys juggle it all?  Any apps/platforms/techniques I’m missing?

P.S. How to enjoy work (even when you’re busy and kind of overwhelmed) 

photo by Oliver Thomas Klein // cc

32 Comments

sarahvon

Ooooh! I’ll have to download that app – I’ve just been using the timer on my phone!

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Cassie

This so perfectly applies to me at the moment! My part-time job is going full-time in the coming weeks, and I’ve been concerned about how it will affect my blog. Luckily, I’ve got people waiting in the wings to do guest posts to help ease some of the pressure. Aside from that, I’m psyched to hopefully bring in new readers that way, too.

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elizabeth

I did some freelancing a few years ago, but had to stop because I felt like it was taking over my life. You make some fantastic points here that , in my second stab at freelancing, I will thoroughly explore. Well… except for your requirement that I don’t drink all the wine.

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Erin

LOVE this question/answer. Definitely what I needed to read today. Thanks for all your insights!

I personally love Workflowy, it’s based on “Getting Things Done” idea that you need to clear your head and get your to-do list down on paper rather than taking up space in your mind. I have been using it/ living by it for months and I think it’s a great tool.

Good luck to Lauren btw!!

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Miss. Whimsy

Very helpful post! I enjoyed reading it and soaking in the reminders. Write less, promote more is so on point with what I need to do right now. I post 3 times a week but I need to promote more if I want anyone to read it!

Thanks!

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Allison

Interesting points.

Scheduling things is great, but I’m looking for an alternative to Hootsuite as it shows a post (on Facebook) as being from an external source & thus gets a much lower response rate as their feed system has changed.

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Lauren

Oh hey! That’s me! Thanks again for the answer, Sarah. I’m writing less (though not promoting less) but I feel like 3-4 times a week is way more manageable.

Although winter is coming and I want to be outside playing in the snow more, I know that if I WANT this life, I’m going to have to sacrifice a bit for it.

Thanks for the inspiration!

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Gigi

I’d add: know when to hire help or collaborate! I just hired a contractor to put together reports, handle research, etc. and it’s been a huge lifesaver, especially with the end of year push so many clients have.

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sarahvon

Allison,

Good point! I actually do all of my Facebook stuff in real time (rather than scheduled). Have you tried Tweetdeck?

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Megan

This is a fantastic article! I chose to delete my Facebook late last summer, which has given me the ability to better focus on my blog and other modes of social media that serve me better. But I’m always curious how regular-bloggers manage the load – I aspire to once-a-day posts, but it’s just not possible with a full-time job (which I can’t, at present, afford to leave). Alas, I’ve been using my “free” time to concentrate on other efforts – the kind that serve my goals of freelancing and blogging more regularly.

And I too LOVE the idea of scheduling – that’s something I’m DEFINITELY going to try!

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Rachel

Great tips! BE PRODUCTIVE is the part that always gets me. I’m the master of planning, but my execution skills need a major overhaul.

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The Dame Intl

So THAT’s why my website posts don’t get seen by many on my Facebook wall! (I automate their posting to my Facebook page via a WordPress plugin).

I use Crowdbooster to tell me the best time to schedule tweets and Facebook posts and I use Buffer to schedule my tweets with different lead copy to get clicks as Sarah suggests.

Since I’ve come back to posting seriously for my site, I now have two notebooks, one for brainstorming and the other for my to do list. And then I use a diary to write down what posts are going out on what days since I post 7 days a week. Sometimes twice a day.

I dont have a social life and hardly ever leave my house, but I take time out by watching movies, reading, sleeping and lazing about in the bath, where I seem to get most of my ideas from – water is my muse!

Not sure I could not drink all the wine tho, good thing I dont get invited to dinner parties!

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Brittany

This post was SO helpful to read right now! Next week I am starting a full-time Monday-Friday job after working very part time for the past year. It will take me a bit of time to get back into the “buckle down and don’t get distracted” habit, but I am optimistic and seeing posts like this are SUCH a huge help!! I don’t blog to make money or anything, but I do like knowing people read what I do write, so when I try a new recipe or do something that is awesome enough that I want to share, I need to get better about sitting down and blogging it because otherwise it will never happen and then what’s the point of that?

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OKP

Great post — thank you, Sarah.

I am especially intrigued by the “rules” you set with your freelance clients. Are these set out in writing when you first connect with your client? I have some customers who love to e-mail AND IM (“oh, and other thing! I forgot to mention XYZ”) and it drives me bonkers.

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sarahvon

OKP,

Here’s how I usually handle clients:

1) Before they book a big package with me, I do one little project (or one hour of work) with them with the express purpose of us ‘feeling each other out.’

2) If we’re BOTH happy with how that first bit went, then we move ahead with a big package (usually 10+ hours of work) and that’s when I send them my list of ‘collaboration guidelines’ and ask them what works best for them. I’m not really into phone calls, but if they are, I’m happy to work like that.

If they’re emailing me too much, I wait till the end of the day and respond to all their emails with one email and gently remind them that’s the method that works best for me 🙂 And I make myself invisible on gchat 🙂

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layla

Great tips! As someone who eventually wants to start her own business without too many risks (ie a small business so I won’t have to borrow too much/any money) I’ll probably find myself in this situation one day.

I think each person is going to have slightly different priorities – I, for one, need to take some time for myself when I’m stressed. I know some people who can go all day always around people, then go home, go to bed, and get up the next day and do the same thing. I know myself well enough to know that this is counterproductive for me, and I end up getting less done when I don’t get a break from people. But I’d give up the $2 coffees and drink instant coffee …in an instant…

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Leeann Torgrimson

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