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

Looking for freelancing 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. 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 be healthy even if you sit all day

photo by Oliver Thomas Klein // cc

New Thing: Write To An Inmate

Every year on my birthday, I make a list of new things I want to try. Some things are difficult, some are weird, some are shockingly mundane.  You can read about past adventures here.
Here’s something that might surprise you:  I’m quite passionate about prison reform.

I even applied for a job teaching ESL to male inmates a few years ago!

If you’re not sure why you should care about prison reform, here are a few things to consider:

24% of inmates have mental health issues
Despite a lower occurrence of violent crime, we have more people in jail
Non-violent offenders make up 60% of the prison and jail population
State correctional spending is estimated at $52 billion per year
60% of prison inmates are functionally illiterate
61% of Minnesota’s inmates will be convicted of another crime and return to prison.  Most states have a recidivism rate of about 40%

Shocking and sad, right?

I don’t really have any answers, but I wanted to do my part to make things a little bit easier for someone in a tough situation, so I used this website to find a lady inmate who seemed like she’d be a good match for me.  I found a woman who, pre-prison, worked as an accountant, has two kids, and was looking for letters from either sex.  Seems pretty legit, right?

It was a little bit weird putting pen to paper in a letter to someone I’ve never, ever met.  I told her a little bit about myself and my life, but didn’t want to err too much on the side of “and then I went to Europe for six weeks and it was greeaaaaaat!  PS whatsprisonlikeanddoyouhavetowearthoseorangejumpers?”

I settled on a middle ground of asking her about her kids and if she’d liked her previous job.

I’ve just dropped my letter in the mailbox and I’m interested to see if I ever hear from my new penpal.  I sure hope so!

Edited to add: On November 27th, I received a return letter from my pen pal!

First, let us acknowledge that getting a handwritten letter is The Actual Best, regardless of its source.

My penpal wrote about her kids (a boy and a girl, ages 5 and 7) and how much she missed them while they lived with her mom for the time being.  She wrote about her job in the prison, helping cook for 1,300 other female inmates.  She talked about preparing the Thanksgiving meal desserts “7up cake, peach cobbler and sweet potato pie :)”

Really, she seemed super sweet!  I totally plan to write back.

Have you ever written to an inmate? Would you? Has anyone in your life ever been in prison or jail?

If you’re interested in helping but not comfortable writing a letter to an inmate, consider Books Through Bars. Thanks for the suggestion, Jesse!

P.S. More new things to try: go to a monster truck rally, take a pole dancing class, try White Castle.