How to Balance a Freelance Side Hustle While Working a 9-5 Job

Working eight hours a day (or more) just to go home and work on your side hustle? You’re not alone. Most of us young people this day and age hold day jobs while also working on our other passions as freelance jobs to make some extra cash or even to eventually be able to make our side hustle our main gig.

This obviously takes up a lot of time –– sometimes I work from sunup to sundown between my day job and my independent freelance projects. So how do you manage if you’re working a regular day job and freelancing on the side without getting overwhelmed and stressed out? It’s not easy, but once you get the hang of it it becomes manageable. So what’s the best way to get started on the road to balancing all these professional endeavors? We’ve got a few tips for you.

1. Come up with a routine that suits you

First, think of everything you need to include in your daily routine. When do you normally exercise? What are your office hours at your day job? When do you normally get hungry? When do you have free time and what do you prefer to do with it? And lastly, if you feel like all of these aspects (day job, going to the gym, socializing, relaxing, cleaning, eating, etc.) are getting in the way of your side hustle, how can you manage your time more efficiently to maximize your efforts?

Prioritizing all your activities and necessities is a good place to start. For example, it was important for me to get into a regular workout routine, but coming home after work and exercising pretty much killed me and made me unproductive for the rest of the evening. So, I started getting up 45 minutes earlier to do my workout in the morning, which freed up my evenings for freelance work. 

Decide on a schedule that fits you and your productivity the best. It could be getting up early to do your freelance projects before your day job starts, or scheduling a meeting with freelance clients on your normal lunch break. Either way, get into some sort of consistent schedule so that certain things become automatic and you don’t have to figure out the timing of your activities every single day. 

2. Write everything down so you don’t forget your deadlines

I swear by my paper planner for this reason. If I write things down by hand as opposed to typing them in my phone, I remember them better. Writing down deadlines and meetings for your independent projects right when you schedule them should become a habit. After all, you don’t want to have to ask a client to remind you of a meeting or a deadline, or worse, miss the meeting or deadline completely. 

Writing things down in a calendar will also help you to visualize your timetable so that you know what projects you need to work on when and how you’ll need to manage your time or space out work according to your upcoming projects. It’s a surefire way to make sure you don’t look unprofessional to clients and to uphold your good reputation.

3. Space out and prioritize your freelance work

When scheduling your freelance jobs, you have a little more control over things than you do at your day job. Be smart about it: don’t give yourself two freelance deadlines on the same day, or even within two days of each other if you can avoid it. 

Make sure you have enough time between each deadline to relax a bit and not rush your work. Rushing to get things done one right after another will just stress you out and drive the quality of your work down. Breathe, stay calm, and remember that not every single task is urgent! You’re only human and you’re allowed to take as much time as you need (within reason) on your projects. You’re your own boss here – take advantage of it.

Another thing to consider when setting freelance deadlines and meetings are the other things going on in your day job or your personal life. Are you approaching a deadline at the office that your boss might ask you to stay late for? Probably best not to overload yourself with freelance jobs that week. Do you have a friend visiting you over the weekend? Don’t schedule a deadline the same weekend or the Monday after. 

Lastly, think about which projects you’re getting paid the most for or which are most important for your portfolio –– these are the ones you’ll want to spend most of your time and energy on.

Your freelance work should obviously always be of the highest possible quality, but don’t stress yourself out over jobs that aren’t paying much or that you won’t want to show to other potential clients or employers down the road. Focus on the things that will push you forward both financially and professionally before anything else.

4. Quiet minute at the day job? Work on your freelance projects

Some of us, myself included, are lucky enough to have day jobs where you might have a couple hours free while you’re waiting for a video to export or for a colleague to send you some other material. Instead of using this waiting time to scroll on your phone or take a nap, try to be productive with it! 

If it won’t get you into trouble, use this quiet time in the office to work on your freelance projects. After all, this is time you’ve carved out in your life to be working anyway so you might as well work. If you’re a writer or proofreader, make sure your documents are in your email or on Google Docs so you can access them on your work computer. Or if your freelance project requires bigger files and software, carry your personal laptop to the office with you and break it out when you’ve got a minute. 

This strategy will save you a lot of time and you might even be able to get ahead of schedule, which will impress your clients and leave you with more time to pursue other projects or to just treat yourself, because you deserve it! 

5. Time block your work

Last but definitely not least, pick a day when you’ve got a few hours of free time and just block your work. For me, Sunday is block day. I normally don’t schedule personal plans for Sundays until the evening, which leaves the whole day for me to get some side hustle work done. 

I look at my planner to see what deadlines I have coming up and I get as much done as possible, even if the deadlines aren’t immediately pressing. Once I get the stuff coming up first done, I move on to the project that has the next due date. If there’s an ongoing project, I schedule due dates, start coming up with ideas for the content, and finish the mundane tasks like choosing photos or posting small updates. I work straight through for 3 to 4 hours and by the end I’m pretty happy with the result and I feel productive.

Basically, whatever you can get done during the block of hours you choose, do it, even if the deadlines aren’t urgent yet. Even simply starting, outlining, or strategizing about a project that isn’t due yet is productive and will give you an easy place to start the next time you sit down to work on it. This will keep you from procrastinating and save you a lot of stress later. Mass producing content like this is a great habit to get into and it will ensure that you’re not rushing around before each and every deadline. 

So if you’re freelancing and working a day job at the same time, props to you because it’s clearly not easy! But using these strategies should help to make the whole process at least a little less stressful. Is there a way you balance your freelance jobs and your day job that we didn’t mention? Feel free to share it with us!