How to start a freelance career while working another job

We all start somewhere in growing our freelance careers, and for most, it starts while working another job or while in school – whether it’s full-time or part-time.

Before I made the jump to freelance, I used to work part-time in the print department of an office supply store. As eager as I was to quit my job and dive straight into freelancing full-time, I knew there were some key components that I must first plan and execute on to better my chances at starting a successful freelance career.

That’s what I’d like to share with you in this post – tips on gaining the traction you need in starting your freelance career while working another job or attending school. Even if you aren’t doing those things, you can still find some useful tips in this post on how to start a freelance career.

Have a plan for your freelancing

No matter if you’re working another job, attending school, or neither, start by understanding how you’ll operate your new freelance business: how will you make your money, and how will you take your freelancing to the next level once you are established?

Ask yourself these basic yet important questions to help better understand your freelance career:

  • Will you be operating under your own name (self-employed), or will you register and work under a different business name (LLC)?
  • What is your specialty? E.g. graphic design, website development, photography, writing, etc. Try to narrow your services to a specific niche: do you specialize in t-shirt design, building restaurant websites, wedding photography, or editing ebooks?
  • Who are your clients and how do you plan on helping them? With your services narrowed down, who would you like to work with? What value do you have to offer them specifically? For example: if you specialize in apparel design, who would you like to design for? Organizational events, musicians, or clothing companies?
  • What type of marketing will you do to target your audience, and what results are you looking for? Give yourself a target number to shoot for like, “work with four clients per month.” You can even narrow this down to your niche like, “connect with 5% of the restaurants within 20 miles of my city.”
  • In order to make ends meet, how much will you need to earn each month? Estimate your total personal and business costs, then divide that by 12 (months in a year). That’ll give you how much you’ll need to make each month. Use that to plan how many sales you’ll need to land in order to make ends meet. On the topic of sales, make sure you have an idea of how much you’ll charge as a freelancer.
  • How will you diversify your income? Client work will be what pays the bills, but to help stabilize your earnings you need to generate other streams of income. To give you some (vague) ideas: sell digital products on Creative Market, create a tangible product like t-shirts or prints, write an ebook, or develop a subscription-based service.

If you can take the time to fully understand your freelance business and you can set some detailed goals, you’ll have a much better chance at starting a successful freelance career.

Schedule time to devote to your freelancing

Once you have a grasp on how you’ll operate as a freelancer, how you’ll make your money, and how you plan on growing over time, you should start setting some time aside to really devote to your new freelance business.

Although working another job can give you a steady income while freelancing, it can also impede your productivity, so it’s important that you schedule time to solely devote to do your freelance work.

You can set some time aside in the evening, on your days off, early in the morning, or on the weekends. There are 24 hours in a day, so manage your time wisely and work whenever you can.

It’s imperative that you actually make time to work for yourself on a consistent schedule. If you can’t commit to that, then as harsh as this sounds – don’t even bother starting a freelance career. Your freelancing depends on you 100% because there’s no one else to grow it for you.

Supporting your freelance efforts

The biggest advantage of working another job when starting your freelance career is you’re able to use the steady income to help support your new freelance efforts.

If you are working another job at the moment, don’t take the pay that you earn for granted. Some people are let go from their jobs, which forces them to start their freelance careers — Those people no longer have the luxury of a steady pay which will help support their needs (and possibly their family’s needs). If you currently have a job, use this time to slowly transition your efforts to your freelancing — Learn everything you can in running your business, practice your craft, and work on building a list of potential clients.

Quitting your job to start freelancing full-time

The time will come when you’re ready to fully make the jump into freelance, and this will require you to quit your job. That’s great! But also a bit scary…

The most important thing here is to leave on good terms. Your ex-employer could provide you with some great resources and connections, and in some cases, your last employer may become your first client!

Before you make the decision to quit, make sure you’ve considered everything: Are there any side projects or freelance goals that you need to wrap-up while you have the luxury of a steady income? Do you have enough saved for emergencies and slow months? (Because you’ll need it!)

Once you’ve planned out your freelance business entirely and you’re confident enough in solely being a freelancer, you can then officially make that jump!

Answer this…

What’s your current freelance situation? Are you freelancing while in school? Are you currently working another job while considering the idea of starting a freelance business?

And most importantly, what’s your next step?

How can I help? What topics can I cover to make your life easier? What resources can I provide? Let me know in the comments below!