8 Helpful Tips for Striking the Right Balance
Between Freelancing and Full Time Work
Are you currently stuck working as an employee, wondering what it would be like to go freelance? The freedom might sound appealing, but it’s important to draw out the differences between being a freelancer vs employee.
You may want to try your hand at freelancing for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you need some additional cash to do all the things getting paid a salary doesn’t allow. Maybe you want to explore a hobby and see whether you can develop it into something else. Or, alternatively, you might have just seen a huge gap in the market that no one else is doing anything about
Whatever your motivation, the only right thing to do is to get out there and start freelancing. There are so many options - from creative freelancers to legal freelancers. But maybe you don’t want to throw in the towel completely and transition from a steady paycheck to being your own boss overnight.
So, while working a full-time job, why not do some freelance work on the side? That could be the ideal option - a way to test the waters without throwing yourself in headfirst. Freelancing in your spare time is a solid compromise and a surefire way of figuring out the freelancer vs employee difference.
Here are our top eight tips to help you make sense of the freelancer vs employee conundrum, and find the right balance for you.
1. Create Your Own Office at Home
So, you’re not in the office, and it’s exciting to be able to choose your own working location. You can wear whatever you want when you are freelancing - whether you stay in your suit and tie or slip straight into your pajamas while using your best earbuds for conference calls.
Turning any space into your office, perhaps a kitchen table, a coffee shop, or a train offers a degree of flexibility you may not have anticipated. However, you’ll quickly discover that some areas are more productive than others, and having the right workstation and setup can make all the difference to how successful you are as a freelancer.
One thing to never do - is work from your bed. While the whole idea of working from home seems appealing and comfortable, make sure you are aware of the drawbacks. Do you really want to be that comfortable while you are working on an important project? So many young professionals work from their beds and do team task management, but this decision can lead to terrible outcomes for both your career and your health.
When you’re in bed, your brain thinks of a particular function - sleep. Working from bed confuses our brains and blurs the borders of what we are used to. This can lead to being half awake and half asleep, which will result in a poor product and even poorer sleep. In addition, using bright displays in a place that your brain associates with sleep will stop you from producing the required amount of melatonin for optimal sleep.
Your productivity will suffer, as will your mood. So, what’s the solution?
Create a separate workspace for yourself. If you try to mix your personal and freelance life, you’ll mix boundaries and find that your life will be consumed by the disorder. Use that spare bedroom for your freelance gig. This means you can concentrate and focus on the task rather than have your computer, notebook, and calendar strewn all over the entire house.
You don't have to invest in the most expensive equipment as seen in offices. You just need to dedicate it only to your freelancing. Use retail social media, such as Facebook Marketplace, to source what you need and make sure you have the one space where you can keep it all together.
A note on computers: do not use your work computer, or even your personal computer, for your
freelancing gig. This will blur boundaries and end up with you being unproductive.
Your desk should ideally be near a window with adequate sunlight exposure as it’s common to be starved of sunlight when working from home. Regardless of how brilliantly lit your location is, you should have a good lamp on hand just in case. You never know when it might rain or how often you’ll be working late with your marketing tools to meet a deadline.
Always be flexible. Although you have set up a great home office, that doesn’t mean you can’t go to a coffee shop or a coworking space, or a friend’s house to work. Variety is the spice of life. However, having a specific space for your freelance equipment can help you stay organized and track all of your belongings.
Finally, your area should be designed to be as ergonomic as possible. Use a proper chair with a height that allows your feet to rest on the floor. You should stare at your computer screen directly (without turning your head horizontally or vertically).
When working on a laptop, you may need to put it up on a stack of books to keep it at eye level, in which case an extra keyboard can be useful. A laptop light is always a bonus to your setup. Straighten your wrists and sit with your knees and hips in line while typing.
Lastly, don’t forget to move. Having a salaried job and working as a freelancer can mean that you spend prolonged periods of time sitting down. Get up. Swim. Run. Stretch. Do whatever you enjoy, but keep moving.
2. Prioritize Your Full-Time Job but Identify Your Passion
This is super important when it comes to freelancer vs employee balance. Your full-time job puts food on your table, so give it your undivided focus throughout normal working hours. You work at a company, so respect is key.
You should never schedule freelancing meetings during the workday. You should never write freelance emails during the workday. You should also absolutely never take time off to finish a freelance task.
If you find yourself in a position where you feel as if you could start working freelance full-time, talk to your boss and think about making the leap. Just don’t try to do both jobs at the same time.
While you are currently employed full-time, it’s professional and appropriate to devote 100% of your attention to your full-time employment. You would expect the same from someone who works for you.
Prioritizing your tasks and separating time for your own projects is key. But there are only 24 hours in the day, so something will have to budge. It could be your free time, your gym time, or something else, but it’s important that you reschedule priorities.
Think about the time you have in a day. If you sit at home and watch six hours of TV a night, then I’m sure you can take some of that time and not feel guilty about it. You can start making some extra money and be learning new professional skills at the same time.
But having free time is just as important as work. If not, you will burn out. If you have hobbies that you truly enjoy, try and leave time for those. You need to get the balance right and definitely learn how to avoid burnout (see point seven for more on this one).
Remember - you work to live and do the things you love. If you work all the time, then there are no things left to love!
3. Value Your Work. Charge What You’re Worth, Don’t Work free of Charge
Your prices are directly proportional to the type of client you attract. If you keep your fees low, you’ll attract clients who don’t have respect for the work you do and always want more from you. When you charge higher rates, your client will see you as a professional who values their time.
It’s a fact that the majority of freelancers undervalue themselves. It is understandable that you think you’re charging too much, but consider the alternative for the person commissioning the task: bringing an employee into their company.
This has extremely high costs for them, such as health insurance and other taxes. When they pay you, you have to take care of all of it yourself, which will take both your time and money. Don’t do it for free - or worse, pay for it yourself.
Setting your charges around two-and-a-half times the hourly rate that an employee would get for an identical job is a good rule of thumb. Also, don’t forget, that negotiating payment without appearing rude is paramount.
4. Why Not Work With Clients in Different Time Zones
As we mentioned previously in this article - trying to work at two places at the same time will certainly lead to failure. Why not use time zones to your advantage and pick a client that is a few hours away from your home time zone. If you live in London, the east coast U.S.A. has a convenient time difference.
This means that when you finish work at 5 pm and are ready to work on your freelancing projects, it is only midday in Miami. You can hold all of your meetings in the early evening in order to not conflict with your normal working hours, your client work acceptable hours as well.
Sometimes time differences might not work out the way you want though. Imagine being in India working for a client in Australia and coordinating remotely to talk about digital operations with a project manager in Mexico.
Even with the strongest strength of will in the world, someone might have to either get up or even still be awake at 3 am.
5. Know Your Limits but be Efficient
Don’t be afraid to turn work down if you can’t fit it into your schedule - remember, your full-time job is your priority.
Full-time freelancers seem to always feel pressured to say yes to everything. Not saying yes might mean losing a customer if you’re not available 24/7.
If you’re trying to strike the right freelancer vs employee balance, you must avoid the temptation to work all night and day in order to survive and protect your mental health. Moreover, if you take on more than you can handle, you’ll end up creating a low-quality product - completely detrimental to the reputation that you’ve worked so hard to cultivate.
The secret is to be efficient with your time. Freelance work can be messy and complicated. Make sure to plan as thoroughly and as far ahead as you can. Use Google Docs, project management software, spreadsheets, virtual phone number - anything that helps you keep track of what you’re doing and when it’s due.
As many tasks as feasible should be automated. Make sure you have all of the contractual agreements in writing, including how much you’ll be paid, when you’ll be paid, and, most importantly, the deadline(s). Before starting the task, client expectations should be as clear as possible to help save time.
Prioritize carefully and keep track of your progress on each job. You could use remote software tools to keep track of what you are doing. Before committing to taking on work with short deadlines, be sure it fits in with your other obligations.
6. Set Clear Expectations When Freelancing
Your freelance job deliverables should be clear and straightforward. Your client has hired you to conduct work and has put their faith in you to produce the best results possible.
Remember to communicate with your client - especially if the task is going to extend over a long period of time. Use a VoIP phone number if your client is overseas. Be communicative about what the client wants and schedule regular check-ins. You want to make sure you’re always on the right track and that the work you're currently performing is in line with the client's expectations.
Time is money, so you don't have time to do the work twice. The more modifications to the project, the more of your resources you will have to use.
In any case, having clear client expectations is a good business practice to follow while working as a freelancer.
7. Avoid Burnout and Make Sure it’s Worth It
Keep track of how much time you spend working and, if necessary, set aside time for yourself. Take a break at weekends and make sure to go on holiday.
The key is to set limits. We recommend things like not working on weekends. Still, we understand that doing so might be critical for your freelance side business needs. If that’s the case, maybe keep weekend work on the now and then.
Combining a full-time job and your freelance gigs will mean that you have to sacrifice a lot of your free time - not just on the actual work but also on administrative tasks like accurately record cellphone calls. Make sure it is worth it. Question your motives. Is it sustainable? Why are you doing it in the first place?
Many people freelance because they want to work as much as they can in their “productive years”. Saving as much as possible and investing can be a way of looking after yourself when you get older or even a way to retire early. Money makes money, so finding an investment opportunity can ensure your future.
8. Make Sure it’s Legal
Look through your full-time contract and make sure it’s not an agreement that stipulates you can’t accept any freelance contracts. If this is the case, it’s better to get straight in contact with your HR department and send a meeting invitation message to clarify what’s detailed in the paperwork. This can be even more confusing if you have a verbal contract.
This regulation is usually put in place because many employers don’t want “moonlighting”: people freelancing while working full-time. HR might let you have a side hustle if you can show that you’re still doing your job. Also, if you have demonstrated your commitment to the company, your boss might also be flexible with you.
Our top tip
Remember that freelancing is not your main source of income, so it has to come second. However, perhaps your freelancing gig will grow so much that you think about turning it into your full-time job. You should obviously think carefully about this decision and not hurry into anything.
You always have options. Maybe you could drop down to part-time and concentrate more on your freelancing before you take the plunge.
Talk to your employer. They will appreciate the communication. And you never know, one day they might turn into a client.
If you lay the groundwork first, going in a new direction and freelancing can be very rewarding. Here’s a reminder of our eight points:
- Create your own office at home
- Prioritize your full-time job but identify your passion
- Value the work you do. Charge what you’re worth, don’t work for free.
- Why not work with clients in different time zones?
- Know your limits and be efficient
- Set clear expectations when freelancing and be transparent
- Avoid burnout and make sure it’s worth it
- Make sure it’s legal
If you take all of these points into consideration, you will maximize your time and efficiency. This will mean you can strike the perfect freelancer vs employee balance without your efforts in one sphere negatively affecting the other.
About the author
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform that offers the best small business phone systems for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content.