June 29, 2020
I’ve been freelancing as a side hustle while working full-time since about 2006. Writing a few assignments for clients gave me disposable income when I was on a tight budget with my salary, provided me with extra money to pay for vacations, attend weddings, go out to dinner with friends, pay off my student loans faster, and generate a financial safety net.
Building a small business of freelance writing while having a job not only made me feel accomplished, it make me feel more secure about my future, especially working in media where job layoffs happen frequently and unexpectedly. When I eventually did get laid off from a full-time job in 2013, knowing that I had freelancing skills (and articles that showed my range of writing about different topics) gave me the confidence to stick with a full-time freelance writing career.
So how can you find time and manage juggling freelancing while working at a full-time job? Here’s my advice on how to become a freelance writer without leaving your day job. (And if you’re totally new to the field, here’s how to pitch an article to a magazine.)
When I could make it work for a freelance assignment, I’d squeeze in article interviews in the morning, over email, or occasionally while on a break from work at a coffee shop or quiet place near the office if I needed to.
When I was freelancing on the side and holding down a full-time job, I tended to write at night or on weekend mornings because those times were best for my productivity. (Here’s how to become a faster writer.)
If you’re pitching editors or emailing sources and want to seem like you’re on a “normal schedule” (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) write pitches at night or on the weekend and schedule the emails to go out via a service like Gmail’s Boomerang so they’re sent out at a time when the person is likely to check their work email. (When is the best time to send an editor a freelance pitch?)
I asked some freelance friends who maintained successful freelance careers while working full time how they did it. Here’s what they suggest:
“First and foremost, make sure that your schedule allows for some wiggle room—even if this means that you’ll have to say ‘no’ to a few happy hours here and there. But if your full-time job is so demanding that you find yourself staying late or working from home in the evenings, carving out time to freelance may be more challenging than realistic. I would say wait until your full-time job slows down enough so that you have at least a few nights a week open to dedicating to writing—that includes weekends too!” – Jenn Sinrich (@JennSinrich)
“I found that the best time to do my freelance work was early in the morning before heading to the office. That’s when I had a fresh mind, and it’s too easy to come up with excuses after work, from happy hour to feeling burned out after a long day at the office. You’d be surprised at how many experts are willing to do early interviews. And if they’re not, my go-to trick was to find West Coast-based experts so that I could run home after work and catch them at the end of their day. When you have a feature or more in-depth assignment, it’s a good idea to set aside one weekend day.” – Celia Shatzman
When you get an assignment due date from a client, don’t wait until the last minute to submit a story by deadline, suggests Sinrich. “Always aim to be ahead of the curve. If you have the time to finish up a story due the following day, don’t wait until the day it’s due for the sake of it. Always try and stay ahead of schedule. This will ensure that, when the situation does arise where you submit something last minute, it’s unusual as opposed to every time,” says Sinrich. Here’s what freelancers can do with 15 minutes.
If you want to learn more about how to find clients and get freelance writing jobs, making money freelancing, or how to become a freelance writer while working full-time, sign up below to receive emails about freelance writing. I cover these kinds of topics and more in my “Get Paid to Write” freelance writing online course.
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