How to Balance a Full-Time Job and a Part-Time Freelance Business

Starting a “side-hustle” has grown in popularity over the past few years, and it’s easy to understand why. 

Maintaining a full-time job while pursuing a passion project on the side offers the best of both worlds: a steady paycheck and benefits along with the opportunity to make a little extra money doing something you love.

And while there’s a lot to gain when starting a side-hustle, there’s also a lot of sacrifice.

Here at Elle & Company, we know a thing or two about balancing a full-time job and a “side hustle.”

I worked a few different 9-5 jobs while I worked to get my business up and running, and both of my assistants currently work full-time jobs while helping me with Elle & Company part-time.

All three of us understand the time and energy that goes into balancing a full-time job and a part-time passion project. 

So we rounded up some practical ways that we’ve been able to keep our heads above water and maintain our sanity in the process. 

How to Balance a Full-Time Job and a Part-Time Freelance Business | Elle & Company

1 | Consider your end goal

If we’re being honest here, does anyone really ever plan to start a side business? 

Many of us may have stumbled into it through a hobby-turned-business or a dissatisfaction with our day job.

That being said, it’s easy to jump into creative entrepreneurship without mapping out long-term goals on the frontend

It’s helpful to think through questions like:

  • What is your long-term vision for your business?
  • What do you want your business to look like 5 years from now? 10 years from now?
  • Do you want to take this business full-time?
  • If so, how long are you planning to stay at your current full-time job?

Questions like these can be a little overwhelming, but they’ll give you a goal to work toward and allow you to think through smaller action steps that will help you get there.

My team uses the SMART goal method for brainstorm sessions like this. 

Because our goals can often be vague, we follow the SMART acronym to make them more specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound.

When you think through exactly what you want to achieve and set a plan in place to actually reach your goals, you put yourself in a better position to achieve them.

We’ve found the SMART goal system so helpful that we created a worksheet for Elle & Company Library subscribers. 

However you go about it, make sure to set aside time to consider the end game. 

Not only will long-term goals give you a fresh perspective on your additional workload; they’ll also give you a little extra motivation when the stress and self-doubt of entrepreneurship inevitably creep in.

2 | Give yourself time to recharge

Working a full-time job by itself is exhausting.

You may have to commute a long distance, interface with co-workers who make your life less than pleasant, take direction from a boss whose leadership style you disagree with, adhere to rules you think are pointless, attend meetings that keep you from your gigantic to-do list, and meet deadlines you have no control over. And that’s all before lunch! 

Burnout is real, especially when you’re working 9-5 and starting a business during your off-hours. 

And when you’re exhausted and running on empty, your work will suffer. It’s important to make time to rest.

So once you get home from your full-time job, give yourself some time to recharge.

An hour to clear your head, grab a snack, and watch some TV (or another activity you enjoy) before you jump back into work can help maximize your time doing your “side hustle.”

3 | Create a schedule

Organization is key to maximizing your limited time as a full-time employee and part-time business owner. You have to be diligent by creating a schedule and sticking to it.

Creating a schedule for your “side hustle” can take on many forms. 

Maybe you offer branding or web design services and your package requires 30 hours of work. Consider the timeline you promised your client in order to determine how many hours per evening or on weekends you need to work  to complete the project within the timeline you promised. 

Watch this Ellechat webinar replay to see exactly how I estimate my project hours and map out my client calendar.

Or maybe you’re a virtual assistant and you work a set amount of hours per week for your client(s). Consider your other obligations throughout the week in order to determine how many hours per evening or on weekends you need to work to fulfill your time requirement each week.   

A helpful mindshift that may enable you to take advantage of your limited time is Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law is the idea that work expands to fill the time available for it’s completion. 

For example, if you have one hour to write a blog post, you will write it in one hour. But if you have eight  hours to write a blog post, it’s easy to stretch out the amount of time to write the post far past one hour.  

Stop thinking of your limited time as an excuse and use your limited time to your advantage to get more done! 

Here are some reader-favorites on scheduling and time management:

4 | Make a list

One of the downsides of a “side hustle” is the limited amount of hours you have to complete all of your work. 

If the schedule you created only allows for two hours of work per evening, you need to know exactly what you hope to accomplish during that work session before you even crack open your laptop. 

After researching and piecing together resources for scheduling my week, I created my own Work Week Scheduler workbook to help me stay on task and organize my work. 

The section on identifying your top 3 priorities is one of my favorite features of this workbook, because no matter what happens during the day, I can aim to complete those top 3 tasks to keep me moving forward and working toward my quarterly goals.

How to Balance a Full-Time Job and a Part-Time Freelance Business | Elle & Company

You might also find it helpful to make a note on your phone or in Asana to keep up with to-do list items, random ideas, and resources you run across throughout the day at your full-time job so you don’t forget them when you sit down to crank out business tasks.

5 | Leverage your full-time job to get better at your freelance work

Most full-time jobs pay for professional development like conferences, courses, and trainings. 

So consider these opportunities to educate yourself — and potentially grow your side hustle with your new skills — while your company picks up the bill. 

On the other side of the coin, you will be developing skills that can help your “side hustle” as well, whether it’s blogging, SEO, design, or social media. 

Not only are you honing your professional skills for your business, but you can also bring these to your full-time job.

If you’re working a full-time job with no common connection to your part-time work, try to develop soft skills that have the potential to benefit both jobs, such as project management, strategic planning, batching tasks, adaptability, decisiveness, etc. 

Get creative and look for any overlap so you can maximize your time, education, and skills.

Starting a side-hustle while working full-time is no easy task. 

But creating long-term goals, making time to rest, creating a schedule, setting priorities, and leveraging your full-time job will help you make the most of your time during this season and get you to where you want to be.

Best wishes - we’re rooting for you!

Are you working or have worked a full-time job while pursuing a “side hustle”? What are some practical ways you keep your head above water by balancing two jobs? What direction is your “side hustle” heading - full-time freelance business or continue to be a part-time gig?