Articles - 21st November 2019

How to balance freelancing and the office job

Words by Eleanor Pilcher
Illustration by Will Francis

I am a freelancer and a full-time employee. People often like to say that I am moonlighting as a freelance journalist whilst I work as a Marketing Manager in publishing, but I disagree. Moonlighting to me sounds like an undercover hobby I’m doing merely to supplement my income, but that is not the case with my freelance career.

I am very open about my freelancing career with my office colleagues, in fact I use my freelancing abilities to benefit my day job and vice versa. This is part of the reason why I can balance it so well with my office hours. 

My freelance career is based solely around my lifestyle and my choices, since I’ve chosen to do it purely because I enjoy working as a journalist, rather than what some people assume is for financial gain. When I started my freelance role I still loved my career in publishing but I was also really interested in starting a career in journalism. Instead of giving up one for the other, I strove to find a way to incorporate journalism around my publishing career.

Having the best of both worlds is always going to be a balancing act though, and one that you must not let affect your work-to-life ratio, otherwise you’ll come to resent it. I make sure to only do what I really want to do when it comes to my freelancing and I never forget to take time off throughout the week, just to rest, binge-watch Netflix or socialise with friends and family.

But to most minds, I’m still working two jobs and I must be mentally exhausted all the time. Luckily for me, my two careers are in closely connected industries, so a lot of my day-to-day freelance activities can be done on my lunch breaks or within my day-to-day office life itself. The balancing comes separately.

The first thing I did when my freelance career began picking up, which was crucial to getting the balance right, was talking to my line manager. I wanted her to be aware of my exciting new career but also not to feel intimidated by it. I knew that she was curious about what I was doing after I began spending my lunch breaks writing articles rather than going out for food with my colleagues, but she was also concerned that I might be considering leaving my role to go freelance full time. I wanted to explain that that wasn’t the case. I was very happy where I was and I was doing just the right amount of work for me in both my roles, I was just pursuing other creative opportunities.

Personality-wise, it’s helpful that I am an extremely proactive person who enjoys being busy. If I wasn’t, I would not be so good at balancing my careers. I am always very aware of my limits and will happily push back on my freelancing career when my office job takes over. However, because my office job is under a full-time employment contract, this job does have to take priority on occasion. This isn’t always great when I’m succeeding in my freelancing career and I don’t want to miss out on any exciting freelance opportunities.

So far, this has only happened over one period of time, and taking a break from freelancing in order to focus on my full-time career actually proved to be a useful life lesson for me. The time off freelancing revealed to me just how much I enjoyed it, and how much I needed it as a creative outlet. But it also showed me how I didn’t depend on it either and had the power to say no to opportunities that I wasn’t that interested in.

I love my role in publishing but working for other people beneath an office hierarchy can sometimes be taxing creatively. Freelancing allows me the freedom to do what I wish, but my office job allows me structure which I equally respond well too. 

However, when I feel that taking a break from my freelance role is not what I want, and is, in fact, jeopardising my freelance prospects, that is when I shall know when it is time to start freelancing full-time. Or, alternatively, this is when I could ask my full-time employers if I change my hours or take a part-time role instead. It depends entirely on the nature of my freelancing career and whether or not it is something that I am passionate enough to pursue as my full-time job.

For the time being, I am very happy in the roles I have set out for myself. I have complete autonomy over my freelance career and am without financial fears due to the monthly salary I receive from my full-time career, which means I only do the freelance jobs that I really want to do. This makes my freelancing career extremely enjoyable and a worthwhile use of my time. 

My one recommendation when anyone asks for advice on balancing a freelance career with full-time employment is that there’s no point doing both unless you love both. 

To have an additional career as a freelancer, you have to remain proactive and productive after a long-day of full-time work and you also have to see a future benefit in order to push yourself to create more contacts or develop your career further. If you start freelancing merely for financial gain, or out of a desire to do something that you’ve seen someone else do, then you will struggle to balance your freelancing and office jobs. 

Equally, if you don’t enjoy your full-time job but you love freelancing then maybe it is time to consider making the move to full-time freelancer. 

My final word is this, if you love your freelance role but you also love your full-time job then there is no reason why you can’t do both with a little time-planning, practice and the ability to know when you’ve reached, or are reaching, your limit. 

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