When you first set out to freelance on the side, everything looked great. You already had a steady full-time job, so making extra cash on the side would be a breeze. After all, what’s another five to 10 hours in your weekly schedule?
At least, that’s what I thought when I first started freelancing.
Holding a second job isn’t as easy as it sounds. Especially if that second job doesn’t have a set schedule.
When I first began freelancing, I was working full-time, taking courses, and I was involved in other activities. Squeezing in freelancing “whenever I had the time” seemed to make sense. I could go to work, do some studying, and then spend the remaining time freelancing.
In reality, I would get home from work exhausted. I would surf the internet or watch TV, and before I knew it, it was time to sleep. All the other tasks competing for my attention earlier in the day left me with no motivation to do anything else.
It can be tempting to let freelancing take a back seat to other priorities in your life. If you’re in this situation, you can either hope that you’ll start writing someday, or actively make changes to create time for your writing career.
How to fit your freelance business into your schedule
Work, family, and other activities make it easy to put off freelancing until later. But with some changes to your schedule, you can consciously decide to make your writing a priority.
Here’s the three-step process you can follow to carve out more time for freelance work.
1. Assess your schedule
Look at your daily routine. What time do you normally get to bed? When do you wake up? Are you incorporating a healthy lifestyle? These factors affect how much free time and energy you have to write.
Try using a timer to log how many hours you spend on freelancing in a week. Also track how many hours you spend on non-productive activities such as surfing the net, using social media, or watching TV. You don’t have to give up these activities, but it helps to know where you might be able to steal some time for your side hustle.
When do you feel the most energetic? As you track your time, take note of your energy level throughout the day.
I found that I wrote best in the morning, which meant that I would have to squeeze in time before work. When I tried this approach, I felt that as long as I had done a certain amount of writing first thing, the rest of the day was free to do other work and activities.
Waking up earlier can be difficult at first because it also means going to sleep earlier. But if you find you’re too tired later in the day to do any work, it’s well worth the effort to try adjusting your schedule.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a morning person, give it a shot. Over the course of a few weeks, you’ll likely find yourself waking up earlier with less effort, creating time to do freelance work in the morning.
2. Determine your ideal freelance work plan
Imagine your ideal scenario. For example, you might want to spend an hour per day on your business.
If you want to fit that hour into your morning, you can gradually adjust to an earlier wake-up time.
Novelist Huraki Murakami has a pretty strict routine: “When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4 a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9 p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation.”
Even if you don’t have five to six hours to spare, training yourself to stick to a routine helps you stay productive each day. And if you can also fit in a quick workout, daily exercise is another way to energize yourself to work on writing projects.
3. Identify small steps to find time for freelancing
Once you’ve assessed your current and ideal freelancing situations, create a series of steps to get there. Start small.
For instance, aim to go to sleep a little earlier than you’re used to. This could mean relaxing in the evenings by reading a book, and setting your alarm to go off 10 to 15 minutes earlier in the morning.
Experiment to see what gives you more time to write. You might need to cut out social media in the evenings, or keep a notepad near you in case you want to jot anything down.
If you find yourself with periods of downtime throughout the day, you can try fitting your writing in then. “I’m a security guard, and have pockets of downtime throughout the day,” horror writer Mark Allan Gunnells explained in one interview. “I have trained myself to write in those pockets. It isn’t ideal for some, the constant stop-and-start method, but I’ve managed to make it work.”
You might find that long, intense periods of writing help you work most productively. If that’s the case for you, a few hours working during the weekend might get you to your goals. Or, writing in short bursts may work better for your schedule and work style.
The key is to make gradual improvements over time so that you can adjust and get used to a new routine. It may not be easy, but it’s certainly doable if you plan where you want your freelance career to go.
Do you have a full-time job and a freelance business? How do you make time to write?