Are you planning to freelance on the side? It’s how most freelance writers start off because it’s difficult to make enough money to live on in the beginning. It’s what I’m currently doing, so read on for tips on how to manage freelancing in addition to your day job!
Be careful with your employer
Talking with your employer about your side venture should hopefully be met with enthusiasm – you’re building skills in your own time. However, there are a few bosses out there who will try to stamp on your dreams. If you want to go freelance, no one has any right to tell you that you can’t do it. But you might want to check your contract for any non-compete clauses that they may use against you.
If your freelance work is going to directly compete with or otherwise disturb your day job then of course your employer is right to be concerned. If you’re worried about this, you could discuss it with them or think of some alternative way you can go about this whole freelancing thing.
This is the tough part. If you’re working full-time, how the hell do you set up a business on the side? Unfortunately I don’t have an easy answer to this. If you can cut down your hours then great, if not then you’re going to have to get creative and highly disciplined.
If you want this, you have to really want it. That means using your free time that you’d rather spend down the pub or sitting in front of the TV. Sacrifices have to be made because building a business is hard work.
One tip I have for you is to look out for dead time. It feels like we have no time to do anything but we all have the same amount of hours in the day. Sure, it’s harder for some. I’m looking at you freelancing parents. I have no idea how you do this with kids. My hat goes off to you.
Anyway, by dead time I mean all those tiny pockets of time that you use up procrastinating or waiting for something. If you’re commuting, can you use this time to organise your week’s work or plan out your next blog post? On lunch time in work can you research potential clients? We all have little pockets of dead time during the day that we otherwise waste. Try to think of all the little tasks you need to do in a day to make this freelance venture work. Can you replace your dead time with pockets of freelance time?
Besides dead time, you’re going to have to commit to working before and after work and at the weekends. Currently I use mornings (I wake at 6am and get two hours worth of freelance/writing time). I’m also lucky to have an hour for lunch to write blog posts. If you know you won’t be able to do much after work, try to wake up earlier. If you’re better working at night, go to bed a bit later – experiment and find what works for you.
Try to have a strict working schedule to ensure you’re getting the most out of the hours in the day and so you can quickly shift your mind into work mode. Plan what you’re going to do for the week ahead on Monday morning or Sunday evening. Try to get as detailed as possible – think about when and how.
If you don’t plan your hours and stick to them, you’ll quickly start to let things slip. Your posts or tweets will become more infrequent, the work will dry up. You cannot let that happen if you’re serious about this. Also, make sure the people you live with know when you’re working and not to disturb you.
Use apps to get organised. There are plenty of time management apps, to-do lists, calendars to choose from to help you get organised and manage your time effectively.
I’m all for time efficiency and using whatever time you can for something productive. But we’re only human. We need breaks, peace and quiet and time away from glaring screens. Ensure that you are scheduling breaks in wherever you can too. You’ll work more effectively if you’re not exhausted and you won’t drive yourself insane.
Apologies for those who dislike swearing but when it comes to tax and National Insurance, it’s warranted. I’ve definitely become more aware of these things because of the amount of accountancy-based content I write. You can’t afford to get this part wrong – you really can’t
Things you need to do if you plan on selling your services:
- Register as self-employed with HMRC (unless you are expected to earn under £1,000 for the year)
- Set aside around 20% of your earnings for income tax
- Set aside 10% for NI – this depends on how much you earn so check with gov.co.uk
- Track all your expenses so you don’t have to pay as much for the previous two
- Do your self-assessment, stating all the earnings you get from your job and from your side business.
Bonus – hire an accountant! They will explain all this to you in more detail and help you out when your mind starts to die a slow and natural death at the thought of working out your taxes.
If you’re unsure about anything, research the hell out of it. Don’t make mistakes here and have HMRC chasing you.
Do you have any other advice for how to manage freelancing on the side? If you haven’t taken the leap yet, what’s the main thing holding you back? Let me know in the comments!