TL;DR: It’s all about balancing the workload, taking risks, and only saying yes when you can overdeliver. You can work a side hustle while employed full-time!

Freelancers have been around for decades. They often worked with agencies to help with increased workloads as they continued to add clients to their business portfolio. But the side gig economy only recently took off among the masses, in large part, because of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic put nearly 21 million Americans out of work, many people turned their hobbies into paying side gigs on platforms like Etsy and Upwork. Others marketed their skills to agencies and small businesses or took on contract roles with corporate America.

Beyond that, drivers on popular on-demand apps like DoorDash and Lyft earned incomes delivering food or playing taxi driver. Not your traditional side gig, but certainly a feasible way to make some money.

But now that we know what it’s like to freelance, we don’t want to stop. While some freelancers desire full-time employment, others seek a balance between a full-time job and a side gig. I am the latter.

So how are those working full-time able to take on additional work? Let’s find out!

Balance, balance, balance

We hear about work-life balance all the time, but this not-so-novel concept gets harder and harder to manage when you throw a side hustle into the mix.

And if you’re an office worker, whew, good luck! But that’s not to say that it can’t be done. After all, I—along with thousands of others—have been doing it for years now. Here’s how we balance everything:

1. We only do work that makes us happy or inspires us

If you’re doing work solely to make money, you’ll burn out quickly. Instead, we power through long nights and weekend work with our passion (okay, and Starbucks), not the money that will be soon coming our way.

I’m so passionate about writing that I write almost every day after work, either for fun or for a client. And honestly, writing for pleasure is my favorite. It’s my passion that happens to make me money in my full-time job and with my side hustle.

2. We set boundaries and stick to them

I’m fortunate to work from home, so I save at least two hours a day by not commuting. I also intentionally start early so I can finish my day before five. I set strict working hours between 7:00 am and 4:30 pm when I only work my full-time job. I dedicate an hour or two after that to relaxing, getting chores done, working out, and eating dinner.

Once I have had time to decompress, I settle into my couch, flip open my laptop, and write. I never work past 11:00 pm. Ever. I stick to these boundaries. I get everything I need to get done at work, have me-time, finish freelance projects, and have time for my passion.

3. We limit weekend work

Weekends are for relaxation and fun. As much as I love to write—and trust me, it’s quite a lot—I can’t be at my best without rest, family time, and time for other hobbies. So, if I can’t finish my work during the week, I will spend only a day on the weekend completing everything. It’s rare because I prioritize client projects throughout the week over the pieces I write for myself.

4. We say “no”

It’s easy to say yes to every freelance project that comes our way, but there’s so much power in saying no. Say no when saying yes means you would put out sub-par work. You have a reputation to protect. Say no when it will jeopardize your peace and mental well-being. No amount of money is worth being miserable, exhausted, and mentally unwell. Say no when the project doesn’t excite you.

Take the big risks

It took me a long time to have the confidence to seek out clients or even accept jobs from clients who seemed too big and successful to consider someone like me. I never felt worthy of the big names until a well-known CPG brand asked me to do a project with them. And then I got a full-time job with a big player in the tech world, and it finally started sinking in: I can do this.

But none of my successes in the freelance world or with corporate America would have been possible had I not taken risks. I applied for roles and gigs for which I wasn’t fully qualified. I put in project bids for thousands of dollars when others submitted proposals for mere hundreds. 

I projected confidence about my work when I was unsure, and most recently, I launched a newsletter, knowing full well that it may be an utter failure.

Over-deliver, always

As I alluded to earlier, one of the worst things you can do is take on projects that will compromise the quality of your work. You want to over-deliver at your full-time job and with your side projects, but it can be challenging to do both.

We all have those overly busy weeks where we can’t catch up. That’s okay. But recognize that most of your energy will go toward your full-time job that week and that taking on anything extra would likely result in low-quality work. You want a reputation for quality

On the flip side, if you know you can take on some work and crank out remarkable work, do it! Just be sure to deliver more than you promise and say no when you can’t.

It is possible to go full time and freelance, but it takes a lot of work outside the actual projects. Put yourself first by setting boundaries you can easily stick to, saying no when you can’t deliver your best, and doing projects in and out of the “office” that inspire you. You’ve got this!