Freelancing is popular with students because it's extremely flexible. However, non-freelancers often misunderstand what it means to have a lot of flexibility.
Any freelancer that's worked with more than one client will tell you that there's a lot more to their work than actively doing whatever they specialize in while being paid for it.
There are always people to email, invoices to send, phone calls to make, social media promotional material to post, content to generate, etc, etc, etc. If you add the responsibilities of being a student into the mix you're taking on a lot at once.
The good news is that juggling both the responsibilities of being a freelancer and the responsibilities of being a student is 100% possible. Everyone from Alicia Rades to Aja Frost started their freelance business while they were still in school.
And guess what? I hit year two of my freelance business right around the time that I decided to go back to school and work towards an Editing Certification part-time at a local community college.
Today I'm going to show you what I've learned so far about juggling both school and the everyday responsibilities of a freelance business.
1) Plan out your week in advance
When I first found myself in a position where I was juggling part-time studies and a freelance business for the first time it was extremely overwhelming.
Not only did I have a business to run, and clients to please, but I also had a demanding community college program to keep up with. It was a new and unfamiliar feeling for me, so I made a lot of mistakes.
Then, everything changed in my second term when I got a lot more used to my program and learned to divide the time that I dedicated to both parts of my life in half.
But what do I mean by that? On a weekly basis, divide everything up into batches, from the marketing part of freelancing to client projects, to school assignments, studying for exams, etc.
Carefully schedule everything from when you'll do school projects and study for exams, to when you'll write a blog post, email clients, and do projects for your clients. And whatever you do, always stick to your schedule!
2) Communicate Openly With Professors, Clients, Etc.
Every time you start a new course, with a new instructor, or take on a new client be extremely open about the fact that you're a freelancer that's also working towards a degree or certificate.
Both responsibilities are extremely demanding and often people can surprise you when they know that you're trying hard, but taking on a lot.
Here's my suggestion on how to mention to instructors and clients that you're both a freelancer and a student:
"Looking forward to working with you (or taking your class) just wanted to take a second to also mention that I'm also taking (insert course name or names here) to help my freelance business thrive and grow over the long-term."
See? Not hard at all! And you'd be amazed how understanding people can be once they know this!
3) Use Tools That Help You Save Time on Emails, Marketing, Etc.
One of my favorite parts of Twitter is that I keep learning more and more about awesome tools that are out there to help me automate everything from social media to emails, to just about everything else.
Because these tools exist, there's no longer an excuse to say that you don't have time for small but also important tasks, such as chasing people down for invoices, being active on social media, responding to marketing-focused emails, etc.
Automate whatever you can, so that you can spend less time chasing people down and signing-in to your social media accounts, and more time doing your freelance & school work.
4) Always Schedule a Catch-Up Day
You can schedule things in advance as much you want, but the problem with juggling more than one thing at once is that occasionally things won't turn out exactly how you excepted.
This is where having one day a week for catching up on things that you didn't get the chance to finish is extremely helpful. In my opinion, the best day to do this is at the end of the week. However, you can choose to schedule a catch-up day whenever you want.
If you're consistent about when you schedule a catch-up day then you'll get a lot more work done. When it's about to happen, make a list of things that you still need to work on so that you don't forget to do whatever needs to be done.
5) Avoid Procrastination
I totally get it. That's a really tough one to avoid because let's face it: it's easier to say, "I'll do it tomorrow". Don't let yourself get stuck in that mindset! Here's what you should do instead:
But how exactly can you avoid procrastination? Treat the actual deadline and the deadline that you set for yourself as two separate things.
The deadline that your clients and instructors set for you is what it is. The deadline that you set for yourself should be at least 24 to 48 hours before so that you're not tempted to put off your work until the last minute.
6) Give yourself the chance to wind-down
Occasionally there are days where I go from doing my freelance work to commuting to classes, to going to class with no breaks at all, except when I eat meals, go to the washroom or sleep.
If you're in a similar position, where you're juggling freelancing and school work, you've probably found yourself in similar circumstances. Whatever you do, don't forget to do whatever you can to wind-down both before and after class.
I find that on days where I'm going straight from focusing on a freelance project, to sitting in a classroom I do a whole lot better overall if I allow myself enough time to walk and listen to music before class, and time to do something that's not work-related shortly before bed.
7) Don't be afraid to ask for help
As I already mentioned, running a freelance business and going to school is a huge responsibility. This is exactly why not being too proud to ask for help is so important.
Ask for help with all the little things that may get a whole lot harder to do on your own when you have exams and client deadlines happening simultaneously.
But what do I mean by that?
I mean everything from asking either a friend or significant other if they can make a sandwich for you on a day when you barely have time to sit down, to asking your social media manager buddy if they know of any good social media management tools.
8) Know Your Limits
Always remember that you're the one that's in control of how much or how little work you take on. If you want to make balancing school and a freelance business a lot more manageable you need to get to know your limits.
Never take on more than you can handle, no matter what other people say to you.
If your course load is too overwhelming, take on one less course. If you're taking on more clients and projects than you can handle consider raising your rates, and taking on less work so that you can work less and make more.
9) Don't go to school without having a really good reason for it
Some, not all, freelance specialties require formal education and training. Don't go to school while freelancing unless you know exactly what you want to get out of your education and training.
Why? Because it's really hard work, and it takes a very specific kind of person to actually succeed at both at once. Before you enroll in a program think carefully about whether or not this is something that you can learn while being actively engaged in your field, or if you need further guidance and training in the subject matter.
10) Pace Yourself
The one thing that I find education and running in any race, of any distance have in common, is the fact that you have to pace yourself to get to the finish line.
In other words, if you go too fast too quickly, then you'll slow yourself down, other people will pass you, and you'll fall behind. This is especially the case with students who also have their own freelance business.
The best possible way to juggle school and freelancing, without having a nervous breakdown, is to get from Point A to Point B at your own pace, not someone else's.
Take breaks from your schoolwork in between terms if you have to. Only take a challenging course when you're ready for it. And most importantly, only take as many courses as you can handle.
This is a key ingredient, which will make your experience as worthwhile and stress-free as possible.
I hope you found these tips useful, and that you'll use them to successfully juggle both freelancing and your studies. Have more questions about freelancing while being a student? Feel free to comment below, or send me your questions via firstname.lastname@example.org.