The question “What do you do for work?” always takes a full three to five minute explanation when people ask me. Not only do I manage social media and the blog for my full-time job at a local real estate company, but outside of work I do freelance social media, photography, and try to blog regularly for MissMadds.com (as well as write then occasional story for Austin Woman Magazine.) Over the years I’ve gotten a few raised eyebrows as to how (or why) I do so much, but truthfully I just enjoy being busy and helping others out using my knowledge and skills.
I’m ironically writing this blog post using the voice typing tool on my phone on the way to a photo shoot for one of my coworkers, and I think that about sums up my experience with freelance work and the art of the side hustle. Mastering the side hustle is easy once you have a system that works and you can take on quite a bit of outside work without feeling too terribly overwhelmed, but getting there requires some planning and organization.
If you’re trying to take on work outside of your full-time job or build up a freelance client base, whether it’s simply because you need some extra income or are simply interested in taking on creative projects, there are a few things you can do to keep organized without losing your mind.
Only take on freelance work if you’re passionate about it. If you aren't passionate about what you’re doing outside of your full-time job, you won’t do it. Period. If you aren’t feeling inspired by your side hustle, it will make it feel more like a burden and take you longer to accomplish the work. You don’t have to take on every little thing! If your long-term plan is to start your own business, brand, or full-time blog, you may have to take on extra clients and brand collaborations you’re not thrilled about just to make enough money to take the hustle full-time. If you are just doing side projects for a little extra cash or because you want to be taking on something outside of work, however, don’t feel like you have to say yes to everything.
Compartmentalize your full-time work and side projects. It IS possible to do it all, but during the day you need to stay focused on your full-time job and compartmentalize the side projects for your evening hours. The last thing you want to do is be scatterbrained about your full-time work! If you have to take a lunch break to go shoot some photos or respond to emails, that is totally okay! But you have to learn how to manage your time outside of full-time work in order to complete everything that you need to for freelance clients.
Become BFFs with your iCal or Google Calendar. I have a saying: If it’s not in my calendar, it’s not happening. I add every little thing to my iCal — even if it’s just a 30 minute dinner with my sister, which I should remember without a calendar event — because I can be so forgetful with meetings and correspondence! This is one of the most important things you need to do if you’re trying to organize your side hustle and be sure that you never miss an appointment, phone call, or event. It can be hard to keep track of so many different moving parts and having a calendar that can be accessed on your phone, tablet, computer, and by clients is a must.
Create a separate freelance email account. My main email address is reserved for communication with my family, newsletters I subscribe to, and all of my online shopping order confirmations. By having a completely separate email for all of my side hustles and brand collaborations, it’s easier to keep track of deadlines and important info. If one of your side hustles grows and takes the form of an actual business that you are incorporating or marketing online, be sure your email reflects your branding and is focused on correspondence with those clients! Your business or freelance email should be easily accessible and something you check regularly for upcoming projects and collaborations. If you have a slew of side hustles, try making folders for each of those different projects to stay more organized.
Invest in a bag or tote that fits everything you need for running around town. For me, I have tons of photo equipment that I have to bring with me every time I have a shoot. I found it easiest to pack my photo backpack the night before shooting so that I’m not scrambling to get everything ready before I leave for my full-time job in the morning. If you have everything for your 5-9 already packed and ready to go in a single bag, it will take away the stress from your morning and help you make sure you don’t miss anything while you’re running out the door.
Carry a notepad with you wherever you go. I love my Erin Condren notebookbecause it’s small enough to keep in my bag without taking up too much room and I can jot down any ideas, client requests, and correspondence I need to remember throughout the day. It’s really helpful because I know that as long as I have it I will NEVER forget to write down something important! Another helpful notepad I own is the Knock Knock To-Do Note Pad. It has sections where you can write out things you need to accomplish, correspondence, errands, and any other notes you may have. It has saved my life more than once!
Create a detailed spreadsheet or purchase software to keep track of finances. I keep an extremely detailed finance sheet on Google Drive so I can access it on any device and also share it with my dad, who helps me with a lot of my finances outside of work. I like to keep track of not only how much money I’m making but also the payment method and date paid, how many miles I drove for the job, how much I paid for parking, and the invoice number. The hardest part about freelance work and collaboration is that lay can get backed up for a month or so after the project is completed, so it’s important to stay on top of all of your finances so you can ensure that you are getting paid in full and in a timely manner.
Queens of the Side Hustle: Their Best Advice
Channing Baker, The Chan Chic
Take on a side hustle that you’re extremely passionate about. It can be easy to get discouraged with all the competition that’s out there but if you’re doing something you’re passionate about it’s easier to give 110%. | Follow Channing for style tips!
Bella Tommey, Bella Grace Wellness
Every morning, after gratitude and journaling (to get me in the perfect work headspace), I write a physical list of all that I want to achieve that day, rated from highest to lowest priority. At the end of the page, I’ll write myself a little note or quote as to WHY I want to accomplish these things and how it will impact others. | Follow Bella for wellness tips!
Tess Cagle, Tess Cagle Photography
I think it’s really important to be engaging with other people in your field because they will keep you sane and feeling validated. That’s why I started Ladies Music Club—because women should be sharing tips and experiences with each other to build one another up. It can feel like creative industries are competitive, but they really shouldn’t be if you’ve developed your own unique skill set that you can offer to others. | Follow Tess for photo inspo!
Amanda Pinney, Austin Woman Contributor
The most important thing to remember when taking on a side hustle job is that you’re doing it because it’s something you enjoy. I’ve always seen my freelance work as a break from my full-time job. It serves as a creative outlet for me, and it’s a reminder that I am a writer and always will be. Having that outlet and break from my full-time work keeps me motivated and always pushes me to stick with it. | Follow Amanda for Austin cuteness!
Kristina Jin, Kristina Jin Photography
Starting freelance work can be a little bit scary because you make your own rules. The best thing to do is to find out what organizational tools work best for you! Whether it is Excel, Google Calendars, or pen and paper, having the right tools to keep you organized can make your life ten times easier! | Follow Kristina for photo inspo!
Side hustles are fun ways to express your creativity and keep your various skill sets sharp while working with people and networking all the same. I love being able to blog and do photography outside of work, and nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by friends who are following their passions outside of work or freelancing doing what they enjoy!