Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 33: Share some expertise

All of us here at Lent!Blog! have relatively different backgrounds. Share some advice/expertise that you think others could benefit from.

Last year I took on a six month freelance project, and I also coach on the side for five months out of the year. So far, I've found that I'm pretty good at balancing my regular career and life with my tack-on money makers. Here's what I've learned that other people might benefit from if they're thinking of freelancing or taking on a second job.

1. Establish ground rules for Job 2.0
My main rule is that Job 2.0 can't detract from Job 1.0. I can’t attend daytime meetings, can't look at project docs after 9 and before 5. (With dance, I leave work early a few times a week, but I give my boss a schedule of these days a week in advance.)

2. Follow up regularly
Unlike your 9-5, a freelance client isn’t able to walk by and see what you’re working on. If you have an impending freelance deadline, check in frequently. You’ll know you have the most up-to-date info on the project, and your client won’t be worried that you are leaving everything to the last minute.

3. Schedule meet-ups in the flesh, if possible
Again, water cooler chats are out of the question. By scheduling a weekly meeting you can be certain to go over your impending schedule live, negotiate any prior commitments that might get in the way (which in emails can seem demanding but in person are easier to get across), and get to the details that would take seven bullet points and serious color coding in email. Plus for god’s sake people, face to face interaction won’t kill you.

4. Take notes
From phone meetings, live meetings, and in my case, notes on events gone bad/good. If you’re working full-time plus, you’re going to be exhausted. Your brain won’t remember the little details, and you’ll be more likely to drop the ball on something. Notes ensure that you can keep up to speed on everything without feeling like you’re on overload.

5. Don’t overschedule the rest of your life
As much as possible, keep your schedule flexible. Usually my friends/family/boyfriend understand that I can’t participate in hastily planned activities, but I hate missing the spontaneous fun. My advice is to map out big things you want to attend, and stick to them. If you make sure to schedule in cabin weekends, date nights and family dinners, you’ll be less upset when you have to miss last minute happy hours or movie nights.

6. Wake up early
During the dance season, I'm often gone from 8 AM until 10 PM, so there is no room for poor planning. When I leave for work in the morning I’m stocked with the day’s food supply, a multitude of layering options, practice plans and handouts, workout gear... and a cup of coffee I had enough time to brew, ensuring that I feel good about the day ahead.

7. Double your coffee budget
Well, not really. But consider the cost of taking on the project - for me, both dance and freelancing meant a lot of gas money, as well as on-the-fly meals and extra coffee purchases. If you’re being paid an hourly rate, ask yourself how much of that will be used to cover your own sanity and driving costs. If it’s significant, reevaluate the value of the project. And always work on ways to cut down your own bottom line- accept rides to carpool with team members if you have them, keep a stash of Clif bars handy for when you have to miss a meal, make friends with the evening baristas in the hopes of scoring an upgraded drink.

8. Know that it’s all going to come crashing down
I’m not Type A, so I can handle the inevitable moment of crushing defeat pretty well. There are inevitable work-work conflicts, days when I forget lunch, pep rallies I have to supervise using PTO. As my very smart friend Greta (and, I learned, her good friend Ma$e) like to say, “Breathe, Stretch, Shake, Let it Go”. We’re probably not programmed to work full-time plus while balancing social lives, personal time, and acceptable hygiene standards. So when you mess up, make sure to keep it in perspective instead of assuming that your mistake is proof that your can’t pull off a second job.

Freelancing can be a responsible way to explore a potential new career path, or to pursue a passion that you can’t afford to work on full-time. But truth be told, it isn’t for everyone. If you’re like me and organized chaos is appealing and even a little thrilling, then do it! You won’t regret the challenge, even if you decide that you’re better at working during standard business hours.


Greta said...

if i had a dollar for every time i tell myself to "breathe, stretch, shake, let it go" i'd probably be pretty wealthy by now.

that Ma$e really knows how to speak to my heart.

Jamie said...

Oooh I like this prompt! Bookmarking this for someday when I do contract law... Because I will be that baller that people will want to hire me on the side :P

Martha said...

I know I'm commenting way late on this but ... your tips are terrific Gina Marie.

Martha said...

PS I thought you weren't blogging anymore. What happened?