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How to Stand in Two Places at Once: Freelancing While Working Full Time

I live two lives. Well, kind of. I hold down a full-time job as well as run a successful business of my own on the side.

There is one common theme that has led me on my professional journey. It’s something I learned around the age of twenty, but anyone can learn it at any time in their life, and it’s never too late!

And that is passion.

Passion has the power to drive you in any direction you want to go, and it has a way of making the things in life that seem hard not that big of a deal. I picked up my first camera senior year of high school because I thought it would be fun. It was two years later I found myself wondering what I wanted to do with the rest of my life when I realized that I never put that camera down. So at the age of twenty I found my passion, I decided I wanted to be a photographer. From that day forward, I knew I was going to find a way to make my living behind a camera. (Is it so crazy to think you can get paid to do what you love?) I changed my major to photography and that’s how it all started.

The story is not that easy though, it’s much easier to make a choice like this when you’re still in college and you don’t have all the responsibilities that come with the real world. I graduated two years later with a degree in Fine Arts Photography. I used my education and portfolio to land a staff photo position at Lockheed Martin.

I have spent the last nine years working in a very challenging and high pressure environment where, on any given day, I’m surrounded by the smartest people in the world who are in charge of designing, building, and flying spacecraft that literally find water on Mars and send us information and images from far off worlds.

As exciting as this all is, I found myself with a void. I needed more. I needed a different kind of challenge. I decided to start my own company as a freelance photographer so that I could fill that void. It’s now been seven years, and I have learned a lot along the way!

Five Tips to Manage Your Time

Let’s talk about time. People often think, “oh I would never have time to do anything like start a side business, let alone turn that business into a full-time career.” This is where passion comes in. If you are truly passionate about starting your own business and taking control of your life, then you find time.

When I started my company, I was regularly working more than forty hours a week, including traveling all over the country, plus being busy doing things a typical mid-twenty-year-old does. Everyone has time they can steal from one thing or another to start putting the pieces together to get your business off the ground. Be prepared to give up a little sleep and some of your social life, including your weekends.

  • Find the time for freelancing. I find time wherever I can to get freelance work done. I do everything from returning emails on my lunch breaks, planning shoots and meetings on nights and weekends, sleeping a few less hours some nights, and even taking vacation time from the day job to do freelance projects.
  • Make time for yourself, too. For me to keep my sanity I have to make time for the rest of life as well, I still meet friends for happy hour and other social activities. I also make time to workout three to four nights a week for about two hours. In addition I’m slowly remodeling my house, and, last but not least, I always make time for my amazing girlfriend.
  • Keep track of your time spent. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a complicated time management app. Just keep it simple. I’d say one of the biggest tools I use to keep track of everything is my iPhone, it’s really the only way I can stay on top of it all. I use many different apps for things like billing and client review, but the two apps I use the most are the resident mail and calendar apps.
  • Make yourself an awesome website. My website is the backbone of my freelance photography business. It’s how I gain most of my new clients, and it’s how they know that I’m good at what I do. In the long run, my website saves me a lot of time because it keeps me from having to repeat myself and it does some of the work of finding new clients.
  • Make business cards, and always carry them with you! If your time is limited because of a full-time job then you had better be prepared to hand a business card to anyone at anytime, even if you’re on your lunch break. There are many great places on the web that can help with business cards. I used overnightprints.com for my last two rounds of cards and, although they don’t offer the fanciest of options, I have never handed a card to someone that wasn’t impressed.

Freelancing while working a full-time job may seem like a lot, but once you get started it’s really not bad at all. It’s all about managing your time and having the passion and determination to succeed. I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going, I wouldn’t trade my double-life for anything!

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