How to Start Freelancing While You Work Full-Time

Many people with a full-time job have some marketable skills that are not fully utilized but suitable for freelancing. For example, Martha, a finance executive, possesses good English editing and copy editing skills, thanks to her attention to detail and strong language aptitude. Dylan, who is a teacher, is passionate about graphic design and can churn out an impressive web banner within minutes using multiple graphic software.

When put to good use, our valuable skills help increase our income, connect us to a closer network and ultimately deliver extreme personal satisfaction. The money may not be enough to make us financially free, but if we persevere, chances are one opportunity will lead to another, and before we know it a new wealth of options come knocking on our life’s door.

Start Freelancing in Five Steps

We may have some really useful commercial skills, but fear, uncertainty, reluctance and simply our perennial habit of delaying things always get in the way. Why the hesitation? Perhaps the following five simple steps will help you to do what you want to: Start freelancing while still engaged in a full-time job.

1. Outline your goals.

The word ‘freelance’ should never trick you into believing that this is not a serious business. Always bear in mind that great achievements begin with small steps. First, outline some of the goals you want to achieve by going freelance. These goals include financial, personal, business relationship and other relevant aspects of your life.

You have heard it; goals should be SMART, i.e., specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For instance, Stuart aims to generate a consistent 20% surplus of income through his freelance fitness coaching after eight months. Zack anticipates accumulating a total of 100 leads and converting a minimum of 10% of them into clients within a half-year span for his business writing projects.

What about your freelancing goals? Get that pen and note pad. Start writing.

2. Allocate your time. Add discipline and consistency.

Working in a full-time job means that time is a major constraint. Finding the time to freelance can be a real pain and requires a delicate balancing act. Nevertheless, many people who have been extraordinarily successful in their chosen field have proven that this balance can indeed be attained.

Best-selling novelist, John Grisham, was already an excessively busy lawyer when he wrote his first novel, A Time to Kill. To accomplish his goal, he woke up one hour earlier every day to write his novel before dashing off to work. That 1 hour may not seem too significant, but when discipline and consistency are added to it, some magic will eventually take place. The combination of these elements has proven to be potent; to date, more than 250 million copies of Grisham’s novels have been sold worldwide.

3. Small marketing to big.

No business runs without customers. And customers don’t come without the right marketing and promotion. As a start, tell your closest friends what you have begun freelancing and that you are available for hire in case they need your services. Get the word-of-mouth going. Be slightly generous; as a newcomer, customers will not expect you to charge premium fees for your work. But as your business grows and your confidence increases, always be poised to restructure your pricing.

Next, position your business for a new level of marketing tactics. Rope in the next generation of business platforms that include websites, blogging, emails, social media marketing and so on. Break down that geographical barrier and reach out to global customers from the U.S., Europe, China, Australia etc., no matter where you are based.

4. Monitor your work performance.

As your freelance business grows, money will start pouring in. But this will not come without its so-called price. More business means more time and more commitment. The time and attention to your full-time job may be jeopardized if the level of freelance work crosses the boundary of your own capability. Be warned.

It is imperative therefore for you to ensure that your performance in your full-time job does not downgrade with the growth of your business. Discuss with your superior on a periodical basis to ascertain whether you are delivering what is expected of you from your employer. Where necessary, outsource some work to other parties while still exercising quality control and final delivery.

5. Is it time to quit job now?

There may come a time freelancing totally outgrows your full-time work. The business income may have doubled your monthly salary and your forecast for the next three years indicates that the freelance business is set to scale new heights. Perhaps it is time to write that resignation letter, say good bye to the day job, and jump onto the entrepreneurship bandwagon full-time.

Have you taken the plunge? Share your tips on how you started freelancing.

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Zul is the founder of SKOR Career, an Asia-based career news and development website and has been blogging since 2005.


  1. dojo on the 24th October

    I used to work as a radio DJ years ago and started my freelancing too. It was a ‘side gig’ and I just had to allocate some time for it. My move into the full time freelancing was done when I lost the radio job, but it was excellent to have worked at it for 3 years just as a ‘hobby’ and something to bring in a little revenue.

    I would advice everyone to start something on the side. You never know what happens. You can surely use the money and the experience and, who knows, one day this ‘side job’ might save your life 😉

  2. Thekla Richter on the 24th October

    I’d also recommend checking your full-time job’s policy on moonlighting (if any) as well as any non-compete agreements you may have signed, and consider giving your manager and their manager a heads-up about what you are doing. Some corporate cultures are very negative about their employees working for themselves. In most cases I don’t think this needs to stop you, but it is an issue that may need to be managed…. the more proactively the better.

  3. Peach on the 25th October

    In my personal experience, start freelancing within your network before going out and get real clients. This really helped me, in my Web Design business, to accumulate experience, portfolio and allow me to understand how freelance actually works.

    After 2 – 3 work, outside clients start pouring in.

    Don’t try to jump ship to real client if you do not have an adequate experiences/portfolio, they are unlikely to be committed to you.

  4. Swamykant on the 27th October

    I am soon going to jump onto the entrepreneurship bandwagon full-time. Nice post.

  5. HP van Duuren on the 19th November

    Thanks for your Post Zul Musa,

    Those are five great steps to start a Freelance Career, and for what your step Nr. 3 is concerned, I do think that for example Blogging is an Excellent – Platform – for it. I actually recently wrote a Post about it on my – Writer’s Lifestyle – Blog. In that post you can also find out more about how you can actually make your blog into an actual – Happy – Home Business. in a way that don’t anymore have to be (only) dependant on a ‘Trading Hours for Dollars’Treadmill. (Btw. I also (pre) sell actual Treadmills on an other Blog of mine :)) Anyway, reason enough to have a look and find out more about Blogging and doing Affiliate Marketing don’t you think? Oh, yeah…, you can also can ask your questions by writing comments on blogposts, I usually answer your questions pretty quick.

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