Discover more from Shady Acres
Is it possible to hold a full-time job, take on freelance work, while maintaining a respectable semblance of family life?
Yes. With a little planning.
The problem that tends to creeps up can be called the “just five more minutes” problem. A programming problem will take “just a few more minutes,” until it’s been an hour and a half and whoops, didn’t see the wife tonight. Hanging out with family and friends is awesome and everyone’s having a great time until whoops, it’s 11:30 PM and you have to get to bed so you can get up tomorrow and catch the bus; no work tonight.
The flip side of this coin is trying to block off “work time”. For some, this will work; if you’re a member of this group, you can stop here. For me, though, this just doesn’t work; when you’re “in the zone” programming, you don’t want to interrupt yourself. Conversely, if you’re with family and friends, when the time rolls around to start working you’re likely to be in the middle of something, or something new may have just come up, or any of the daily unexpected events might take precedence, ruining your schedule. Some people can get by defining working hours while at home in a more rigid “Mon, Tues, Wed from 8:30 to 10 is Work Time”, but I found that each activity always leaks into the next, and it’s too easy to have the allotted timeslots merge into each other.
I’ve found that, for freelancing as a side job to work, there needs to be a perfect storm of at least three ingredients:
Know your familial limits. No matter how little time you plan on dedicating to freelance work, it will still take time, and that time will be resented if not “cleared” by all those it will affect. (For those of you who think this is obvious, good for you.)
Know your personal limits. I’m not a “rockstar programmer”. It can take me a while to put my code together. By recognizing my own limits, I can set realistic expectations, and I can make realistic time estimates.
Know your time limits. After mapping out my own schedule, I realized that at most I have about three hours available in the evening.1 After accounting for things like housework, occasional recreation (reading a book, going out), exercising, and other stuff, I figured down to an hour and a half a night. That’s not a lot of time, but if I commit any more time than that, I know ahead of time that I’ll regret it; time debt has a way of catching up to you after a while. Knowing your limits ahead of time allow you to plan accordingly when taking on new clients.
In the end, it’s all about acknowledging and respecting limits. Instead of fighting them, simply recognizing and working within them can make your “free time” much more productive.
I strongly recommend actually mapping out your evenings across the week. I guarantee that you have less “free time” than you realize. ↩︎