This September, I got my first full-time job in media. It pays enough after taxes for me to pay my rent, basic expenses, and to save up a little money. I have paid time off and full benefits, which I have never had before in my entire life.
The Monday that I started my new job at Bank Innovation, I took the subway from my apartment to the office in Midtown Manhattan and arrived at around 9:20 a.m. and got straight to work. But before that, I woke up at the crack of dawn to work out, eat breakfast, and also get some freelance admin work out of the way. Despite working a full-time gig that can sometimes be a little stressful (varies day to day), I still somehow carve out time to freelance.
It’s not easy to be up early or use my rare break time to email sources or work on outlining a draft. It’s hard to work all day and then wake up and early the next day to work on edits and to pitch other ideas. But I can’t not freelance. I may be doing less extra work since I have to prioritize my full-time job and the amazing opportunities I have there. However, I can’t imagine not working on the side.
I don’t trust having one stream of income.
If there is anything that scared me about being in the media world, it’s that income can disappear at any time. Thousands of journalists were laid of this year and several publications shutdown, some of which I was in the process of pitching or had written for. It sucked. I was just an intern when that was going on and I wondered if I’d ever stand a chance at getting hired. If it weren’t for trade media, I think I’d still be freelancing.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of freelancers who make a good living as freelancers. Some even make six figures. But I’m not one of those writers, I’m working towards that goal, but that doesn’t happen overnight. Until I can get to where I am pitching or receiving a lot of work that pays my bills on a regular basis, I would rather have a full-time job and all of the protections that come with it.
How to (kind of) Balance Work and Freelance:
Get organized — This part is really hard for me. I’m not a naturally organized person. I get scatterbrained easily, and I have a hard time choosing what system would work best for me.
But I learned that I need a small barebones system — it’s better than having no system at all.
I try to make folders in Google Drive or on my laptop with all of my drafts for one project in them. It’s important to have as many of your materials as possible in one place.
Some freelancers get planners, some freelancers get a huge calendar and put it up on the wall, and other rely solely on Google Calendar. There is no one right way that works for everyone, the trick is to find something that you know will work for you in the long run. I rely a lot on Google and my email and also putting post its over my work space in my room. It holds me accountable to things I have due, and it doesn’t feel like I’ve added an extra step of work.
Take on work you actually like — In the last few years of me freelancing, I’ve definitely taken on tasks that I’ve HATED in order to pay my bills. Now, I get to pitch and work on things that mean a lot to me. I also get to charge higher rates for my work because I don’t just accept the first rate that I’m offered. I’m not exactly crazy enthusiastic about every single thing I work with on the side, but I’m currently able to avoid assignments that used to make me miserable. I can also avoid lower paying gigs that I don’t enjoy because I have a steady paycheck coming in for now.
Having a full-time job, especially one in media isn’t easy, especially before big projects or events. So if you take on extra work, don’t hate it. Make sure it’s something strategic that you enjoy and that will actually benefit your career. I can focus on topics that I really care about now, and also take my time when pitching my ideas to editors.
Get ready for an interesting learning curve — I thought I was going to be writing articles in my sleep, but the demands of my full-time job do make me feel tired. It’s different from when I was an intern and actually had a little bit of downtime throughout the work day where I could apply for jobs and freelance and take outside calls for articles. There is no downtime at my job. I don’t really get an official break like I used to at my internship at the start of this year.
I’ve had to learn how to officially shut down my freelancing brain throughout the day.
I’ve never had to segment that before, but it’s necessary to concentrate while I’m writing fintech stories at work. I had to learn to plan out my freelancing while prioritizing my full-time job. My freelancing lives before and after work, but from 9 to 5:30 p.m. all of my energy goes to Bank Innovation. It’s easier to do both when they’re compartmentalized in a way that lets me concentrate on the task at hand. I didn’t know how to do that before I started this job, but it was a necessary skill to learn.
If you’re also a post grad who wants to take on an extra stream of income while working full-time, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Doing media isn’t going to make me rich, but working on projects that I love, even if it’s just part-time, means a lot to me. So if you’re in a similar position, really think about what both the money and the energy spent means to you and how it will improve your life and goals in the long run.
Be strategic, work hard, but make sure you’re enthusiastic about what you do. It makes the extra work that much worth it.