Students That Freelance

Tips on How to Balance School, Freelancing and a Part-Time Job

Day to Day, Time Management
by: Amber Leigh Turner
While few and far between, there are student freelancers that are not only going to school and freelancing, but also have an additional job on top of that. Be it working on campus, volunteering, or employed at a retail establishment nearby, some student freelancers have extremely busy schedules with trying to balance three major activities in their life. For those freelancers, it is extremely tough to pull off the balancing act with all of these things. How can it be done?

I was one of these freelancers before, and I can tell you first hand it was tough. I not only went to school full-time, I commuted three hours round trip two to three times a week for school (I created my schedule so all of my classes were on Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday), I had a part-time job that was a 45 minute commute from where I lived that I went to on days I didn’t go to school, and on top of all of that madness I was also freelancing as well. Talk about busy.

Although for me this only lasted a year before I finally decided that freelancing and owning/running my own business was what I wanted to do, it was a very rough time trying to keep everything balanced. I am sure my situation then is like many student freelancer’s lives now. This is probably because while many student freelancers have a job to help pay the bills, they probably became highly interested in freelancing and started getting client projects without wanting to lose the incomes of their jobs.

Inevitably, piling on more and more to your schedule could ultimately lead to disaster: very little sleep, bad grades, not enough free time or down time, and potentially start messing up relationships with your family and friends. Not good. So with these types of student freelancers being extremely busy, what can they do to help restore and keep a healthy balance of all in their lives?

Know Your Limit

I put the most difficult tip first for one reason: it is vital. For most student freelancers (myself included), knowing your limit comes way after you have crossed your limit unfortunately. However, crossing your limit on just how much you can actually do can lead to dangerous things, for instance, not getting enough sleep for several nights in a row then get behind the wheel and drive long distances. Another? Not taking care of yourself by eating very bad foods, not drinking enough water, and not exercising, all of which can lead to malnutrition and dehydration–events that could put you in the hospital.

Don’t let those things happen to you! Learn how much you can actually take on before you take them on. One way to find this out is simply take a few moments and analyze your current situation. Ask yourself: are you constantly saying “I’m too busy to do that,” is your grades starting to slip in some or all of your classes, am I getting enough sleep during the week? If you are answering yes to a couple of those questions, then you are probably extremely close to your limit on how much you can handle, and should probably start refocusing on certain things, be it working less hours at your job, turning down uninteresting freelance projects, or start dedicating more time to studying.

While no two student freelancer’s situations are exactly the same, the advice still holds true: evaluate how you currently feel and what you are currently doing. If you feel you can’t possibly take on anything else, not even a group project, paper, additional hours at work, or another freelance project, then you have discovered your limit.

Also it is important to note, by no means am I advocating student freelancers to jam pack their schedules to reach this limit. Everyone on this planet who does anything should have some down time and time to spend with friends and family. If you do have this time and you can still accomplish everything in your life, then congrats! You have achieved some form of balance in your life. If you are feeling stressed and so busy and you feel like you are close to your limit, then now is the time to pull back and start getting everything back in balance.

Above All, Your Health Is The Most Important Thing

I’m sure you see this as a running topic throughout this site, but keeping your health in check is extremely important as well. You should strive to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, if not at least every other night, in order to make sure you are alert for the next days’ tasks. Also, eating properly will help you feel a lot better too as you start tackling client projects and school projects.

While it is easy for me to sit here and ramble about keeping and staying healthy, you should be listening to what your body is telling you. If you are gaining weight or losing weight abnormally (and without a clear reason), there is a good chance that you are not taking care of yourself. It is difficult to eat healthy and find time to exercise when your to do list is calling your name, but taking a few extra minutes to get something healthy to eat to go, or taking 20 minutes out of your day to find a treadmill at your school’s fitness center while you do some reading for school can add up in big ways. Above all, take the time to treat your body well and it will help serve you while you are super super busy.

Plan Ahead and Know When To Quit Your Job

For those of you working at a job in which you plan to (or want to) move on from later, work up some type of plan on when to quit that job and focus on freelancing (if that is what you want to do). This time came for me when I started getting steady projects and discovered that I was making four times my hourly rate in freelance projects, could do them whenever I wanted, and was actually working less hours!

Simple math can help you when it comes to figuring out when the time is right. Are you making enough money freelancing to pay for your needed bills and expenses? Are you finding that you are spending less time working on freelance work but making more than you do at your part-time job? Can the time you spend commuting to your job used to actively seek new freelancing projects? A combination of all of these situations can help you figure out when you have reached the time where you are comfortable leaving the part-time job and have freelancing pay for your expenses. Just don’t forget to build up some kind of emergency fund in case your freelance starts to slow down!

Take on Only Projects You Are Excited, Comfortable, and Pay Well

Last but not least, one thing to help keep your life in balance is to take on only the freelance projects that you are excited about, pay well, and those you feel you can complete confidently and with great quality. Why? Because these projects will more than likely bring you some level of enjoyment, which not only helps relieve your stress level, but also helps your freelancing as you will be more eager to show this work in your portfolio and you have made a client extremely happy in the process!

So in what other ways do you help keep your school, freelancing, and part-time job in balance with your life?