Balancing Act: How to Make Time for Creative Projects and Client Work

Resolved to pursue more of your own passions in 2019? If you’re a freelancing creative, you most likely have a litany of personal projects you’re itching to work on in your free time. But it can be a challenge to juggle your ideas with client deadlines and building a thriving business.

Fortunately, there are ways to carve out time for your creative aspirations outside of your freelance career. Here are five ways you can balance your own projects with client work this year.

Stagger professional work with personal projects.

Many freelancers hope to take, say, Friday afternoons or the last week of the month off to work on their passion projects. While you may have the best of intentions, the reality is that you can get mired in crazy work periods when you’re a solopreneur. Whether you design logos, craft website content, or mix and master audio, oftentimes you’re so surrounded by deadlines and projects that it feels nearly impossible to carve out a bit of time for your own stuff. To fit in your creative projects among your professional obligations, switch between the two. For instance, for every four hours you work on stuff from clients, commit to spending a few hours on your own work. Or after you’ve completed a huge project, allow yourself a bit of time to focus on recording your own music, working on your novel, or formatting that ebook.

Treat your projects like clients.

Truth: Money is a great motivator. To stop treating your personal projects like an ugly, neglected stepchild, throw money into the equation. One thing you can try is to “pay yourself” for every hour you spend on your creative projects, or when you hit certain milestones. To up the seriousness, track your time, and see how much you’re actually investing.

Let’s say you’re recording your next album. Each 30 minutes you spend writing, recording, or mixing, sock away $10 into a designated savings account. That money could be funneled back into the creation of your masterpiece. Or if you’re working on your first ebook for your fantasy novel series, for each milestone you hit, put away $50 toward the editing, layout, and formatting of the first installment. Heck, you might even send yourself an invoice using Fiverr’s AND CO.

Showcase your potential through personal endeavors.

The projects you work on in your own time can not only provide personal fulfillment, but they can also help showcase your potential. For instance, say you’ve established credibility and experience as an app designer, but in recent months you’ve been upping your skills in creating chatbots. Creating a chatbot that helps answer questions on how chatbots work (meta, we know), demonstrates a brand-new skill set that expands what you can offer to new clients. Or if you’ve long been a content writer, but want to expand your content-creation skills into video or podcasting, roll up your sleeves and get knee-deep in learning how to create and produce content in a visual form. You can now position yourself as a multimedia content creator.

Make the most of client work to bolster skills.

Not only can your passion projects inspire you professionally, but it can also go the other way around. The beauty of doing something creative for a living is that you can use “client time” to bolster skills you can apply to your own work.

Think of work you do for others and work you do for yourself as a Venn diagram of sorts. Look for the overlap between different skill sets. So let’s say you do basic design. You can also land projects that require illustration, which is something you’d do for fun anyway. By folding in what you want to do with what you’re already doing, you can kill two birds with one stone.

Date your project.

Loosely based on 40 Days of Dating, a social experiment by graphic designer friends Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman, commit to a single project as if you’re dating it. Spend 30 minutes a day focused on it, go on a couple of weekly “dates,” journal about what you’re working on and what progress you hope to make, and designate a weekend during the 40-day to immerse yourself in that ebook, novel, or video you want to churn out.

It’s certainly not easy to juggle client work and personal endeavors. But by getting clever and keeping it top of mind, you can make headway on work that matters most to you while growing your freelancing business.

Are you trying to balance between your own creative projects and client work? What’s your top tip for making it work? Tell us in the comments below.

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