Migrating Side Projects into your Work Schedule

By / Apr 24, 2012 / Tips
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To work as a freelance web designer requires a lot of patience and perseverance. You need to wake up every day and tackle problems one after another until you can successfully complete your projects. There is a lot of stress and turmoil which goes into this process, but also a lot of compassion and learning.

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Many freelancers are only working with clients as a transitionary career into what they love. This could be launching their own projects, or maybe even working in business or management. The problem is about how you can slowly focus more on your own ideas and less on freelancing. In this guide I would like to offer some tips for migrating your project ideas into your hectic work schedule. There is no single answer which works for everybody. You just need to stay productive and have a bit of faith that your ideas will work out in the end.

Prioritize Tasks

If you examine each project as a whole the tasks will appear overwhelming. Unfortunately we can only work so fast and this requires a keen level of attention to detail. I recommend planning out each stage of a project in advance before getting yourself caught up in the workload.

This gives you the benefit of having a simple outline which you can look over each step of the way. Internally you can adjust for how long it’ll take to complete each project and move onto the next item. Having a hierarchy of priority also means you can jump around to different areas of the project by completing the more difficult aspects first. I always find myself procrastinating on the hardest tasks, but getting them done first leaves you a calming sense of self-gratification.

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Working for Profit

Initially you have to consider which projects will net you the largest return. There are many different styles of freelancing between writing, coding, marketing, and design. Some professionals will dabble in all of these markets while others specialize in a select skill.

Whatever your system you need to stick with it! Always make sure you can finish projects where you’re getting paid before you jump the gun on your own ideas. It can be exciting to take a leap of faith and work on a spectacular new website. However these will take months or even years to build into a sustainable source of revenue.

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I find it helpful to split my day into two different segments of work. Start in the morning with all of the tasks you really don’t want to deal with. Getting those done by the afternoon leaves you the rest of the day to work on anything you please. This may turn out to be more freelance work, or maybe you choose to do nothing at all. What’s important is keeping yourself in alignment with paying your bills on time and always having enough money to spare.

Slow and Steady

As the old proverb goes, “slow and steady wins the race”. I take this to heart working on my own projects as I often feel a sense of anxiety and disposition towards my regular work. It can feel overwhelming to know you have so many startup ideas and just not enough time in the day to complete anything.

A powerful technique to get your own ideas moving forward is to focus only on a single task per day. If you can complete just one objective on your personal project(s) per day, along with your regular freelance work, you can feel good knowing the project is one step closer. It’s such an unrealistic viewpoint to assume you can you can jump back and forth between projects without the quality of work suffering.

Offer Personal Incentives

Just getting the work done isn’t often enough to keep us focused on specific tasks. You may have to go that extra step and incentivize yourself. Motivation cannot be found beside a lake or under a rock – you have to create your own motivation from within!

Seky's retro 50s breakfast diner

That being said, there are still plenty of things in the real world you can use as a mediator. We all have our own personalities and ideas for what keeps us happy. Use these ideas as motivation to push through some of the more lackluster items in your to-do list.

Examples of such incentives may include extra time out during the weekend, a dinner with friends, or even checking out that new movie you wanted to see. The list of activities will differ for everybody but the point is to give yourself a break after working a long tiring day. We have written in the past on keeping yourself motivated working freelance and I feel these tips are still just as appropriate.

Making the Transition

Ultimately the goal is to move away from freelance work and find yourself in a stable position with your own projects. These may be a few different websites, apps, or even just one really good startup idea. Whatever you’re building should be substantial enough to turn a profit and replace earnings as your primary source of income.

Making this transition is one of the most difficult actions to achieve. You need to be extra cautious about when you would leave freelance work behind. That lifestyle will always be secure enough to pay the bills, while your new project launches may come in waves of large profits followed by a few dry months.

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I suppose the most important aspect is your mentality towards the whole operation. Never give up on your ideas – especially if you truly believe they provide a value to our society. We need more visionaries like Steve Jobs to follow through with their dreams and truly change the world.

Conclusion

The roughest part of any project’s lifetime is the development phase. After you finally have a product online(or in the app store) you can slowly break attention into distinct areas of study. Freelance work offers a safety net and financial stability for CEOs and startups as they are just beginning to sprout. If you have similar ideas or suggestions for migrating from freelance work onto personal projects feel free share your thoughts with us in the post discussion area.

About the Author

Jake Rocheleau is a creative writer and UI designer. You can follow him on twitter @jakerocheleau or visit his personal website at JakeRocheleau.com.

6 Comments

  1. Design Turnpike
    April 24, 2012

    This one was right up my alley. I’ve found making lists and blocking out time segments in 15 minute increments pushes me forward. Also, working on my least favorite current projects first allows me to look forward to the afternoon. I give myself a coffee bonus if I am ahead of schedule by 3PM!

    Reply
  2. Mike DeLeon
    April 24, 2012

    I always have time set aside dedicated to freelance work. I then base what I take in off that time, and if I hit a drought I start working on some side projects. The key is don’t let side projects dominate your time at first, build up ideas and don’t set anything in stone.

    Reply
  3. Natasha McEachron
    April 29, 2012

    I tend to write out a list of tasks to complete. At times it can seem as though there aren’t enough hours in the day to complete the tasks that I need to complete let alone the tasks that I want to complete. I think I’ll try breaking down tasks into smaller parts and also planning when I’ll get things done during the day rather than just listing what needs to get done. Great advice!

    Reply
  4. Josephina McCrew
    April 30, 2012

    Prioritizing leisure activities and paid activities can sometimes be a struggle when you are not motivated! I was definitely able to gain some solid ideas about the order of which I complete tasks on my lists and getting done with the less enjoyable tasks first so it does not feel like as much of a chore when you get to the end of my list! Incentives are also always a plus!

    Reply
  5. Joseph Canar
    May 1, 2012

    Awesome Post. I tend to have my weekends planned according to my projects and do most of the planning during the weekend. This allows me to start and finish small projects in a week as most of the planning time (which is major) is finished even before the work week starts. Not exactly ideal but gets things done for me.

    Reply
  6. Matt Phillpott
    May 16, 2012

    It’s the length of time needed to complete a task that becomes my stumbling block. I always find I underestimate the time taken to complete a task. It usually becomes 2 or 3 times longer as I am undertaking it, meaning I never complete my daily task list. This is so demotivating at the end of the day when I’m behind on work. I think prioritizing tasks, keeping slow and steady and remembering I’m not superman will help! Great article!

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