If you’re in your first or second job, chances are, your starting salary isn’t exactly blowing up your bank account. Rather than live on Nutella and hand-me-downs forever, maybe you’ve decided to pick up a side-hustle—or maybe you’re just thinking about it. Smart thinking, you go-getter, you.
Turns out that 43% of millennials are also freelancing, many of them burning the midnight oil in their off hours in order to make ends meet—and put more experience on their resumes.
Whether you’re trying to break into the freelance scene for the first time, or if you’re a few years into full-time work life, it’s never easy to balance a 9-to-5 with extra work. But done right, you can earn serious side cash. Want to fit it all in without suffering major burnout? Take a look at these side-hustle strategies to help you work smart and boost your earning potential.
If your paychecks matter to you (which they do), then you’ll want to think about what percentage of them are coming from where. That will help you determine whose work to prioritize.
"Personally, the full-time job came first," says Graeme Austen, founder of Cultivated Culture, a career advice website. "That's where my largest paycheck and my benefits were coming from, so I wanted to be absolutely sure everything was air tight on that front."
So, absolutely prioritize your 9-to-5, but, but if you take on freelance work, you’ve still got to deliver your A-game even if they’re not paying the bulk of your salary. In the end, every gig adds up, and every contact could be a future or long-term employer.
Austen recommends freelancing in the same industry as your full-time job because, well, let’s face it: if you’re going to be working outside of your regular job, you might as well be strengthening your skill set, right? If you’re a videographer for an agency, maybe that means taking on a few video projects for clients of your own. If you’re a graphic designer, you could help a small business create a more beautiful website.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to change careers, Austen suggests trying to land freelance work in your desired field so you can get the experience you need. For example, if you want to break into copywriting, find a nonprofit that needs help with its website but may not have a budget for a more seasoned writer. "This experience could help you bring in quality, high-paying clients you want down the road," he says.
When do you get your freelance work done if you can’t do it during the day? Some people like to work at night or on weekends, but Sam Williamson, SEO Executive at Aims Media Glasgow, a digital media firm in Glasgow, Scotland, gets it done in the crack of dawn before heading off to his 9-to-5.
"This benefits me in two ways," he says. "It means that the freelance work isn't playing on my mind throughout the day while I'm trying to complete my main work, and it acts as a 'warm up' for me so I can hit the ground running with my main work."
Williamson’s freelance work is similar to the work he does as a digital marketing manager for Aims Media, but "is far less formal, which is why [his] superiors have always allowed it."
If you’re not a morning person (and let’s face it, not many of us are), another way to manage your time is to allow a certain amount each day, with a few days off so you don’t burn out. Maybe crank out your freelance work for two hours each day after work or before bed. Whatever works for you, just make sure it’s something you can stick to.
If your dream is to leave the 9-to-5 behind altogether and freelance full-time (a reality for many millennials), then you’re going to have to start maximizing your minutes. Angie Nelson, who has been a freelancer since 2007, started out juggling a startup home business while working full time. (Today she’s built a full-time career out of writing and blogging. Nelson suggests using automation tools to make the most of the time you spend working.
"There are so many great tools out there that can handle simple monotonous tasks," she says, citing Zapier, an online tool that lets you sync apps and automate tasks. For example, you can automatically save a new blog post to Dropbox, save an email contact to a Google Spreadsheet, or create Quickbooks invoices automatically using the online form website Wufoo.
"It may not sound like much, but those minutes add up," says Nelson. If you usually spend 10 minutes a week adding new contacts to your database, or 20 minutes filing or creating invoices, this could give you 30 minutes back—to enjoy your free time, or do more freelance work!
In your full-time job, you probably have vacation time that you can and should take. For your freelance gigs though, it’s a bit trickier since you’re likely working from a contract and don’t have paid time off. If you’re planning a big trip, just let your freelance clients know at least a month in advance that you’re going to be unavailable, and be sure to get your work done on time before you go. But take that time, because all work and no play will lead to burnout before you know it.
Robin Smith, chief information officer for Hollidaysburg Area School District in Pennsylvania, also runs a freelance writing, editing and virtual assistant business. "When I do get time off," she says "I try to use the time doing things like traveling, doing something creative, something I enjoy. Even if it is just sitting down to read a book, it all fuels my creativity and passion to get back to work."
This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.