3 Ways I doubled my freelance profits while still working a full-time job

If you’re like me, you love to freelance but rely on a separate full-time job for the majority of your income.

I’ve been working as an in-house designer for the past several years to pay the bills. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it, but freelancing continues to challenge and inspire me in ways my full-time jobs never could.

So I think it’s fair to say I won’t be stopping any time soon. In fact, I’ve been steadily building my business until I feel confident enough to take the coveted freelance leap into full-time.

Let’s just say… so far, so good.

I’ve been able to consistently double my profits year-over-year by following these principles.

1) Secure repeat business

Hunting for new clients can be very time consuming, and in some cases, expensive. This is why securing long-term relationships and repeat business from your existing clients is the most important key to successfully freelancing — especially when you already have a full-time job.

Forming this type of relationship with a client is surprisingly easy. Methods include:

What’s more, your long-term clients will happily make it easy for you to gain new ones through referrals.

[Tweet “Your long-term clients will happily make it easy for you to gain new ones through referrals.”]

It’s been over 3 years since I’ve had to “hustle” for freelance work, thanks to repeat business. This, above all else, allows me to dedicate my time to creating awesome work.

In the end, that’s what it’s all about, am I right?

2) Keep expenses to a minimum

Whether you freelance part-time or full-time, a healthy profit margin is essential to being successful. It won’t matter how many clients you have if your expenses outweigh your revenue.

[Tweet “It won’t matter how many clients you have if your expenses outweigh your revenue.”]

It can be tempting to purchase attractive products and services to make your freelance career a bit easier, such as Basecamp or a stock photo subscription.

But be careful! These can eat your profits faster than you think, especially as a part-timer.

I encourage you to seek out free alternatives whenever possible. I use Google Drive to track finances, project statuses, and share or transfer important files.

The same idea applies to graphic design assets, and believe me, there’s no shortage of free stuff out there. One example would be Unsplash, where you can download fully licensed high-quality photos for — you guessed it — free.

Tip: If you do need to purchase something for a specific project, be sure to build it into the cost on your final invoice. And always keep track of your purchases so you can write them off on your taxes.

3) Know your limits & plan accordingly

I’ll be the first to admit, I have a hard time turning down freelance work, especially from new (eligible) clients. But taking on too much work — or work from the wrong type of client — can be dangerous to your full-time career, as well as your health and well-being.

Knowing your limits is key to maintaining a healthy work/life balance and avoiding burnout, unhappy clients, or worse.

[Tweet “Knowing your limits is key to maintaining a healthy work/life balance. #freelancing”]

Avoid doing freelance work for a business within the same industry as your full-time employer, especially if this business is a direct competitor. This will be seen as a conflict of interest and could get you fired. Also, make sure your freelance clients understand that you are, for the most part, hands-off during normal business hours.

Plan ahead to manage your freelance workload and avoid taking on too much outside of your full-time job . Always make lists, and schedule what freelance projects you’ll work on, and when.

Finally, don’t forget to consistently make time for whatever contributes to your sense of well-being… whether that be exercise, Netflix, or good beer with good company (all of the above works great for me).

What about you?

Are you building a freelance career while managing a full-time job? Tell me about your challenges and successes by leaving a comment!

About Preston D Lee

Preston D Lee is the founder and chief editor of Graphic Design Blender. He's an entrepreneur, a marketer and a freelancer with a love for all things web. Ask Preston a question

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