You know that feeling when you have so much to do that you end up suffering from total paralysis?
You have deadlines to meet and yet, you end up giving yourself a telling off for being drawn to checking Facebook instead of working.
Frustrating, isn’t it?
So you try to make a plan. You might write lists, set up reminders on your phone, add more reminders about your reminders, categorise and colour-code your lists. Plus, how about downloading that really useful app that helps you do all of the above?
Now imagine that, instead of checking Facebook, you check your calendar and find you can fit in a quick pitch during your lunch break. It’s all about control and organisation.
Secrets of successful moonlighting
Like many people, I have a dream I’m working hard to make into reality: becoming a full-time freelance blogger and writer. However, my other life as a full-time teacher often creates conflicts between the two, with lack of time being a big issue.
If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Whatever your experience in the blogosphere, many bloggers have a day job and a blogging job. We’re moonlighters.
At one end of the spectrum, you may see blogging as a sideline to your existing career. At the opposite extreme, you may have a burning desire to quit your day job and focus purely on blogging — even if financial or other reasons have stopped you taking that step just yet.
A problem for any moonlighting blogger is knowing where to focus your attention and energy, particularly when demands on your time pull you in all directions.
Here are five strategies to help you stay sane when the pressure’s on.
1. Get organised
Easy in principle, but more difficult in practice when you’re juggling deadlines. Here’s how to stay on top of things:
- If you prefer everything to be electronic, almost all laptops, smartphones and tablets have built-in software like notepads and calendars to help get you organised.
- Making an effort to streamline and simplify your to-do lists will pay dividends. There are plenty of free ‘to do list’ applications that allow you to synchronise your lists across all the devices you use. Software such as Evernote or Any.DO lets you make quick notes if you’re on the go, including audio notes.
2. Make your blog work for you (and for your readers)
Our busy lives mean that when time’s tight, people want to read things that are clear and engaging. Make sure your blog’s easy to use from the start, and you get to keep doing more of what you really want to be doing — writing.
Every so often, take some time to reflect and give your blog its own medical-style checkup. Diagnose any potential problems and self-medicate:
- Are your social media links clear and easy to find? And when you click them, do they take you to the right place?
- Have you made a successful pitch and been published? Brilliant! Create links from your site to your article so your visitors can check it out.
- Perhaps your About page could do with some alterations? Maybe a more recent professional photo of you? After all this is one of the most visited pages on your site.
3. Avoid taking too much advice
If you open your inbox and are immediately hit by a tidal wave of emails with blogging advice, leaving you feeling utterly overwhelmed, it’s time to give yourself a detox.
- Look at the number of sites you’re subscribed to and consider how many you truly make a point of visiting and reading.
- Hit the unsubscribe button on all other blogging-tips emails.
- If you can’t face going cold turkey and cutting some sites off completely, create a separate folder for those emails and only open it when you have extra time.
I came across Sophie Lizard and Be a Freelance Blogger early. Although I subscribe to a few other writing/blogging websites, the vast majority of useful information about blogging I read through Be a Freelance Blogger.
That’s not to say there aren’t other great sites out there! But as a moonlighting blogger, you don’t have the time to read EVERYTHING, so be selective.
4. Set achievable goals
In business management, a key paradigm is the idea of goal setting. People are encouraged to set targets for projects, as it creates a model for progression. We’re led to believe that we can clearly “see” when we’ve finished something by reaching those targets.
For instance, you might plan to post four times a week, or make three pitches each day. But then something comes up. Your car breaks down, so you end up spending your weekend at the mechanics. Or your day-job boss drops a report on your desk with the expectation it’ll be completed for the following day.
Whatever the “something” is, it will have a knock-on effect on your moonlighting job as well as many other aspects of your life. You may end up feeling like you’re running just to catch up.
Some psychologists believe that setting goals actually can have a detrimental effect on your self-esteem and, subsequently, your performance. There’s a growing body of work that’s critical of existing goal-setting practices. In essence, some goals are measured against the idea of perfection, which doesn’t exist. (If this concept interests you, check out the full report by Bazerman et al, 2009.)
If we don’t meet our goals, it can have devastating negative effects psychologically, sending us into a downward spiral and limiting our work progress.
Max Bazerman suggests that rather than setting rigid and counter-productive goals, our plans should be judged against other criteria, including:
- Are the goals too challenging? We might not have the skills, time or energy to meet them at a particular point in time. However, given training, support and a change of schedule, this can change.
- Is the time horizon appropriate? If you know you have a busy week coming up, plan ahead. Write blog posts in advance on your lighter days so you don’t panic when busier days take their toll.
- Who sets the goals? People who are able to contribute to goal setting are more likely to ensure the goals are met. You’ll have your own goals, but if possible discuss targets and timelines with your clients too — it’s the first step toward positive reciprocity with goal setting.
5. Take a break
It’s easy to feel like you want to dedicate every free hour to blogging, particularly if you are moonlighting. This is probably because (like most of us!) you have a voice in your head telling you you’re wasting valuable time if you aren’t physically writing.
As much as that voice can be helpful, listening to it too much can leave you overloaded.
Everyone needs time off, even if it’s a short period of time. A bit of time out prepares us to do good work, and often provides writing inspiration.
Not all moonlighting freelancers want to switch to full time self-employment. Not all moonlighters can make that switch when they do want to.
If you’re looking at moonlighting for the long term: It’s a tricky balancing act, doing a day job and then working on pitches and articles in your free time. But stick at it, as the hard work will pay off!