How to Freelance While Working Full Time
After designing about every type of web project for over 20 years in company life, I thought marketing myself as a freelance designer that can “design anything” would be super valuable. The truth is I had a really hard time describing what I did well and that was stopping me from freelancing while working full-time.
The most important thing you can do to begin freelancing while working full-time is get good at talking about the value of your work. Earlier this year, 40 million people who thought they had the “stability” of a full-time job became unemployed.
As companies look to improve cost-efficiency, 76% of CEOs say they will turn to independent, contract workers in the coming months. That’s a lot of available contract work. If you’d like to truly create a stable income source, freelancing while working full-time is a great option.
That’s where creating a portfolio comes in. Most employees get stuck when creating their portfolio. They over-think it. They get imposter syndrome. They spend years feeling like they accomplished very little.
For the longest time it felt like I’d accomplished very little, despite the fact that all my previous employers loved my work. It took sifting through old projects and piecing together a body of work to see the experience I’d gained to finally start freelancing while working full-time. Coincidentally this ended up helping quite a bit with my imposter syndrome.
The truth is your portfolio doesn’t need to be complicated. You can create it in an afternoon even if you’ve never freelanced before. In this post I’m going to walk you through how to do that.
Here’s how to create an MVP portfolio you can use to win contracts and even start freelancing while working full-time:
Repeat after me: you don’t need to have dozens freelance projects under your belt to create a portfolio. Nowadays, full-time employment looks nearly identical to freelancing. The average modern employee spends only 3.2 years with their company. So if you put together a list of project you’ve done for each company you worked for that’s very similar to a freelancer’s portfolio. Here’s exactly how to do it:
1. List all your past jobs and projects
Feeling like you don’t have enough experience is the #1 deterrent for people looking to freelance while working full-time. That’s nonsense. By opening up Google docs and listing out every full-time job and project you’ve had in the last years, you likely have more than enough experience to start freelancing. It just takes writing it down.
So keep it simple. Literally list the company name and major projects you accomplished at each job. That’s it. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve accomplished very little, or battled imposter syndrome, often the main reason simply a failure to note down what you’ve done!
2. Now write a before and after statement for each major project
You should now basically have a list of resume bullet points. We want to transform these into case studies. The first step to doing this is to tell a simple story for each by writing a before and after statement about the job/project. You want to paint a picture for potential clients with this sentence. For example:
- Before this project the company was experiencing X painful problem which meant that Y negative result was occurring but after my project the company was able to get Z benefit.
That’s it. Make it brief, but focused on the major business goals the your boss or company had. Think about what your work meant in the overall scheme of things. What it meant specifically for your boss or the owner of the company. Then write it down. This sentence will help prospects (and yourself) identify the value of your work.
This step is so crucial we include a list of value awesome propositions in our upcoming course Endless Clients. Click here to hear when we open up registrations.
3. Add relevant data to your case studies
The final step is to add details about the project.
- Who worked on it?
- What was your role?
- What did you do?
- Do you have any stats or screenshot of the work you can share?
- What proof can you offer that the company benefited from your work and that there was some measurable outcome of your work?
If you have detailed metrics like conversion lift or added revenue, great. You may even consider adding them to your before and after statement in the previous step.
But if you don’t though, don’t worry. You don’t need to have detailed metrics for every project. You do need to be able to show proof that you worked on the project and helped complete it. Maybe that’s a screenshot of the finished design. Maybe it’s a quote from one of your manager’s emails after the project. Get creative. Look for ways to add evidence you completed the project and that it was a success.
Beware: don’t overstuff the case study with meaningless data. If the data you’re adding doesn’t re-enforce your before/after statement, then deleted it. It will just muddy the story. Instead keep your case study short and relevant to the goal and outcome of the project.
The last step is to publish your portfolio. While you can create your own site for this, for example using WordPress or a portfolio site like Behance, I recommend publishing directly from your Google doc by clicking share in the top right corner. Set it to public and copy the link.
Now you’re ready to send your portfolio to clients that ask to see your work.
Yes it’s really that simple.
You might be thinking that this won’t be enough to win you 5-and-6-figure contracts, but you would be surprised. The freelancing bar is low. If you’ve followed each step above, you likely have a better portfolio than 90% of freelancers.
Don’t just take it from me. When I asked freelancers in my audience what the biggest mistake they made was when making the switch to freelancing, 90% said waiting to long to tell people about their work.
Here’s a real quote that Marie R. shared with me:
As obvious as it may sound I failed to do two very simple things, which I am now trying to correct.
1. Collect data (so you know where you’ve been, what you’ve tried and where you’re headed) For me this now includes prepping portfolio pieces after a project wraps up. For the longest time it felt like I’d accomplished very little, despite the fact that all my clients were repeat clients. It took sifting through old projects and piecing together a body of work to see the experience I’d gained as a freelancer. Coincidentally this ended up helping quite a bit with my imposter syndrome.
2. Tell people about your work! 🤦♀️
Once you have your portfolio, you’re ready to freelance while working full-time. What’s next?
Now comes the fun part. Finding and landing clients. Don’t get intimidated. You’re likely already familiar with the process. It’s very similar to keeping an eye out for your next job. You have to:
- Keep your contacts warm by networking and letting them know you’re looking
- Apply to interesting opportunities on a regular basis
- Have conversations with hiring managers about the value of your work
And don’t believe the hype. These are the only necessary skills you need to land five and even six-figure contracts. If you want to know exactly where to find clients and contracts to start freelancing while working full-time, sign up below. You will get 10 email line that will win you clients and an exclusive invite to our referral newsletter and other programs to help you make the jump.