Back to School As a Web Worker

18636595_f09160199cMany web workers welcome August and September because their kids head back to school, making work a little easier. But some web workers are excited about the fall for another reason: because they’re heading to school themselves.

Advancing your education can often make sense: you can learn new skills, earn more money and even add a couple of important-sounding letters after your name. But it also requires an ability to balance your responsibilities at school and at work.

I started freelancing in college. It was a flexible option for work that made sense no matter what time I had to be in class. When I started grad school, I made a decision to keep freelancing full-time and go to school part-time — it made paying for those classes a lot easier.

It became quickly apparent to me that I would need to prioritize my work carefully and that I would need to plan out both my paying work and my school work more than I might if I was just doing one or the other at a time.

  • Since you’re paying for classes, either upfront or with loans, it makes sense to prioritize class work over paying work. Luckily, most professors provide a syllabus at the beginning of the semester that lets you get class assignments on your calendar and plan your other work around them.
  • While you may not have any control over work deadlines, it’s important to make sure they don’t overlap with major class deadlines or big exams. Whether that means asking your employer to help you adjust your schedule or working with clients to schedule projects, it’s an important step.
  • Talk to your instructors about any conflicts in advance. If you’ve got a big project or a work trip already on the calendar before the semester starts, telling them about those situations makes it much easier to find a solution.

While there are other time management techniques that will keep you on track for both work and school, these three steps can address many problems before they get out of hand. They also guarantee that both your instructors and your employers or clients are aware that you may have to miss a deadline for another priority. It doesn’t hurt that clients and employers also get a definite timeline that tells them when you’ll be back to focusing on your work as your main priority. They can be a little more flexible if they know that your schedule is a little different only through the end of the semester.

While I’ve known some people who feel that they can’t concentrate on both work and school at the same time, that’s not the case for many people — there are those who don’t see furthering their education as an option unless they can work at the same time, and others that simply don’t want to spend all of their time in a classroom. Because there are so many opportunities for flexibility if you’re a web worker, it’s usually possible to find some combination of school and work that will make sense for you. It’s just a question of prioritizing your projects and managing your time.

Do you combine a freelance career with school? How do you cope with conflicting deadlines?

Image by Flickr user Dean Terry