The down economy is making many workers realize that it is no longer safe to have just one source of income. On the flip side, employers are also making smaller jobs available to outside contractors, opening up more opportunities for people to have side projects outside of their regular day jobs.
Managed correctly from both sides, such working arrangements can be good for both parties. However, part-time web workers often need to do an even better job of managing client expectations and communications than full-time freelancers. Here are five tips for those considering web working outside of their day job for the first time:
- Vet the side project thoroughly. Your success working remotely during off hours hinges on a number of things. First, there are some projects that lend themselves to such a working arrangement like technical writing, journalism, graphic design and web development, to name a few. It’s in your best interest to talk to the client and ask in-depth questions about the project, including quizzing them on access to stakeholders, technology and delivery dates. You may also run into potential clients who want full-time attention — even though it is supposed to be a part-time project — so take the time to thoroughly vet the project so you are absolutely comfortable with the working arrangement and can put together a statement of work that satisfies the client.
- Respect Boundaries. One of the worst mistakes new part-time web workers make is to do their client work on their daytime employer’s time (and even use their daytime employer’s equipment to do it). This is unprofessional. Prior to taking on potential projects, you need to take stock of the boundaries you need to set between your day job, personal life and the side project(s). In regards to the day job, take advantage of a flexible work schedule — if available — for attending client conference calls and other activities. If you need to reschedule that lunch run off-site to call your client, so be it. The responsibilities of your day job and extracurricular projects should never affect each other. There might also be your day employer’s non-compete agreement to consider when taking side projects, so review any employment agreements carefully when considering taking on a side project.
- Set Expectations Clearly. Too many times an outside contractor is brought in for a project that has already fallen off track. Coming in as a part-time off-site contractor puts you at a disadvantage in this scenario. It is prudent to be very upfront and honest about the time you have to put into the project and that you have a day job. If needed, establish times that you will check in via phone, IM, or email during the course of the project. Since you aren’t going to be in the same office as the other team members, it is up to you to maintain communications and not let the client slip into thinking they have full-time access to a part-time resource.
- Schedule Work/Life Balance. It can be easy to drown yourself in work, especially if you’ve spent some time unemployed or underemployed. This means you have to run a tight calendar, including time for yourself. Just as you schedule time for deliverables and other work obligations, you should do the same for gym time, evenings off and much-needed personal time.
- Embrace the Cloud. While the recent Gmail outage raised the ire of its users, as a part-time web worker you have no other option other than to embrace the cloud. While an email inbox serves as the document management tool of choice for way too many organizations, keeping your project artifacts online and available — even when you are not — is paramount to the success of the project. There are services for all budgets from Google Sites and Zoho Projects, to BaseCamp to even hosted SharePoint sites. Keeping the project online means your client(s) will have full access to all project artifact,s even when you are fully ensconced in your day job.
If you have a day job, and freelance on the side, what tips do you have for managing side projects and clients?