How to juggle postgraduate study and full-time freelancing without going mad
Making a living as a full-time freelancer isn’t easy. You’ve got to spend 40-50 hours per week working on projects, chasing down leads and seeking new clients. It's no surprise then that many full-time freelancers find themselves completely knackered at the end of the day.
Postgraduate study could open up a path to a more stable, fulfilling career - or to higher rates and better odds as a self-employed business leader. But is it possible to earn a living as a freelancer and succeed in academia at the same time? The answer is yes, you can. While freelancing may be demanding, it offers the flexibility you’ll need to do well as a uni student. Start by choosing a programme that meets your needs, then plan carefully, and manage your time wisely.
Choose the right programme
As a freelancer, you could have the flexibility to attend lectures and tutorials in person several days a week, and do your paying work when you’re not needed elsewhere. Then again, you might not; it all depends on the nature of your work and what your clients need from you.
If your paid workload demands that you be in specific locations at certain times of the day, consider a postgraduate programme that gives you the flexibility to study when your schedule allows. There are lots of prestigious online postgraduate programmes that allow you to earn a master's or Ph.D. in your own time. You could even earn an online Masters in Education from an American university, without hopping across the pond or rearranging your work schedule…much.
The academic year has its peaks and troughs - the workload starts out light enough at the beginning of the term, but things can get hectic as finals approach. Try to plan ahead to anticipate busy periods at work and at uni. The heavy workloads and later deadlines of postgraduate academic work mean that you need to carefully plan how you’ll complete readings, research projects and other assignments and expectations.
Study your syllabi at the beginning of the term and let clients know when you anticipate being extra busy with uni work. You have the advantage of being able to say no to projects you’re too busy to take on, or to create a timeline for a work project that still leaves time for your schoolwork. You can also charge higher fees for rush work during busy periods, just don't neglect your studies.
Use your time wisely
As a full-time freelancer and uni student working towards a postgraduate degree, you should organise each day into blocks of time, scheduling the time you need to work on paid assignments, academic work and, of course, looking after yourself. Eat healthily, and be sure to get enough rest and exercise. Schedule some time for recreation or socialising with friends each week. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll end up sick in bed, and no good to anyone - least of all your clients or tutors.
Don’t leave the house without some of your suggested reading; you might be able to get in a few pages while you're on the Tube or waiting around for a friend. Those extra minutes add up. There are only so many hours in the day, and if you don’t make time to work now, you may not have it later.
It’s not easy working full-time as a uni student, but freelancing offers you the advantage of a work schedule that can be adjusted to meet the demands of life as a student. A master’s programme only lasts a year or two, and you’ll reap the benefits for a lifetime.