The Flow Blog

Under the Spotlight: Running a Successful Side Business While Maintaining Employment

Ever considered what it’s like to be self-employed? Many of us think of taking on a second job, and some toy with the idea of freelancing as a supplementary income to an existing job. Working around your own schedule, deciding your own hours, doing something you are passionate about – what could be better? This month, we are taking a look into two case studies to explore the issue further. Is having a side hustle really as great as it sounds?

Under The Spotlight: Gemma Hedgecock
Job: English Assistant at a Sixth Form College – General administration, IT support, organising trips and talks, creating and helping with resources for students, supporting the busy teaching team, working on and creating content for the College’s VLE.

Side Business: Marketing Specialist and Writer – creating websites for small businesses and entrepreneurs, writing press releases for companies, creating blogs for websites, content writing on a whole range of topics for websites, assisting with creating marketing materials.

Under The Spotlight: Scott Pittman
Job: Head of digital for a digital marketing agency, overseeing the operations of the marketing team, working with the directors to grow the agency, overseeing and helping plan client strategy and ensuring KPIs are being met.

Side Business: The manufacture and distribution of holistic and complimentary therapy products with a business partner, handling the marketing and branding side of things and working together to grow the business.

Starting Out

So, how did you start your business?

Gemma, who works as an English Assistant at a Sixth Form College in Farnborough, has also worked as a freelancer in the marketing/writing community. She has juggled the two roles for 5 years now. Gemma started freelancing to supplement her work at the College. She says, “I had a degree in Media and Communications, and wanted to make more use of it. I worked at the College and had the holidays free, which meant I had the time to dedicate to something new. I started to bid for writing and marketing short term jobs on (People Per Hour). I was lucky enough to find a company who liked my work and wanted to send ongoing projects my way. Over the years, this has built and built to the point where I now have a lot of clients on my books. I created my own website, and word of mouth recommendations helped me too.”

Similarly, Scott saw an opportunity to become self employed and wanted to seize it, “Due to the industry and occupation I work in, which is basically growing and marketing businesses, I thought it would be a wasted opportunity if I didn’t use these skills to grow and market businesses of my own.”

Many freelancers start out in similar ways, either noticing an opportunity in the industry, or taking a small chance and simply ‘going with it.’ However, it takes a lot more than just a good idea to get your freelancing career off the ground.

Striking the Right Balance
It really is important to strike the right balance between being employed and self-employed simultaneously. Getting the two jobs to fit hand in hand in terms of skills and time is important in order to be successful. If not, you will find you sacrifice one for the other, or you have a clash of interests.

On balancing the two roles, Gemma said, “The skills are transferable and I often use something I have discovered in one to help me with the other. Of course, the two jobs also complement each other in terms of my time. I finish working at the College at 4pm, go home, and have another couple of hours to work on my freelance projects. The school holidays are freed up at College so I can work on my own projects from home.”

Scott agreed that both his jobs balance and complement each other, “All new businesses need good marketing to get their brand, message, products/services and value proposition in front of the right target audience in order to attract new customers and grow. Having experience in that field already enabled me to hit the ground running and continue to adapt and grow as the digital landscape and buyer behaviour changes.”

The Challenges
There are many challenges to working two jobs in the way that Gemma and Scott both achieve. Often, you become overwhelmed with workloads – especially if both jobs are experiencing a peak time and work is coming in thick and fast. Of course, with freelancing, you never want to turn work down.

Scott said, “Your goals will probably dictate how hard your journey to achieving them might turn out, but don’t ever underestimate how brutally challenging it actually can be and how much time and effort you have to put in. Also be prepared to fail, possibly a few times before you start to see success. Don’t underestimate the amount of mental strength and self-belief you might need in order to commit to the work and push through the hard times to get where you want to be. Don’t start down the path if you are only half hearted about it.”

Managing Time
Managing time is tough. It can be tiring, and you need to schedule yourself and stick to it. Good tips include setting your alarm early, drawing yourself a timetable for the day, giving yourself breaks and turning off your phone in the evening to give yourself a true sense of work and home life.

Scott said, “Trying to juggle the agency job, my continuous digital marketing and conversion optimisation learning, my business and spending time with family and friends is a constant battle!”

Gemma agreed, “I too have difficulty managing my time when things get busy. It is very difficult to allow yourself time off without feeling the need to check emails or answer phone calls. You don’t want to let one job slide, so you find yourself very tired and often run down.”

With very few people around you juggling the same kind of schedule, it can be tricky to find sympathy, talk through challenges, or simply vent to anybody that understands.

Another problem is that working as a freelancer on a day-to-day basis is often lonely. You communicate over phone or email, because the world is turning virtual. The nature of a lot of freelancing work, including the kind Gemma does, means you can sit in front of a PC all day and see no one. This is why many freelancers pair their work with other employment, in order to not feel so isolated in their freelancing work.

When asked about the challenges of her schedule, Gemma commented, “There is no one to tell me off, and equally no one to tell me I have done well. There is no sick pay or holiday entitlement with freelancing, and sorting your tax affairs is painful. What’s more, in term time, College days can be tough. Who wants to work all day, go home, and work some more?”

The Rewards
Freelancing is challenging but also very rewarding, because it requires the effort to go out and make something of yourself. When you see the money coming in, you think ‘I went out and got that this month.’ The enormous sense of achievement is something you may not experience in a regular employed position.

Scott said, “Results, making money and growing businesses is ultimately the most rewarding aspects of having a role like this.”

Financially, freelancing has a lot to offer. As you become more established in your field, you can also charge more. If you reach a certain monthly income, you may decide whether to quit your other job and focus solely on freelancing.

Choosing Just One Path
Gemma and Scott agree that many people ask them when they are going to give up one job to focus solely on the other. It can, of course, make sense to continue along both paths rather than selecting just one.

Gemma said, “I always get asked whether I am going to work full time as a freelancer. Financially, it would be risky of course, without a set salary coming in. For me, working at the college is still fulfilling in its own right and as long as it makes sense for me to do both jobs, I will do both jobs. The two work well side by side. There are many people struggling to find work, so I know I am lucky to have both opportunities.”

Scott also said, “Both roles play a key part in my medium and long term goals. If I’m being honest I’m actually most passionate about the digital marketing agency, rather than the other role. Many would say that should be the other way around and I should have started an agency, but there are reasons why I have not done that, as I have a lot invested in where I am currently. I am still in the early stages of this story so it is simply my own individual circumstances that means that this setup is in my best interest at present.”

It really depends on an individual’s personal life and preferences why a person may start and where they would go with freelancing. Doing it to earn a little more cash? Great. Want to dominate the market sector and grow a company? Go for it. Feel you need a little something extra going on in your life to focus on? Many freelancers do this too.

If these two case studies have taught us anything, it’s that freelancing should not be taken lightly. Don’t assume you can dive into it, or anyone can do it. There needs to be some space in your life, and it needs to work for you with your current life schedule. Don’t go in half hearted, or think it is easy. Mentally and physically draining and challenging, it takes a certain kind of person to freelance and succeed. Equally, you can really grow as an individual by taking on such a challenge – and it might be just one of the best decisions you can make.

Thanks Gemma and Scott for being part of our discussion this week. We will continue with this series in the months to come.

Feel free to comment if you have any questions or your own advice to share.

If you are already self employed and need some extra help with your business finances and accounting feel free to contact us or call Chris or Mike on 0330 123 5577



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