The Secrets of Running Multiple Freelance Businesses

You have your freelance business. You’ve determined your profession, and now you’re set to go–right?

Wrong!

For a growing number of freelancers, one freelance business is not enough. These busy, dedicated folks operate more than one freelancing business at the same time.

How do they do it?

After all, most freelancers are already juggling many different responsibilities.

I caught up with a couple of these busy folks last week. In this post, I’ll share some of their “secrets” so that we can all learn from them.

Meet Our Multiple Freelancers

To find out more about running multiple freelance businesses, I called upon two freelancers who are actually doing it:

  • Dominic runs two unique freelancing businesses: Focus Centric, Inc. (a small software development company based in Quebec) and Bunker App (a tool designed to help freelancers with time tracking, billing, and time tracking).
  • Ben also runs two unique freelancing businesses: The Freelance Writer and he also operates a photography website that he is in the process of rebranding. He is currently in the process of setting up a third business.

Why Run More Than One Business?

You’re probably wondering, as I did, why anyone would want to run multiple freelance businesses. Well, each freelancer who runs more than one business probably has their own answer to that question.

Here’s what Ben told me.

“There’s nothing better than running your own business, in my opinion. I always wanted to work from myself since the moment I left school and the only way to do it is to chuck yourself into it.”

As you can tell from his response, running more than one freelancing business is not for the freelancer who isn’t driven and who doesn’t like running a business.

How to Find the Time

Those with multiple freelance businesses are driven to own their own business. But, even with that passion, time can be an issue.

Dominic and Ben both discussed time management with me when I asked about how they manage to get it all done.

  • Dominic: “You have to be disciplined regarding your work schedule…It’s hard, sometimes you are tempted to put too many hours in the business that is most exciting to work on…An ultra-strict work schedule, precise time tracking, and undisturbed work sessions are key…I have lots of other freelancers who help me with tasks.”
  • Ben: “I have a very supportive wife and a direct debit set up at Costa Coffee. Okay, the latter isn’t true, but having the support of my wife is…She makes sure that I separate business and personal time…This makes it easier to chuck yourself into your work.”

Making time for one freelancing business takes discipline. Finding time to develop two unique freelancing businesses takes both organization and dedication. You may even need to outsource some tasks.

Keeping Things Separate

Some freelancers with multiple businesses keep their business distinct, while others try to operate both businesses under a single brand “umbrella.”

Ben said, “I think brand image is one of the most important things in a business, and putting them (my businesses) all under one brand seems like the logical move for me. I know of people who keep their businesses separate and it involves a lot of hard work, patience, and clear management.”

In fact, branding and marketing can be a big consideration when starting a new freelancing venture.

Advice for Running Multiple Freelancing Businesses

If you’re thinking about starting a second freelancing business, you’ll want to pay close attention to the following advice:

  • Dominic: “Pick a business that you’re passionate about. It’s really taxing to do two different things…Having a second business that gives you energy instead of draining you is probably the way to go. Don’t be afraid to try it (having two businesses) if it it’s something that you would like to try just do it…”
  • Ben: “Plan for the unexpected. It may seem like a good idea to give 50% of your time to business A and 50% to business B, but if business A is generating twice as much work as business B, then you will have to dedicate more time to it. Another thing to remember is that as the businesses are unrelated, just because one business is successful doesn’t mean that the other will be.”

Takeaways for the Average Freelancer

The average freelancer who is thinking about starting another freelancing business should consider the following points:

  • Do I have enough time to devote to another business?
  • Is there another area that I’m passionate about?
  • Am I organized and disciplined enough to run another business?
  • Do I have the support of my family and friends?
  • How will I brand a second freelancing business?

Be honest with your answers to these questions. Your honest reflection here could determine whether you succeed or fail.

Your Turn

Have you thought about operating another freelancing business? Why would you start one and what would it be?

Do you already run multiple freelance businesses? What are they and how are thing going?

Feel free to share your answers and experiences in the comments.

Comments

  1. says

    Lets face it, even if your single and 24/7 at your computer, there is not enough time in the day to run a business properly, let alone take care of all the other things in life like, family, friends, shopping etc…

    What many freelancers forget is that companies hire many individuals that commit those eight hours to social media, marketing, production, office admin, etc.. If you got the money then hire staff to take these responsibilities if not, doing the above by yourself properly will require more than eight hours a day and next to impossible to do a great job at it. Having a 2nd business will damage your overall growth and performance.

  2. says

    This article is very timely as I myself have what is known as a ‘Portfolio Career’ (having more than one business) and have been discussing how to best market yourself on the Portfolio Career LinkedIn Group. Not all in the group are Freelancers but they all have the same issues.

    I only recently discovered the term Portfolio Career and that having one was a good thing – where I had previously thought I needed to consolidate my interests. Having different businesses and income streams is what keeps my work life interesting, and stops me from being effected by the economic downturn.

    Maintaining more than one business is much more common nowadays (well it is in Brighton anyway where we have a huge freelance population!) but practically managing it is a whole different thing.

    I’m actually in the process of populating a new website called http://www.career-pioneers.com which I’m creating for wannabe and existing freelancers, portfolio careerists and virtual workers. I’d like to get some interviews from other Portfolio Careerists on how they organise their marketing and whether they keep separate business cards and websites or have one umbrella site for everything.

    If you’d like to be interviewed and have a guest post on the site then please feel free to email me at jtmunro@hotmail.co.uk

    Thank you for such an interesting article – more please!

  3. says

    Oh, and in response to DesignFacet, all of my businesses are successful and my overall growth and performance has not been diminished by having more than one.

    I think the trick is not working at 100% capacity on any of them so they work around each other. I have 2 core businesses (Virtual Assistance, and CV Writing) and the VA one has more than one facet – admin support, lifestyle management, and event management. Some of my clients use my VA services so they are freed up to have a working life like mine actually.

    I’m good at a few things and I didn’t see why I should have to pick just one thing – so I didn’t.

    AND I’m able to bring in a regular income from these 2 businesses, work on setting up a new website for another interest which may eventually bring in another income, and I have spare time to go for coffee of an afternoon. So I have to say that it’s working out well for me…

    Saying that, I’m very organised, love being busy, and don’t have any children so I probably have more time than most!

    @munropaservices

  4. says

    Joanne Munro–Nice to meet another “multiple” freelancer. I knew that there must be an answer to Designfacet’s question since there were freelancers running more than one business without burning out. Thanks for sharing your experience. :)

  5. says

    Great read. I have recently opened a Zazzle account for my business. I guess that really isn’t considered a freelance business. I believe that we are to have more than one stream of income as entrepreneurs. It’s just common sense.

  6. says

    Running multiple businesses is hard, but even so you always need to have multiple things going on. Even if you just run 1 business, you may have client projects, internal projects, side projects, etc.

    You may not have 2+ legit businesses, but often side projects turn into businesses. Things like this keep us sharp as business owners and freelancers. We need to be constantly stimulating our brain, pushing ourselves, trying new things, working on things we love. This is how we grow and how we improve. If we don’t we will simple be stagnant.

  7. says

    Very comprehensive post, i really liked it. Being running multiple Freelance businesses my self, i can understand what it takes to come out as a successful person. You have to be devoted to work but most importantly, it must be done on time. Try to keep a balance between all the things that you do so no work suffers while other progresses.

    To all those who are willing to start multiple freelancing businesses, i would like to give one suggestion. Divide up the work, make a team and set the goals. Nobody can succeed without setting a goal ahead of them.

  8. says

    Freelancing is more than just a business, it is more of a lifestyle. Having your own working schedule, and setting your own goals is a dream come true for some individuals. Depending on enthusiasm one can decide, if only one business is just enough. But, in early stages of your freelancing business is always better to concentrate on one niche.

  9. says

    Interesting read! My husband and I currently operate our freelance business under the guise ‘A Happy Little Design Studio.’ However, we are currently in the process of re-branding and have decided to create multiple brands. We don’t think of this as running multiple businesses, but as simply creating distinct faces to showcase the different skills we offer. Most people these days seem to offer a variety of skills and so it’s just a matter of how you want to present those skills to possible clients. While some feel it is better to present themselves as a one-stop shop; others feel it can be more profitable to specialize and become an expert in one or two skills. (Hence the phrase, Jack of All Trades – Master of none.) We feel having multiple brands will allow us to take on a variety of work while still becoming experts in smaller niche areas.

  10. says

    I’m loving that this thread is still going. I’ve just shared the post over on the LinkedIn Portfolio Careers Group where they often debate questions raised in this article. The most popular question is how to market yourself.

    I have a website (Career Pioneers) where I’ve been interviewing people with multiple careers (only 3 so for including me though!) to find out how they manage their income streams. I’d love to have some more guest interviews if anyone is interested?

  11. says

    I am kind of ADD, and can’t really focus on just one thing at a time. It’s only natural for me to work on multiple businesses at one time. As a single mom of 3 kids it’s not always easy but it is possible.

    About 10 years ago, I went back to school for my B.S., worked full-time, and started a part-time virtual assistant business. Just 4 years ago, I was a real estate agent, mortgage broker, and VA. Now, while I was working towards my MBA, I am running a cake decorating business, working as a freelance VA, and running 2 Etsy shops.

    Now, this doesn’t mean that I have been successful at all of them, but it does fit my personality. I am not motivated by money, but by expressing my creativity and always keeping busy. The trick now is to figure out how to actually become successful.

  12. says

    It’s taken me years to come to grips with “juggling many different responsibilities”… and I have to say I’m still learning. It looks oh so easy ’till you try it LOL :-)

  13. says

    I juggle multiple freelance businesses under the same umbrella. Because they are all in the arts they are somewhat related. I’m a Graphic Designer, Photographer and fine artist. The arts is hit and miss in terms of business and you almost have to have other venues. I recently expanded into photography this year and it’s been keeping the most busy. But it was also the newest venture requiring the most learning.

    I have toyed with separating the photography business but I like having everything under one website. It saves money and headaches having them all in one place but I worry about it hindering my customer’s view on how they see me as a professional.

  14. says

    I REALLY need a script to manage writers. I want them to be able to claim titles in their topic. Say they write on gardening, then they are assigned to gardening category and when there are titles to be written in that category the writers go in a click “claim project”, write the project then mark it as completed. This simple script I cannot find, it makes so much sense to me but seemingly task delegation scripts don’t exist in this sense? I can’t afford something very costly, I need something designed for a start-up that a start-up can afford. Can anyone help me please? Thanks.

  15. says

    One way to look at it is if you’re fortunate to have one going well and not so much struggle anymore, doing a second can be an alternative instead of just growing the first one larger. Not to mention any complimentary or feedback loops that you get, that you might not have gotten by not doing it.

    Or, maybe another way is maybe not two full time freelancing businesses, but rather one full time and 2-3 other activities, you could call them hobbies for now, that you’re sort of working on, putzing with or getting ready. Either way, it all seems to sort of go with the idea of the object in motion stays in motion, just not sure what or where to most of the time, :).

  16. says

    I think the real secret is in the amount of money you have to invest/reinvest in your businesses. Less money = more labor and more stress and less ability to fix problems in your businesses.

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