How to start freelancing without quitting your day job (yet)

The purpose of this article is to help you understand how to start freelancing without quitting your job.

We always hear about the freelancing vs. working for someone else argument.

But why are the two ideas always mutually exclusive?

I know tons of freelancers who started freelancing on the side of a full-time job and once ends could meet without the job, they ditched the cubicle and made the switch to freelance.

But I also know freelancers who started taking some work on the side and realized they hated freelancing. Imagine if they hadn’t tried it first.

My point?

You can actually start freelancing right this minute without quitting your day job.

Here’s how to start freelancing without quitting your day job:

First, credit goes to Jon Acuff

First of all, I just finished reading Start, an amazingly motivational and thought-provoking (and action-provoking for that matter) book by Jon Acuff (author of Quitter).

💔 Falling out of love with your clients? Trade some of your worst clients for the best companies in the world with SolidGigs, our premium weekly freelance job list & course library. Love your business again. Learn more »

His writing really resonated with me because he’s got a wife and kids just like I do and he doesn’t write in a way that makes you feel like the only way to be awesome at life is to quit your secure job (that you actually don’t really hate as much as you pretend), move to Thailand, and learn to speak Swahili.

Jon talks about responsibility.

He talks about defining your “awesome” and ensuring you include being an awesome spouse, parent, or friend.

Sometimes quitting your day job right now and uprooting your family is not what being awesome is all about.

Anyway, Jon has a really fantastic piece of advice for people who want to start building their dream today without crumbling what they’ve already got going for them.

Is this you?

It’s me.

How to start freelancing without quitting your day job

Here’s what Jon says about how to start freelancing:

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be selfish with your time. Not at all. You just have to know when you can be, which is why I encourage you to be selfish at 5AM.

The mornings I get up and write from 5-7AM, you’d be surprised how little my wife tells me that I’ve been ignoring her. You’d be shocked at how little my oldest daughter wants me to watch her jump rope at 5:30AM. You’d be mystified at how few requests my youngest daughter makes to go bike riding at 5:15AM.

You can be selfish at 5AM. Or 11PM if your spouse goes to bed early and staying up an extra hour doesn’t wreck your next day. You can carve out time in your day and claim it, if you’re willing to hustle. If you’re willing to find your time at the beginning of your day or the end, chances are you can tweak your schedule a little and be a little selfish.

So I put Jon’s challenge to the test.

I started getting up earlier.

You all know I have a day job and run my business on the side.

So to add some priority to top projects and dreams lately, I’ve been getting up 60 minutes earlier for the last 2 weeks and here’s where it has gotten me:

  • I’ve been a more awesome entrepreneur and freelancer. I’ve spent at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week on projects I thought I couldn’t “get to” before. I’ve developed new ideas, built relationships with other business people, answered emails in a timely manner and more. (PS: this includes a redesign of Millo which is going to be great, so stay tuned.)
  • I’ve been a more awesome dad. I’ve spent many mornings watching cartoons or playing trucks with my toddler who I don’t get to see enough. The time has been wonderful for us.
  • I’ve been a better employee. Since I get my freelancing fill each morning (in addition to what I do every evening already), I don’t sit at work and wish I could pursue my “fun personal projects.” I don’t run late in the morning because I’m up plenty early.
  • I’ve been a healthier person. I finally eat breakfast and take time in the morning to meditate which is something I’ve always felt like I should do but have never made time for.

So thanks, Jon.

I’ve started.

Start today

Now it’s your turn to take Jon’s advice: start chasing your dream today without killing what you’ve already got going for you.

Be selfish with your dream and with your time.

But be selfish at 5am.

Tell us what you’re going to be selfish with at 5am by leaving a comment here. And if you know anyone who’s wondering how to start freelancing, share this post with them!

tweet share share pin email

Keep the conversation going...

Have a question or something to add?

Over 5,000 of us are having daily conversations over in our free Facebook group—and we'd love to see you there. Join us!

About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.


  1. Thanks for the book recommendation, I’m right in the middle of this very situation. I just moved for the third time in 12 months, second daughter on the way, and desperately trying to find time to put into my start-up. The “getting up earlier” advice seems so obvious but it never even occurred to me so thank you for the perspective.

    Also, I read The $100 Start-up and it was a perfect kick in the pants for me to get going. I passed it on to my father who is in marketing and it’s given him so great insight as well. So, thanks again for that recommendation!

  2. Hehe I regularly start at 4am and work until I am tired. It’s a lovely feeling when you have done a good days work by mid afternoon and can choose whether to carry on or relax.

    • I do the same. I find that I get more done and am more focused in the wee hours. It’s quiet and far less distractions. The only problem is you have to be careful you don’t overwork yourself because you can easily work 12 hours or more and wonder why you’re so tired at the end of the week.

  3. This is a very insightful post! I have tried the freelance gig off and on and found the process is not for me. Although my “day job” is technically working as a graphic designer, it is not the dream field for me. Instead I am delving into full-time artist territory (mixed media blending illustration and graphic design). Even without a family at home it is nearly impossible to find time for extracurricular creative endeavors with a full-time job, exercise regime and social life. I always intend to get in a few hours of sketching at the end of the day and find I am empty of creativity and motivation. These same tips could apply in my case, so I think I will give the 5am plan a try and see if it boosts my productivity. Thank you for the great tips!

  4. Jon Acuff is the man I subscribe to him as well as graphicdesignblender. I find when I start my day earlier instead of sleeping in I am more refreshed for the rest of my day. Great Post!

  5. This is an awesome article Preston.

    I have been juggling with my full time job and my freelancing projects for just under an year.

    During the times when I have just finished a project (and got the money for it), I feel on the top of the world and see myself “quitting my job in next 6 months”. But then when I have projects hanging on and clients rejecting my designs and asking for “more options”, I feel stuck and feel that it is impossible to survive without a pay check.

    Over the time I also realized that having a full time job not only give you the security but also keeps you in touch with the industry helping learn new tricks and tips.

    Thanks for a the article 🙂

  6. This is very well pointed article. Having a lot of family responsibility it`s a safe choice to work on both sides – as an employee and freelancer. It just depends how well organized you are. But there is nothing impossible if you love what you doing you will always find a solution.
    I do the same. Waking up when all world steel is sleeping give you a lot of power to continue and when you finally finish before your normal work times – you already feel happy of your progress. It gives you even more kick to be 100% professional and concentrated at work. It also gives you clear sight to important things in your life being more selective and value your time.

  7. Inspiring post! Thank you so much for the tips, but how do you all do it?? I have been going to bed about two hours later than my normal time for the past two weeks so that I can start doing freelance and have found that I’m already burned out. I’m on the computer 7+ hours at my full time design job and then I go home and have been trying to get my own stuff completed but I just don’t have the energy. I must be doing something wrong! I truly admire anyone with a family, a full time job AND having a freelance gig on the side.

  8. I love working at 5am. That is when I am most productive. I find that I can get 2x as much done at these peak hours for. For productivity, I try to plan my day around that if I can.

  9. This sounds interesting. Sure will be tough but will give it a go.

  10. Good luck, Vy!

  11. I agree, Mandi. I’m the exact same way!

  12. It can definitely be tough, Fabiola. Stick with it!

  13. I am planning to start freelancing by quiting job because i am getting lots of leads.

  14. While this is good advice it does not work for everyone, especially those who are single moms. In my case, during the school year I already get up at 5am, but this time has to be used to make my kids lunches, feed animals, prepare coffee, and such. By the time all this is done its about 6am and I have to begin getting dressed and ready for the day, then wake up the kids, ensure they get ready and eat their breakfast, fix their hair, get them out the door and off to school. By the time that is done I’m returning home around 8am. Then I still have to check on all the plants in our garden, water them, check them for pests, spray certain ones to prevent pests, check for new veggies needing pollinating because we just don’t have the bees needed to do it for me. Then I can finally get my breakfast, sit down and begin my day, which by now is 9am. I have also found now that it is summer vacation for my kids that getting up early doesn’t give me all the time I would like because once I am dressed for the day and have taken care of the plants in the garden the kiddos have gotten up already and by the time they are settled in what ever they are going to do for the day and I’ve gotten my breakfast I’m still beginning my day later than I want. So as much as I would love some peace and quiet early in the morning to get things done, it just doesn’t work for me being a single mom.

  15. Freelancing is a bit difficult job still if you are good skiled person then definitely you can achieve alot in freelancing.


  1. […] So real job security lies in creating something for yourself. Something that depends on you and you alone. And then it depends on confidence. If you believe you can do it (and I believe you can!) then you can do it! You can start freelancing right now. […]


Need more clients?

Download our free guide:
25 Top Freelance Job Sites for Real Clients with Big Budgets