How to use your full-time job to win more freelance business

I’m one of those strange workaholic creatures doubly blessed with an enjoyable full-time job and a thriving freelance business.

By day, I do real estate marketing for a large group of entrepreneurial-minded agents and a small, well-respected brand. By night, I write for a small group of clients that I really enjoy.

A full-time job is a great springboard for freelance business. But there’s a right way – and a wrong way – to do it.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

The wrong way

If you work in the same industry as your freelance business, be very careful. There are several unethical practices that may not only get you fired, but damage your reputation.

Stay away from the following:

  • Freelance work for clients from your full-time job
  • Side projects for co-workers that should be handled by your company
  • Working with your company’s direct competitors
  • Using private information from your full-time job to seek for freelance work
  • Using company data to help the competition on a freelance basis

While some of these are more than obvious, others are grey areas.

Even if your freelance work is completely different than your full-time job, it’s not a good idea to work with your company’s clients. If your freelance relationship gets damaged in some way, it could hurt the client’s relationship with your company.

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The right way

So, how do you go about getting freelance work ethically?

  • Add projects to your portfolio
  • Get recommendations from your co-workers and supervisor
  • Pitch clients in the same industry that aren’t direct competitors
  • Beef up your client list

Updating your portfolio

Showcase work you’ve done on company time in your portfolio, as long as you haven’t signed an agreement stating otherwise. Check with Human Resources if you’re not sure.

Looking for portfolio tips and inspiration? Check out these posts:

Getting recommendations

Ask your coworkers to recommend you on LinkedIn. (This is different than endorsements, where your network agrees that you have certain skills.)

A recommendation includes a photo of the person, a short write-up about their interaction with you, their professional relationship to you, and the company you were working at.

You can also use the reference on your website.

If your supervisor knows you have a freelance business, it’d be great to get a recommendation from them. But be careful! Be sure they know you’re not planning on leaving anytime soon.

If you are, you may not want to let them know about your side business just yet.

Pitching clients in the same industry

If you have a wealth of industry experience, use that experience to help you get more clients as long as it’s not proprietary company information.

Just be sure your prospect is not a direct competitor of your company.

Example: Because my company operates on a regional level, I work with other real estate companies in different states.

Adding to your client list

Many freelancers include clients from previous employment on their client lists.

Be honest about how you started working with them when asked. You wouldn’t want a prospect to check references only to find out your “client” has never heard of you.


Working full-time and freelancing can be a delicate situation.

When building a business, it’s important to use any and all avenues at your disposal to grow. Just be sure to do so ethically and honestly.

And don’t forget not to hate freelancers with full-time jobs. 😉

Do you use your full-time experience in your freelance business? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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About Sharon McElwee

Sharon McElwee is a copywriter and freelance business coach dedicated to help people get better at making real money doing what they love. Check out her free e-course to earn an extra $1000 in the next 30 days.


  1. Great read, Sharon. Freelancing is a great way of getting that extra income from home – if you’re not too tired from full time job when you get home 😀

  2. I am very happy that I found this article. I knew about most of the points you made, but clearing up the points I was unsure about feels good. I can’t thank you enough for your wisdom!


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