Juggling work AND creative side projects?

by Jan 27, 2020

What happens when the thing you think of as your true calling isn’t the same thing as your day job? What if your true calling is a creative side project that doesn’t make enough money to support you? What if, for example, you’re training to be a teacher and you’re also a performing musician, or you’ve studied event management and you’re also committed to photography, or you’re a product designer who performs stand-up comedy at night? For some people, relying solely on a day job to fulfil their dreams and ambitions isn’t enough.

If at some point you find yourself juggling a day job with a creative side project, here are some tips on how to stay healthy, balanced and organised.

Choose wisely

Your day job is still important, even if it doesn’t relate to your main ambitions. If your day job makes you unhappy, you won’t have the energy and inspiration to spend time working on your creative side project. Day jobs are least draining when they involve doing something that comes naturally to you. Try and choose a job that takes into account your personality and strengths.

Learn to say no

Accept the sacrifices that come with having both a day job and a creative side project. The biggest sacrifice will be time. Start getting used to missing out on certain things, learn to say no to some events, and help friends and family understand that it’s not personal when you can’t make it to something. Saying no to friends and family might make you feel guilty. Acknowledge the guilt, but don’t let it consume you.

Get organised

Routine and structure are your friends. Learn to identify the times when you have fewest distractions and your energy and confidence are high. It might be first thing in the morning, during your lunch hour, or last thing at night. Block these times out and build your creative practice around them. Regularity and commitment are as important as long blocks of time.

If you can, build a creative space for your work so that once you enter that space your mind is ready. Pay attention to barriers that stop you from getting started, and find ways to minimize them.

Time management is key

Be realistic about what it means to juggle a day job and a creative project. At times you will feel tired and overwhelmed. During these times, try to be flexible and adaptable by making changes to your routine to accommodate other commitments. Check in with yourself, examine the practice you’ve established, and make adjustments if necessary. A creative project’s timeline might have made sense a year ago, but may not suit where you’re at now.

Give yourself a break

Treat yourself well. Don’t punish yourself when you don’t meet your creative standards and goals, and don’t give up. There will be times when you feel despondent about your creative project, so actively build resilience by ensuring that rest and relaxation are built into your schedule. Doing nothing is not only refreshing, it’s a creative act in itself. Rest and replenish, then come back to your creative project with a revitalized frame of mind.

Build your network

Make supportive friends. Spend time with people who understand the struggle of managing a day job and a creative side project. Learn from them, support them, and offer them the same in return. Build a community of like-minded people and nurture these relationships to help you manage the struggles and achievements of your creative project.

Move forward

Though it can be painful, know when to let go of something that’s not working. Sometimes letting something go can be the impetus to move forward with something new in your creative practice. The same goes for your day job. Is it making you feel drained and uninspired? Do you need to find a different kind of work whose hours are better suited to fitting around your creative project?  Reflect, examine and make changes as you move ahead.


If you’re studying design and looking to advance your professional standing, our upcoming Polish Your Design Portfolio workshop can help you advance your design portfolio, resume, and online presence. Find out more here!

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

By Ellen Rodger

By Ellen Rodger

Careers Advisor

Ellen Rodger is a Careers Advisor with over 10 years’ experience in helping people reach their career goals. As a Careers Consultant at UTS, she delivers careers-related workshops and provides one-on-one career counselling to students.