For most people, the alluring call of the freelance world can be quite seductive. The opportunity to be your own boss, to dictate your hours and the types of projects you undertake, seems quite promising. On the flip side, the startup environment is fast-paced, exhilarating, and constantly evolving. Both worlds are appealing and rewarding in their rights. And so, a thought crept into my mind – why not dabble in both?
While working as a Product Manager, driving growth and innovation at a Fintech startup, I began freelancing, using my design skills to shape the UI and UX for another startup. Now, I thrive in dynamic environments, ready to take on new challenges. So, the idea of managing both seemed plausible at first.
The reality, however, was starkly different from my initial assumptions.
Spread Too Thin
Working for a startup is not a nine-to-five job. It demands more of your time, your energy, and your creativity. As a Product Manager, I was at the helm of projects, juggling ideation and product design. My primary responsibility was to create products that were functional and appealing and drove business growth.
In the midst of this, I had to find time for my freelance work, designing UI and UX for a client. This meant late nights, early mornings, and no weekends. Despite my best efforts to manage my time efficiently, I found myself stretched thin, both physically and mentally.
The Conflict of Interests
One of the essential aspects of working in a startup is the unwavering focus and dedication toward the common goal. However, dividing my attention between the startup and my freelance work often led to conflicting interests. As much as I loved the thrill of the new challenge, I found it increasingly difficult to maintain the dedication and attention required for both roles.
Burnout is Real
And then, the inevitable happened. The constant juggling, the high-pressure situations, the sleepless nights – all led to eventual burnout. I was no longer delivering my best in either role. The work that I loved began to feel like a chore. The creativity, the innovation – it all started to dwindle.
Quality of Work Suffers
I had always prided myself on my ability to lead cross-functional teams. But, with my attention divided and energy drained, the quality of my work began to suffer. Deadlines started to slide, the standard of work dropped, and overall productivity nosedived.
In retrospect, it’s easy to see why the idea of juggling a full-time role in a startup and freelancing work doesn’t pan out well. Startups demand your utmost attention and dedication – they are not a side project you can dabble in. On the other hand, freelancing requires creativity, focus, and a lot of time. Plus, managing a client.
The biggest lesson I took away from this experience is that both worlds are uniquely demanding, and trying to straddle both can lead to subpar results. A focused and dedicated effort towards one pursuit at a time will lead to better results, personal satisfaction, and a balanced life.
The startup environment and the freelance world are both exciting and enticing in their rights. However, the key to success is to give them the time, attention, and dedication they deserve – separately. This realization has guided me to manage my career path better, maintaining a balance between my work, creativity, and personal life.
What was your experience like?