Your guide to juggling casual and freelance work

cartoon that says your guide to juggling freelance and casual work

Chances are you’re one of the almost 2.5 million Aussies in casual work – juggling a mix of contract, volunteer or freelance jobs. Managing deadlines, looking after your wellbeing and ensuring you get paid on time can make things a bit of a struggle. We get that. Since a few experts believe that these jobs – aka the ‘gig economy’ – is the new face of work, we want to help you guide you through this new landscape and help you make the most of it.

Hang on, what exactly is the gig economy?

The gig economy basically just means a new work situation where all your jobs are temporary, short term, or one off ‘gigs’. These jobs are normally paid per piece — for instance, a set rate to deliver a package, or to drive or deliver a passenger or an item. Gig jobs tend to be flexible, so most gig workers find themselves juggling a mix of different types of jobs. This can be great if you’ve got a few different skills, or if you’re splitting your time between work and study.

cartoon that says get your organisational shit together

Feeling stressed is no way to live – but when you’re juggling a few different projects, or racing between work and school, it can be easy to fall into a stress spiral. These tips will help you take control of your workload and will hopefully keep panic at bay.

  • Make a ‘to do’ list. This can be in a fancy notebook or , but keeping a short list where you can see it will help unclutter your mind and keep you across everything you have to get done.

  • Keep your space tight. If you’re doing deliveries, having a designated spot for your gear or uniform can make getting out the door easier. Or, if you work at a desk, keeping things neat and grouped together by job will really help.

  • Use your calendar. Breaking your day into blocks of time allocated to specific tasks is an easy way to keep on top of your ‘to do’ list. Setting a time for answering emails, doing your laundry, making deliveries or planning the week ahead will allow you to focus on the job at hand without having your mind wander to all the other things you have to get done.

  • Track your deadlines. If you’re working on projects that have a due date, make sure you put it somewhere you can see it, like on a wall planner or in your phone calendar. If you’ve got to make deliveries or pickups at certain times, log them so you don’t miss them.

cartoon that says be your own HR manager
  • As often as possible, ask yourself how you’re going. We’ve made a handy quiz that you can use, or you could take five minutes each day to sit somewhere you feel comfy and rate your day out of 10. If it’s hitting 5 or lower, you know something is up.

  • Make sure you take the time to stretch your legs, have a proper lunch or take five minutes to focus on something other than your work.

  • Try slotting in time for a mindfulness activity. This can be a great way to relax and reset your brain. Check out our great exercises here.

  • The happier you are, the more productive you’re going to be, so being kind to your mind is good for your gigs, too. Making sure you have a handle on work/life balance is key to staying mentally well. Sometimes a bit of procrastination is a useful way to keep yourself mentally in the game.

  • Taking a sick day can be stressful if it means you won’t get paid for it, but taking one sick day now is WAY better than having to take more time off later because you’re totally burnt out.

cartoon that says manage your time like a boss
  • Manage your time. Knowing how long you have to do something will keep you from getting caught up on one task and running out of time to do the rest.

  • Set clear goals. Sitting down at the start of your day or week and working out exactly what goals you have to kick can help you keep your eyes on the prize. You might like to use apps like Habitica or Asana to do this, or if you're old school, you might just want to use a daily planner.

  • Break up big jobs. Sometimes big tasks can seem overwhelming, but breaking them up into smaller jobs can make it feel a whole lot easier to get things done.

  • Remove all distractions. If you find yourself scrolling the ‘gram or chatting on Messenger, you might need to put your phone away while you work. You could use it as a reward when you need a break. You could even use an app called Forest, which will help you stay focused and avoid distractions.

cartoon that says stay connected with your squad

It’s important to stay connected to the real world, especially if you find yourself eating lunch alone every day.

  • Try an online forum like Meetup or Facebook for connecting with and meeting other freelancers.

  • Connect with other volunteers or contractors working in the same field.

  • Schedule regular time to catch up with your mates. You can only work hard if you play hard, too.

  • Find a mentor in your field who can advise, support and encourage your work and your career as a whole. Having someone who can help you see the bigger picture will keep you on track and connected to the importance of what you’re doing.

cartoon that says accept uncertainty

Casual work or freelance jobs can leave you feeling a bit uncertain about what the future may hold. This is the nature, and one of the downsides, of the gig economy. If you find yourself stressing about the uncertainty, it can help to focus on the things that are in your control and to accept those that aren’t. To help you out, we’ve written a whole article on it here. Here are a few pointers:

  • We all have that one friend that’s just super ‘on top of everything’. Try and imagine how they would deal with your situation, whatever it is. It doesn’t mean you have to do the same, but just to understand there are different ways to respond to things.

  • If you find yourself worrying about unimportant things too much, one tip is to write those thoughts down. There’s nothing wrong with having worries from time to time. The problem is when they start to take over and seem ‘real’. But if you write them down and look back at them, your brain is forced to acknowledge them as just thoughts.

  • Talk to people around you about how you’re feeling: family, friends, or anyone else you trust.

cartoon that says get some expert advice

There’s a lot of ins and outs to gig life. You (literally) have your work cut out for you navigating it all. It can be overwhelming trying to juggle your time and keep on top of your rights, finances, wellbeing and workload. Luckily, there are some experts out there who can steer you in the right direction.

What can I do now?

  • Check out our ‘best of the web’ roundup on getting a job.

  • Hear from other young people about their thoughts on the future, their plans and how they manage it all.

  • Read our top tips for choosing a career path.