This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can find my full disclosure page here.
Whew! I’m just a little more than halfway through this quarter. Throwing 15 college credits into my already hectic schedule has been a little stressful.
But thankfully, I’ve learned some tricks that makes college much simpler. If you’re struggling to balance college and freelancing (and everything else you’ve got going on!), hopefully these tips will help you too.
1. Take Online College Courses
If at all possible, I recommend taking online courses instead of going the traditional route. Why?
Because you can “do school” at 12:30 a.m. when you’re up with a child who can’t sleep. You can do it whenever it fits into your schedule, instead of having to adjust everything in your life to revolve around classes.
Now online college courses aren’t for everyone. But if you have the traits needed to be a good freelancer, chances are you’ve got what it takes to succeed at going to school online too.
You have to be self-motivated and organized to keep on track of your own deadlines, since you won’t have peers or a professor telling you when things are due.
2. Read Your Syllabus
Each college course comes with a syllabus. This is your blueprint to balancing college and your freelancing assignments.
Take notes of when:
- Discussions are due
- The tests are
- Papers need submitted
- Other assignments are due
Put everything on your calendar. Then sit back and look for patterns. If you have lots of assignments due on Tuesdays, you’ll know not to schedule any freelancing assignments for that day.
Your syllabus will also let you know if there are any extra credit opportunities, and if you can complete the course at your own pace or if there are weekly activities to guide your pace.
3. Learn Your Professor’s Expectations
Every college professor is different. Your job the first week of classes is to learn about each professor.
That means you need to do every assignment that week. Do the assigned reading. Watch the lectures. Participate fully in the discussions.
It’ll take a lot of time, but you’ll be prepared to tackle your first graded assignment or test. This experience will help you figure out what each professor is looking for.
Does the test rely heavily on the lecture, but not on the book? Are your readings essential for completing assignments?
Once you’ve gotten results back on your first major graded assignment, take time to reflect. You’ll be able to tell what your professor puts the most emphasis on.
For instance, this quarter I learned these things about my three courses:
- I didn’t need to do any of the reading in one of my courses (which I finished in three weeks with a 97%!)
- One of my professors takes test questions word for word out of the book, and it’s an open-book test. 😀
- In one of my courses, the lectures aren’t ever referred to in assignments so I can skip those
- One of my professors is a stricter grader than the other ones, so I need to put more effort into that course
- The videos and book offer different information in one course, and even though the syllabus says to refer to the book, my professor prefers the information in the video
These tidbits may seem insignificant, but they’ve allowed me to really focus my time and effort to each individual course.
Just like every freelancing client is different, so is every college course!
4. Get Ahead
Try not to wait until the last-minute to submit your assignments. Otherwise, if your internet connection goes down before you’ve actually hit submit, your score will be docked for being turned in late. (Not that I’ve experienced that this quarter or anything! :D)
If you’re saving up all of your reading and everything until the day your assignment is due, one little life interruption and you’ll be behind.
Waiting until the last-minute is never good, for freelancing or doing your assignments. You’ll be much less stressed if you get them done earlier.
5. Be Realistic
You only have so much time in each day. It’s essential to be realistic about how much freelancing you can take on while you’re balancing college.
In anticipation of slowing down, I stopped pitching my first few weeks of college. I knew that the first few weeks would be the hardest, especially since I was pushing to get one class completely finished.
Now that I’ve gotten in the school groove again, I’m back to pitching select gigs. I’m even interviewing for a recurring gig later today! (And super excited about the possibility!)
Slowing down for a bit may be what you need to do too. But it may not be. Do what works for you and your business!
6. Keep an Eye on Your GPA, but Don’t Stress
I graduated with my master’s degree with a 4.0.
But at that time, I only had two kids. I was teaching full-time, but not living on a farm.
Life was completely different.
I’ve decided that if I don’t keep a 4.0 for these three courses that aren’t going towards a degree (they’re just to keep my teaching certificate current), it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
Since I’ve stopped striving for the 4.0 across the board, I’ve spent less time on school. I’ve been happier. And I’m still rocking a high GPA (4.0 in 2 courses and 3.8 in another.)
Decide what you want to earn, and put in the amount of effort that gets you that score. I’d much rather take a slightly lower score in one class than put in the extra two hours it’d take to get there.
Your priorities may be different. And that’s okay! Do what works for you!
7. Let Your Kids Help Hold You Accountable
I love getting my kids involved however I can. I talk to them about my courses, about what I’m learning, and when I have assignments due.
Part of our morning meetings are spent talking about what I need to get done each day.
The kids love holding me accountable. They’ll say, “Mommy, did you get your paper done yet?” or, “Did you finish the blog post you wanted to do today.”
My little helpers keep my on track, and I appreciate it. Especially when pregnancy brain sinks in and I’m feeling like I’m in a fog.
I also have my oldest watch my ASL videos with me, since she is taking an ASL course as an elective. It’s nice to have her company!
8. Take it One Week at a Time
I’m taking a quarter’s worth of college courses. That’s only 10 weeks.
By taking it one week at a time, I can get through without feeling as overwhelmed.
Conversely, if I freeze at the beginning of the quarter because I have so much to do, I’ll never make it through. I’d be too stressed over everything that needs to be done over the course of the quarter.
One day, one week, one assignment at a time.
Are You Trying to Balance College and Freelancing?
I’d love to hear what other tips you can add. Since we all have different areas pulling on us, we can’t all do it exactly the same way.
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.