I was recently discussing with a friend how to balance paid work with working on your own startups, especially in those leaner times. Here’s what I came up with. Not rocket science, nor the solution for everyone – but this approach has helped me. Let me know what’s worked for you too.

Woodland sunrise taken at The Lodge, Bedfordshire by Stuar Geeves (rspb-images.com)

1. Pay it Forward – I know it’s frustrating when you work on things that don’t pay you straight away but I’m a big believer in give before take. Loving new ideas and supporting people on their career/startup journey is actually a pleasure, at least from a karma point of view!

2. Drop the CV & build a page that shows off why you’re different (and therefore valuable). Tell you story! I’ve used Strikingly. It’s free and looks a whole lot better than a CV.

3. Ask yourself what you would really be happy/fulfilled doing? Then build everything else around that. If the answer is running your own business, in what? And then, how? If that means working on it part-time for 12 months whilst you freelance, do that.

4. The right freelance work takes time to get – I’ve always done a little of this but now (because of a new family arrival) I’m making much more of an effort. In fact, I’ve used my wife’s pregnancy as a timeline to get the contracts signed. The result? I spent Sept-December meeting and networking with people I wanted to work with/for. It really only costed me my time and coffee and I’ve now got 3 interesting paid projects. Yes, they’ve taken time to close and they’re not enough yet for this years income target, but at least I’m working on things I want to be doing (which means I should do a better job) and then I use the rest of my time to work on my own startups.

5. Collaboration increases productivity – I’ve spent a lot of the last few years working mainly on one project with one or two people. I’m now working on 4 or 5 projects with a lot more – yes, I have to be organised – but I think I’m getting better and more productive at what I do.

6. Hibernate from email – Less is more. I’ve always told myself this with projects. But I’m not very good at practicing it. This year I’ve started taking weekly 24 hour email fasts – what we used to call ‘a weekend’ before blackberrys and apps changed things. I’ve learnt that enforced regular time away from my inbox has lots of upsides – and most of them are work based. If you’re interested in reclaiming your tech health, come hibernate with me.