On the Side or All the Way?
Freelancing on the side while working a regular 9-5 job is both a handy way to get your freelancing business started as well as a useful trick for earning extra cash without the stress of giving up your day job. For myself, doing the odd job here and there was how I started even thinking about freelancing. As it became obvious that there was enough work to keep me afloat I gave my old employer a ‘thank you very much and see ya later’ and off I went to full time freelancing freedom. Here are some of the pros and cons of moonlighting on the side that I found during my time:
What’s Great About Freelancing on the Side
- You Get to Test the Waters
Giving up the security of your day job can be a bit frightening. When you work for someone else it’s their responsibility to bring in the clients, get you the jobs and pay you when not much is afoot. As a full time freelancer you’ll be inheriting all that and more. But the great thing about freelancing on the side is that you get to test the waters before you completely give up the security of your job. A little like wearing floaties on your first trip in the pool. If it doesn’t pan out and you turn out to be an awful swimmer well those little balloons of air will make sure you don’t get into too much trouble, and if you’re the next Ian Thorpe then you can quickly slip out of them and splash away.
You Get to Take Holidays
I don’t know if all freelancers are like me, but I have a hard time taking holidays. There hardly ever seems to be a good time to do it, someone’s project is always due and if you don’t have any jobs on then you’re probably freaking out about your impending poverty. This is not the case for part-time freelancers, for they can always free up some time by turning away jobs with the luxury of knowing that they still have an employer who will actually pay them to relax… Did I mention that I miss paid holidays?
- Build a Portfolio and Stable of Clients for Future Full-Time Freelancing
When I left my last job, my employer made it clear that I was not to pass off their work as my own when bidding for new jobs, in particular on my new freelancing website. Not all employers do this and for some industries it’s not an issue at all, but if you are a designer in particular this can be a significant drag as any portfolio pieces you might have look rather lonely. Working on the side however meant that I had already managed to put together a few reasonable designs to show off and they were to form the core of my future portfolio.
Whatever industry you are in, freelancing on the side does ensure that you have a few regular clients already before you jump into full-time freelancing. This takes some of the early pressure off you to get clients as fast as possible.
- Cash Up
Who ever feels they earn enough? I never did, that’s for damn sure. Working for the man left me with plenty of time to think about things like ‘raises’ and ‘bonuses’, but somehow they never came quite fast enough. Freelancing on the side however is a neat way to tap into some extra cash for that holiday, car or just to start your new freelancing business
What To Watch Out For
Whoops there goes your free time
Oh you wanted a full-time job, freelance work AND time to have a life? Well more often than not that is a hard act to achieve. Freelancing on the side naturally sucks up your evenings, weekends and when I used to do it, my early, early mornings! If you think free time is overrated then this probably isn’t a big deal. In fact it might be a good taste of what full-time freelancing can be like.
- Don’t get caught doing it at work
I doubt there’s a freelancer alive who didn’t try to squeeze in a bit of their own work while at the office supposedly doing the man’s work. Certainly I used to use my ‘lunch breaks’ to finish off the odd job, but this can have consequences. Your employer starts wondering why you take so long, your stress levels go up as you invent increasingly more complex schemes to make yourself look like you’ve been working when you haven’t and you become all too familiar with “Alt-Tab” to switch between windows away from client work you weren’t meant to be doing.
No pressure release valves
I’ve always believed in the concept of what I call ‘pressure valves’. When you have way too much work to do, its nice to have something you can do to take the pressure off. For me this usually means working on the weekend. Knowing that I have a weekend or a night up my sleeve means that I can relax in the knowledge that if I somehow don’t finish my Monday-due project by Friday afternoon that it’s not the end of the world. As an on-the-side freelancer though you have far fewer pressure valves since you’re already using those times to do the jobs anyway. So if you accidentally bite off more than you can chew – something not uncommon to freelancers – then you may find that less sleep and a timely ‘sick day’ are the only cards you have left to play, and that’s no fun.
- Clients don’t always want to talk outside of office hours
Most clients (rightly) see the hours of 9 to 5 as those to be used for doing business. Most on-the-side freelancers see the hours of 9 to 5 as the hours when they need to switch off their mobile phone, not check their other email address and at least maintain the facade of working for someone else. This inevitably causes problems. Personally I hated having hushed conversations in corridors while I hurriedly tried to placate my client and get him off the phone before a too-curious co-worker realised what I was up to. Some office environments don’t care if you run your freelance communications through them, but these are relatively few and far-between.
- A Bit of the Worst of Both Worlds
There is good and bad about working for the man and freelancing, when you part-time freelance you get a bit of the worst of both. Not only do you have to find clients, be responsible for the jobs, worry about invoicing and quoting and all that malarkey, but hey you also have to show up on time to work, do what someone else tells you to do and put up with all the other annoyances of working in an office.
So there you have it, my take on part-time freelancing. I’ve added a poll to this post, so vote now and tell me whether you do it on the side or all the way with Stephanie K!