This post hasn't been updated in over 2 years.
It’s incredibly common to freelance on the side: if you’re working a day job, it’s inevitable that you’ll come across someone who wants you to exercise your skills off the clock. Some folks take it farther: actively seeking out freelance projects to do after they get off from their day job. But how does part-time freelancing stack up against going full-time?
The Perks of Part-Time
There are benefits of having a day job when you’re also freelancing. If you’ve got the right day job, you’ve got your health insurance taken care of — neatly avoiding one of the biggest downsides to freelancing full-time. Other employee benefits, like retirement accounts, can make life a lot easier, as well.
Financially speaking, it’s possible for a part-time freelancer with a decent day job to come out ahead of a full-time freelancer.
You also have the comfort of knowing that you don’t have to rely on landing a steady stream of client work to be able to keep the lights on. It’s probably your goal, but if there’s something that just makes it impossible for you to freelance for a few weeks, you don’t have to worry.
Even better, if you’re freelancing part-time and working either part or full-time, you may very well be making good income. In addition to the money that you’re directly earning, you have lots of opportunities to keep your taxes and related costs down. You can increase your withholding at your job to make sure that you don’t have to worry about paying your taxes, while still writing off all the deductions that go along with having your own business.
Financially speaking, it’s possible for a part-time freelancer with a decent day job to come out ahead of a full-time freelancer. But there are certain problems that can get in the way of those finances.
The Other Side of the Story
When you’re freelancing part-time, you can run up against time crunches that full-time freelancers don’t experience. Working full-time on one job and then freelancing in the evenings means that you’re either going to have limited hours in which to work on client work, or you’re not going to have a social life. And while it’s easy to say that a social life isn’t really necessary, at least in the short-term, working too many hours out of every day can mean that you’re turning out work that just isn’t up to the standards you would set if you’re well-rested and have gotten a chance to relax recently. It’s not impossible to manage — but it is harder.
Limitations on the number of hours you can work can also make it harder to land bigger projects. If you just don’t have time time to complete a certain project in the timeline a client has in mind, rates and skills don’t even come into the question. It’s tougher to land long-term clients that will bring you project after project, if you don’t have the ability to take them on.
There’s also the risk of unprofessionalism: if you don’t have to rely entirely on the payments your clients send for your income, you may make choices that your clients aren’t as thrilled at. Many clients associate project delays, lack of communication and other negative characteristics with part-time freelancers. Not only do you have to avoid potential problems, but you also have to overcome some stereotypes.
That might also include some of your own stereotypes. If you keep thinking that freelancing is just something you do on the side, it can be a lot harder to convince yourself to charge what you’re worth or to tell a client no. You have to be able to think of yourself as a professional, even if you’re not taking on forty hours of freelance work a week.
Part-Time is a Good Deal — If You Can Make It Work
There’s no denying that health insurance and other benefits can tip the scales in favor of freelancing part-time while working a day job, at least in many countries. But you do have to work harder to build up a clientele that respects you as a professional. You also have to make sure that you’re taking yourself seriously, as well. If you can do that, though, you can make part-time freelancing pay off.