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Table Of Contents  The Online Freelancing Guide
 >  Introduction - Online Freelancing Overview, Options, Opportunities and Challenges
      >  Online Freelancing Career Options

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Online Freelancing as a Complement to Traditional Freelancing
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Keeping Your Day Job - Online Freelancing as a Sideline to Full-Time Employment

Full-time online freelancing provides the greatest potential for reward, but also carries the most risk. This is especially true if you are already employed in a traditional job—if you decide to leave your position to strike out on your own, and it doesn’t work out as you hoped, you really can’t count on being able to return to where you were. Especially in our current economy, putting yourself among the millions trying to find a full-time job is a very risky move.

One of the primary ways that people reduce risk in the world of finance and investing is diversification: spreading out one’s money over a variety of investments, rather than putting all of one’s eggs in the same proverbial basket. You can apply the same principles to your career, by starting up online freelancing as a sideline business while continuing your full-time employment.

In addition to the obvious advantage of this mixed approach—you can try out online freelancing without the danger associated with quitting your job—there are other plusses as well. For one thing, there’s less pressure: you can learn about online freelancing at your own pace, and if it takes a while to get established, it doesn’t really matter. You earn extra money, and extra money is always good, isn’t it? :) And assuming you have benefits as part of your regular job, you continue to, well, benefit from them—a great advantage over full-time freelancing.

Of course, the main drawback to going part-time instead of full-time is that you’re doing less work, so you’re earning less as well. But there are a couple of other disadvantages as well. For one, it’s in many ways harder to do this when also working a full-time job—it’s like having a second job, and that can be taxing. Also, while it’s good that you can take more time to ease into the freelancing lifestyle, some people find it hard to get up to speed when they are only putting in a few hours a week.

On the whole, I think the pros have the cons beat here, and I recommend this approach for those who are new to the freelancing game. If you do start online freelancing on the side, here are a few issues that I recommend keeping in mind:

  • Beware of Conflicts of Interest: Before you even consider this path, make sure that what you are doing won’t cause a problem with your full-time job. Some employers have a big problem with “moonlighting”—others don’t care. Even if you’re sure there isn’t an issue in general, you want to avoid clearly problematic situations, such as taking on a project for a major customer or competitor of your employer.

  • Decide What You’re Willing to Give Up: As I said above, this effort will be compa­rable to taking on a second job; it takes time, and that has to come from somewhere. Don’t imagine that you’ll just “squeeze this in”—something will have to give, and you’re better off recognizing this and making a conscious decision about it, rather than letting the decision make itself.

  • Get Buy-In From Your Family: If you are married, and especially if you have children, be sure that you involve your loved ones in this decision, because it affects them as well. And in relation to the point just above, you’ll find that this idea goes over much better if what you choose to give up is a personal interest rather than a family respon­sibility. Not many people would complain about their spouses foregoing hobbies or watching TV to start a new career. On the other hand, if you plan to do this by putting off chores or spending less time with your children, expect to encounter a lot more resistance.

  • Set Yourself Up for Work: All freelancers need a comfortable workplace that allows them to concentrate, and time where they can work without interruption; I discuss this in detail in the chapter on managing your freelancing business. Part-timers have an especially difficult time with this issue because of the double whammy of doing most of their work during evening and weekend hours, and likely not being able to justify a dedicated home office. I can’t really give you much specific advice here, either: you just have to do the best you can. For several years my “office” was the corner of my home’s kitchen; music and headphones were my best friends. :)

  • Bid Carefully: Be careful not to bid on too many projects at once, or you could find yourself in a tough spot. Full-time freelancers can adapt to a sudden surge of work by putting in extra hours in the evening or on weekends, but you’re already doing that.

  • Be Patient: It takes even full-time freelancers a long time to become established; as a sideline freelancer, it will take that much longer. Take your time and don’t have unreal­istic expectations.

One final and perhaps most important caveat: if you try this, be reasonable about how you do it. While combining full-time employment and part-time freelancing can be a way to reduce financial risk, it carries one big risk of its own: it’s an invitation to workaholism. It’s fine to decide to devote 10 or even 20 hours a week to freelancing in addition to regular business hours, if the rest of your life makes it a viable option. But if you try to do too much, something will suffer. If becoming a freelancer means neglecting your relationships, your sleep or your health, then you are paying too high a price, and need to back off and consider a different approach.


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Online Freelancing Career Options
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Online Freelancing as a Complement to Traditional Freelancing
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