Part-Time Freelancing–Is It Worth It?

The growing number of freelancers seems to be a hot topic. Nearly every week I read a news story about how there are more freelancers than ever before (although nobody seems to know for sure exactly how many there are).

What most of those articles don’t mention is that a sizable number of freelancers are part-time freelancers. That means that they have another job and freelance on the side or that they work less than a full workweek by choice. (A full workweek is usually defined as thirty hours.)

In this post, we’ll explore the world of part-time freelancing. We’ll look at some of the reasons people freelance part-time and explore some of the unique challenges they face. Plus, I’ll incorporate tips and advice from five freelancers who work part-time.

Why Freelance Part-time?

There are many reasons that a freelancer may choose to work part-time. Here are just a few:

  1. Gives the freelancer the opportunity to “try” freelancing while still working their regular job–Many people are interested in freelancing, but they aren’t sure if they can make it as a freelancer. Working part-time, they can try to get their freelancing career started and still get a regular paycheck.
  2. Allows the freelancer to hold onto the employment benefits that go along with a traditional job–The one thing keeping many employees from freelancing is the loss of the “safety net” of benefits that comes along with most full-time jobs. This safety net can include health insurance, sick pay, and many other perks.
  3. Offers a higher pay scale for those who can’t work a full-time job due to their other responsibilities–Many freelancers need to earn money, but can’t put in a thirty-hour week due to their life situation. They may be the caretaker for a young child or for someone who is sick. They may be located too far from most employment centers.
  4. Lets some in-demand professionals earn extra money–Some professionals take on occasional freelancing gigs so that they can purchase something they wouldn’t be able to afford on the income from their salaried jobs. Others may take on freelance work to reduce or eliminate debt.
  5. Provides an income when no other opportunities are available–In today’s economy, traditional employment is often hard to find. This is particularly true for those who are just starting out in their profession. Often, taking on freelancing work is the quickest and easiest way for a new professional to start earning an income.

Despite the many reasons for freelancing part-time, it is not without its challenges.

Part-time Freelancer Challenges

While part-time freelancing may seem safer and offer some advantages that full-time freelancing doesn’t provide, part-timers have their own problems. Here are some challenges that part-time freelancers face:

  1. Time crunch–All freelancers must learn to manage their time, but part-time freelancers can be especially vulnerable to running out of time. Lynda Bullock has been a part-time freelance writer for the last two years. She has this to say, “My greatest challenge is finding enough time during the day.”
  2. Rate pressure–A part-time freelancer may be tempted to accept a lower rate since they have another job. Also, if a client realizes that a freelancer has traditional employment to fall back on, they may offer less money.
  3. Life balance–For many part-time freelancers, finding the right balance can be a real struggle. For Michelle Kulas, who has been a part-time freelance blogger for five years, balance is critical. She says “It’s hard to find the time to fit it all in. It’s a constant juggling act.” Jessie Fitzgerald, a part-time health and nutrition writer, agrees. Fitzgerald also lists work/life balance as her biggest challenge.
  4. Keeping up with clients and other commitments–Most freelancers work with more than one client at a time, but for part-timers this can be difficult. Osny Santos Netto has been freelancing for five years. According to Netto, his biggest challenge is “dealing with different clients” and “having the time to do the tasks on time for the clients.” Samuel James White is a student who has been a part-time freelancer for the last six months. White says, “I have to be careful, or I risk losing control of my studies.”

Fortunately, there are few guidelines you can follow to help overcome these challenges if you freelance part-time.

Part-time Freelancer Guidelines

As a part-time freelancer, how can you make sure that everything goes smoothly? Here are some guidelines to help part-time freelancers:

  1. Manage your time–Don’t overschedule yourself. If you have ten hours to spend freelancing, don’t schedule fifteen. Netto advises other part-timers to “take control of your time.”
  2. Prioritize your schedule–White says, “My advice to other part-time freelancers would be to prioritize correctly.” His advice for doing this is “don’t get carried away by ignoring what really matters.”
  3. Keep going–Bullock says, “The best advice I could give other part-time freelancers is to simply never give up. Despite what many believe, freelancing isn’t easy and requires a lot of hard work.”
  4. Don’t cave in to rate pressure–What you charge for your work is just as important as what a full-timer charges.
  5. Get help–Kulas delegates “household tasks to my kids and outsources some projects to carefully hand-picked fellow professional writers at times.”
  6. Focus on profit–Fitzgerald says, “Keep your time profitable and make every minute matter.”
  7. Remember that you’re not locked in to part-time freelancing–One of the beauties of freelancing is that it’s flexible. You may be a part-time freelancer now, but you can change that if and when you want.

Your Turn

Are you a part-time freelancer? Add your own tips and challenges in the comments.

Are you thinking of freelancing part-time? Ask your questions to our freelance community in the comments.

Image by peretzpup

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for the Guidelines. As a full-time freelancer, I simply don’t have time to do everything I want to get done in a day. I have also learned to never give up and as a result, I have had enough clients to keep me going in freelancing and its just getting better. I would never trade freelancing for a full-time 9-5 gig. So never give up and just keep going.

  2. says

    Candy, I think Mr. Netto may be something other than a writer, but I’m not sure. However, when I asked on Twitter and Google+ for responses from part-time freelancers those who responded were mostly writers. Still, the points should apply to most other freelancers as well.

    David–Thanks for your good advice to never quit. :)

  3. says

    I freelance part-time, and I can say without a doubt that time management is the biggest challenge for me. While my day job’s a remote one, freelancing on the time can still be surprisingly demanding. I have months where it’s super quiet, and then others where I get inquiries and leads knocking left and right, then some become clients and their projects eat up my free time.

    On top of marketing my blog and myself, networking online, and keeping up with social media, it makes me reconsider whether it’s all worth it. I have to struggle with juggling my leisure time, and can’t pursue other hobbies, stay in shape, spend time with my husband and friends, and not be constantly thinking about work or my writing when I’m supposed to be clocked out.

    I think I’m going to take it a bit easy with the marketing for the moment, since it’s eating up the most of my time now. I’ll be coming back to reference this article – thanks so much for writing it, Laura!

  4. says

    It was part-time freelancing that gave me the courage to start my business full time in 2008 after I was laid off twice in a seven-month period. If you can manage your time and workload well, I would definitely recommend it.

    When people ask me for hints about starting a business, I tell them to start their new company, then keep working full time for a year while they save money and start their marketing and networking. During that year, they can build their Web sites, get business cards, start networking and lay the groundwork while they still have an income. Yes, they’ll work A LOT of hours! But when they go solo, they’ll have a solid foundation and some financial security for backup.

  5. says

    I part time freelance as a web designer, and work full time as a UI designer / UX designer…. my biggest challenge isn’t time as I am pretty good at time management, it is more getting the inspiration or energy after a hard days work to come home and sit down and do my freelancing jobs.. especially when I am at a ‘mundane’ part of the project (loading content or browser testing for example).

    I would like to hear how people get around this?

    I for one have informed my partner to be my boss at times like this and give been a bit of a kick if she sees me procrasting. She seems to just get the difference in when I need a break and when I’m just putting something off.

  6. says

    Jean–Thanks for your input. I can well imagine that time management would be a huge challenge.

    Catena Creations, That’s a great story and great advice too. :)

    Warwick–I hope other freelancers do chime in with their advice. In the meantime, it sounds like you’ve got some help from your partner.

  7. says

    I’m trying to work my way into part-time freelancing right now. I think one challenge is just finding the work. I have read quite a few tips and talked to some others, but it’s hard to break through into any kind of markets for it.

    As a sidenote… when did 30 hours become a “full week”? If I succeed in my part-time freelancing, I’ll be working two “full weeks” according to your scale!

  8. says

    Hi Patrick! Here on Freelance Folder we frequently publish posts on how to find work. You might find what you need be searching the site for the phrase “find work.” 30 hours was used as the deviding line between PT and FT because that is when an employee is typically eligible for benefits (like insurance). Best wishes on your new freelancing business.

  9. says

    Hi all,
    I am a part-time freelance web designer. Work about 20 hrs a week and make $1,000 a month at least. In response to Patrick’s comment about finding inspiration, I found that separating work location was the thing I needed. I did not like coming home after a long day just to work all over again. I usually like working from coffee shops or co-working spaces when I do my freelance work, and when I get home, it signals that I’m DONE for the day and can relax with my fiance’ and cat :) Also working out at least 3 times a week helps refresh my brain and having a good sleep pattern is very important, because I was literally an insomniac after being plugged in for so long. On days I can’t work out, I just go to the sauna, and it helps a LOT!
    Interestingly, my full time job is helping develop a technology for interactive resume that helps freelancers and creative professionals land jobs. LOL

    Lola
    VP of Marketing, YpickMe
    http://www.ypick.me
    @ypick_me

  10. says

    Allena, I don’t think you’re alone in working part-time hours with full-time pay. In fact, that’s one of the main drawing points for freelancing vs. a part-time job–the pay is so much higher as a freelancer than in a traditional job with similar hours. As to how you want to refer to yourself, I would say that is your choice since you are your own employer.

    Lola–Wow! It sounds like you’re making progress on your part-time freelancing career. Thanks for adding all your advice and experience.

  11. says

    Great ideas. I think some people see it as taking a hobby or interest/craft they’ve developed and slowly taking it to the next level. Such as a musician playing more than just open mics, or a carpenter moving on from picture frames to a table and chairs, lots of social stationery areas, an avid reader starting to write.

    The hardest part is probably the initial step, from just a hobby to something they’re expert enough to start charging for, not to mention any additional marketing/website activities.

  12. says

    Thanks a lot for posting such an informative blog article on Freelancing, be it part time or full time. Nowadays, many people are turning Freelancers in various fields like Journalism, Blogging, Teaching & so on. These tips should help newcomers who are making their debut in the field of Freelancing.

  13. says

    Starting Freelancing on the side to become full time in Freelancing is the ultimate goal for most people isn’t it? I don’t really want to have a 9-5 job that I am not too stoked about or is just way too much work for the pay. Might as well get paid as much and have more time on your hands. I think I am going to buy your Ultimate freelancer book.

  14. says

    Its nice to post this Guidelines it helps for me for planning to be a freelancer and try to be part time. I hope it helps to earn more profit and stay at home for work. Thank you

  15. says

    Yes I agree to all the points.I have been doing part time freelance work for close to 3 years now and scheduling the time is the biggest task apart from hiding the part time work from my full time employer:).

    Now I have made some rules for me that work e.g – taking only one project at a time….taking buffer time to complete the task….maintaining particular hours to work.Its challenging and interesting to do part time work though one does learn a lot in the process.

    Thanks for raising the topic.It was nice to read it.

  16. says

    Yes I agree to all the points.I have been doing part time freelance work for close to 3 years now and scheduling the time is the biggest task apart from hiding the part time work from my full time employer:).

    Now I have made some rules for me that work e.g – taking only one project at a time….taking buffer time to complete the task….maintaining particular hours to work.Its challenging and interesting to do part time work though one does learn a lot in the process.

    Thanks for raising the topic.It was nice to read it.

  17. says

    Great post!

    For the past few years I was running my freelance business part-time alongside a full-time job, mainly for extra money. However, back in November my full-time job was made part-time, so I had to get more serious about freelancing.

    Although having my hours cut was incredibly worrying (“how will I pay the mortgage?” and so on…) I’m glad it happened as I love freelancing. I’m now hoping that further along I may be able to switch to full-time freelancing.

    The main problem I find is having time for everything; working 3 days at my job and the other 2 days plus evenings and weekends freelancing doesn’t leave much time to get everything else done, such as housework, or sleeping! I’d agree that being super-organised and prioritising my schedule is key to managing everything.

  18. says

    Nicely written article. Being a part-time freelancer is challenging but it has many positive aspects.

    I find that as a part-time web freelancer who has a full-time job, I am able to only work on projects that I am interested into. I appreciate being able to say no to some projects and clients.

    I find that having one or two clients at a particular time is enough.

    Thank you for the guideline and tips.

  19. says

    Hi all, I will like to introduce everyone to freelance domain marketplace, it’s a freelance jobs marketplace where service buyers post jobs that they need to be done and freelancers submit bids to win the job. It’s totally free to post jobs. Our services include web designing, programming, writing, translation, software development, engineering, seo, marketing, advertising, copywriting, proofreading, data entry and more

  20. manish raiyani says

    hi Laura Spencer, i want to start a part time freelancing as php web developer,please guide me that what should i do for that.

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  1. [...] The growing number of freelancers seems to be a hot topic. Nearly every week I read a news story about how there are more freelancers than ever before (although nobody seems to know for sure exactly how many there are). What most of those articles don’t mention is that a sizable number of freelancers are part-time freelancers. That means that they have another job and freelance on the side or that they work less than a full workweek by choice Direct Link [...]

  2. [...] The freelancing life has its ups and down, and recently I was interviewed by fellow blogger, Laura Spencer. She wrote about the benefits, challenges and guidelines of freelance writing. You can go see what I, along with four other successful freelancers, have to say at the Freelance Folder. [...]

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