Since one-third of professionals have worked on a freelance basis in their lifetime, the concept of becoming a freelancer is hardly new. However, as more people take the leap from their day jobs to start an online business, there is a recent surge in freelancing.
Some become freelancers to make extra money on the side, while others want to create their own career path and be their own boss.
No matter what’s motivating you to pursue freelancing, you may be wondering how to start.
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want to become a part-time or full-time freelancer. Each path comes with its own risks, benefits, and obstacles.
Luckily, there’s no right or wrong path. It’s all about finding the right fit for where you currently are and where you want to go.
Let’s first look at what it takes to become a part-time freelancer.
A part-time freelancer is often considered a “side hustler,” meaning they are building a freelance business on the side of their day job. Creating a side hustle is something anyone can do, no matter what stage in life they’re in or what background they come from.
These side hustlers often wake up early in the morning before their job begins to work for a few hours on freelance projects or use their evenings to do the same.
Most part-time freelancers work for another company on a full-time or part-time basis. Some start out as stay-at-home parents who want to bring in additional income for their families. Regardless of their motivation, part-time freelancers are known for juggling multiple projects and tasks at once.
Should you start pursuing part-time freelancing?
Here are a few positives and negatives to side hustling.
Pros of becoming a part-time freelancer
One of the significant benefits of becoming a part-time freelancer is you don’t have to quit your day job, meaning you’ll still have access to steady income.
When you begin freelancing, work often comes in unpredictable spurts. You may be incredibly busy one month, while the next month is quiet. That’s a big reason why you may consider starting a business on the side of your day job. Eventually, you can make the leap to full-time freelancing when you have a steady stream of client work.
Part-time freelancers are also able to decide when they want to work. Since they are usually their own boss, they can determine how much freelance work they want to take on. For example, if a part-time freelancer wants to take on less work during the holidays to see their family and travel, they have the freedom to do so.
While there are some great aspects of running a part-time freelance business, there are also some cons to be aware of.
Cons of becoming a part-time freelancer
A downside of part-time freelancing is adding more work to your plate. Since you may already have a day job, working more hours on the side may not be feasible.
It might be a good idea to set how many hours you want to work each week on your side hustle based on how much you’re working at your day job. That way, your freelance work fuels your passion without taking energy away from your job. After all, you don’t want your freelance projects to affect your performance at work. It’s important to actively manage your time and energy so you can achieve a healthy work-life balance.
You should also consider whether or not you need to invest money into your side hustle. While part-time freelancing may help you make more money in the long term, you need to know if your side hustle will require an initial investment. Most part-time freelancers can get started with a simple website and some affordable marketing tools for around $100-300, but take some time to research the cost of starting your part-time freelance business before you dive in.
Some side hustlers find themselves undercharging for their services when they get started. This is often because they have a hard time knowing what their work is worth and may have limiting beliefs around money and how much they can charge. The best way to overcome this is to regularly increase your prices as you grow. You can raise prices based on growing demand, years of experience, or any number of factors. As a part-time freelancer, it’s up to you!
Advice for side hustlers
If you decide to start a side hustle, try not to treat it like a hobby. From day one, think of it as a business. This means being mindful of your finances, how much time you spend on each task, and creating strategies to increase your profits and productivity.
As you dip your toes into part-time freelancing, think about what kind of freelance services you want to offer. What skills do you currently have, and how can they translate into a service? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you feel most comfortable talking about or helping people with? All of these questions will help you get a head start on building your part-time freelance business.
Then, take your answers from the questions above and make a list of potential side hustles you’d be interested in creating. It’s best to choose the most lucrative one based on your experiences, connections, and available time. If you’re not sure, look at this list of 99 side hustles to get some inspiration.
If you find that your freelancing business keeps growing and you wonder if you should take your business full time, there are some important things to consider. Let’s talk about them next.
A full-time freelancer is someone who doesn’t have a day job, meaning they don’t have a boss who dictates when and how they work. Instead, they work with a set number of clients on projects they desire.
This freedom and flexibility may sound dreamy, but it also puts more work on your plate. As a full-time freelancer, you wear all the hats in your business. This means you are responsible for everything that goes on in your business, including bookkeeping, creating contracts, making sales, marketing your services, customer service, and much more.
Does full-time freelancing fit your long-term career goals? Let’s find out by looking at the real pros and cons of becoming a full-time business owner.
Pros of becoming a full-time freelancer
Full-time freelancing allows you to decide how many hours you want to work. You don’t have to work the typical 40-hour workweek if you don’t want to. Some freelancers work more than 40 hours initially, but they get to choose what they work on and who they work with.
Also, you can work at any time of day. If you’re more productive early in the morning or late at night, you can build a work schedule based on your natural work rhythms. As long as you complete the work and meet your deadlines, your clients will be happy.
You have more autonomy over your work as a full-time freelancer. Because you don’t have a boss telling you what to work on next, you can take things at your own pace and decide how you want to meet deadlines. Some freelancers can take this autonomy one step further by working from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection!
Another incentive to becoming a full-time freelancer is that the more efficient you become, the more income you’ll be able to generate. This usually comes from improving your internal processes and increasing your proficiency in a specific service you offer. This means you can increase your prices while spending fewer hours on your work. Win-win!
While there are many benefits, there are also some downfalls to becoming a full-time freelancer.
Cons of becoming a full-time freelancer
As a full-time freelancer, you are entirely responsible for filling your calendar with work. A supervisor won’t be there to drop off work for you to complete. Instead, you have to actively seek out work opportunities through networking events, digital marketing, and more.
Many freelancers find themselves in feast or famine cycles when they go full-time. Some seasons are filled with an abundance of client inquiries, while others have you hearing crickets. Full-time freelancing can be risky because of its unpredictability, but there are elements of uncertainty in almost every career. That’s why it is smart to go in with a game plan for what you’ll do during “down” seasons.
Depending on where you live, becoming a full-time freelancer may mean forgoing other types of employee benefits. This could include health and dental insurance, 401(k) matching plans, paid vacation time, and other benefits that companies offer their full-time employees. It’s important to decide how essential these are and what alternatives are available before you jump headfirst into full-time freelancing.
Advice for full-timers
Don’t quit your job right away. Instead, use your time as a part-time freelancer to save enough money to comfortably and confidently transition into full-time freelancing.
It takes time to build relationships as a freelancer. When you take the leap into full-time freelancing, make sure you are regularly getting word-of-mouth referrals. When your community can easily recommend your services, it’s easier for you to focus on serving clients instead of using all of your time to market your business.
It’s best if you can start full-time freelancing with a few client projects already booked on your calendar. If you book out your calendar with projects a couple of months in advance, that’s even better! This will give you more financial security and stability when you’re getting started as a full-time freelancer.
When you find a client you work really well with, see if there are any opportunities to continue working together. Then you’ll spend less time hustling for work and more time doing the work you love.
How to become a freelancer
Now that you know what kind of freelancing path you want to take, it’s all about learning to lean into your strengths so you can market yourself like a pro! Begin by taking this quiz to understand more about your marketing superpowers and how they can be used to create a successful freelance business.