May 12, 2013

How to deal with a part time job as a freelancer.

A while ago I decided to try to write a piece, maybe a small book, about how to deal with a part time job as a freelancer. But maybe I'm just not the type for writing a book. I finished the start of it though and it's a big piece of text, if you're reading this blog casually then you might want to save the article or bookmark it).

Also: feel free to comment or if you have any ideas on how to proceed or any suggestions... anything is welcome!

How to deal with a part time job as a freelancer:

A fact: nowadays there are a lot more freelance people than there used to be. Why is that?
There are several reasons of course. For one it is because it is their dream, of working as a designer, illustrator or writer for example, because it’s not impossible in this world to chase your dream.
For others it might seem like a good career step to work on different kinds of jobs next to their ‘real’ job, so one day somebody can look at their resumé and think they have a lot of potential, or because even if they have a job, they secretly dream of working on something else.
For some it might be a necessary thing, because economic times drove them towards a very low stable income, but as freelancing isn’t easy as well there’s probably also another reason why these people rather freelance than doing something else to boost their income.

However there are also reasons that are the same for probably every freelancer. Everyone wants to be successful, which means that it makes you happy and that you earn money with it.
And there are also side-effects from being a successful freelancer, for example a boost of confidence and become more ‘yourself’.

There are all these good things about working freelance, but here’s another fact:
It isn’t easy. If you start as a freelancer the chances are very high that you won’t make a full stable income from the start.
Of course there are things that might help, if you have a great business plan and if you can prove that your business will be successful very soon then the bank might be able to help you with an upfront sum of money (which you’ll have to pay back one day). For artists it might also be possible in some countries to get a start-up fund that will support you in the first year or so.
But for the most of us, these opportunities aren’t available. Some businesses are just really hard to get started in, like me being an illustrator. Of course it was my own choice and I knew it wouldn’t be easy.
But there’s a pretty easy alternative for anyone that wants to start out as a freelancer but needs a stable income: getting a part time job.

Why a part time job

First and foremost that’s because it creates income.
You will need a stable amount of it to pay the rent and food and all. A part time job can give you that, most part time jobs that are available for starters are the ones that are between 12-32 hours per week. Twelve hours might just (not)be enough to pay your monthly bills, while 32 hours can give you more money than you’ll need but will cut the hours available for daytime freelance work.
But here’s the thing with most part time jobs, they often come with flexible hours, that might differ between the twelve and thirty-two every week or month or so, depending on how much you are needed (we’ll talk about this flexibility later on), so the average probably will get you a sufficient income.

Peace vs. stress
This money can give you a lot of peace and calmness in contrast to a freelancer who would be anxious to see the end of the month coming and will struggle to earn enough money to make ends meet. There are of course people who rather have to struggle with their own business than to have a part time job. In some ways, struggling and working very hard for it might be good for a freelance business, but you have to be able to cope with the stress. While a part time job will make you earn money but also gives you the opportunity to slowly build on your freelance business step by step. You don’t have to rush, there’s no need. You can think everything through at your own pace. Now doesn’t that sound really good?

Freedom of choice: Pricerates
At the start of your freelance career it is usual not to charge as much as a person that has already worked for five, ten or more years. But it’s good to charge a fair price as well.
Anyone who reads blogs about freelance work these days won’t miss the posts that talk about that you shouldn’t underrate yourself, that you shouldn’t neglect the normal price for your work and go under it only to ‘get the job’. Well, there’s a reason why there are so many posts about it, that is because there actually A LOT of people that charge under the minimum wage. Which is crazy, but they do, mostly because they are afraid they can’t get enough money if they charge more because they won’t get the job. And they need the money.

Fortunately, when you have a part time job you can just ignore that ‘need of money and jobs’, because you don’t need that small bit of extra income.
And it’s only in your benefits: the jobs that pay almost nothing are those that aren’t very fun or that aren’t really cared about at all. Do you really want to do that? Probably not.
Next to that, it’s also very bad for the market to ask for a rate under the usual one. If it would be only one or two people, that wouldn’t matter but because more and more people ‘undercharge’ themselves, the business will notice and get used to those prices and ultimately you won’t earn enough money for it anymore to make a living from it.

Freedom of choice: Clients and jobs
It’s also good to be able to say ‘no’ to certain kinds of clients. Not only the ones that won’t pay enough, but there are also those that seem very kind in the beginning but get demanding more and more. There is a limit in what you can or will want to do and the same for asking a fair price counts for asking for a fair way of dealing with business. If you don’t really want to work on the job anymore you are able to tell them and cancel it, simply because you don’t need the money.

The thing is: you don’t have to deal with literally anyone who asks something of you. Often it is adviced you don’t do that as a freelancer, because it will confuse people when you say you can or will do everything. And especially if you are very good at one thing or want to specialize in a certain direction, don’t go and be the jack-of-all-trades only because you need the money.

Expense to invest
A stable amount of money is something we all need. The non-stable income from freelance work can be an extra above that, which is great because you don’t really need it at the moment, you can use it for example to save up for when you want to take the leap and work freelance full time. Or you can spend it on promoting your freelance business (think of postcards, flyers or having a stand at a market) or other freelance needs like books, courses or new hardware. Or both, depending on how much you’ll earn. And if you’re working hard enough both as a part-timer and a freelancer you’ll earn enough money to spend on other things, for yourself and your loved ones, as well which is also a kind of investment if you think about it.

Learn things!
It might sound stupid but even if you have the most simple job like being a cashier or working as a waiter for example, you can also learn from it. After all, a part time job is a job, even (or especially) when you didn’t choose for it or have studied for it.
For example, when I started working as a saleswoman at a small department store, I wasn’t really the open, outgoing and lively type. I’m the kind of person who is rather silent, who does her work best if she knows what to do and is able to do it. I warm up gradually, I became to like working with my colleagues a lot more after some time because I got to know them better, even though they are totally different than I am. I guess there is just a nice thing, a good piece of character in everyone that I became used to. Well, you can say the same for clients as a freelancer, even when you don’t know them in the first place doesn’t mean you can’t be open with them. I would say that if you are open and show them that you’re enthusiastic in the first place, that helps a lot!

Another example from me is working with the costumers at the store. I am not good at small talk, but there are often people who would make a joke here and there or tell something short about what recently happened in their life or why they are buying a certain article.
So in a way, you’ll have to talk with them. You will have to make a certain connection with them.
I don’t always know what to say, but if you honestly listen to them and say something back, it shows that you have interest and that you have a connection.
This connection in my opinion is a really important thing, also in freelance business. It can bring you happy clients that might even come back frequently, not (only) because of your product or service, but because you have a connection with them and the more you connect, the more they will be eager to work with you.

I’m sure that any sort of part-time job asks for certain qualities that you can also use in the rest of your life, that’s why money isn’t the only reason why a part time job is good to have.
If you have a hard time dealing with a part time job, remember that you’ll probably also have grown a bit from it as well. It’s not like you stand still or do nothing there, right? But if you have, you even could use that time to think about what to do with your freelance job, like how to write certain chapters or think of what to put in an image, so you don’t have to do that later on.

The not-so-clear ones
There are also other reason why it’s good to have a part time job, but these aren’t very clear at first sight.
-          For example, some freelancers work at home, behind their desk or computer or …*fill-in*.
It’s just not that good for a human to only be at home, to only sit all the time behind a computer.
-          It’s good if you meet other people, to have contact with others. It’s a healthy thing.
-          It’s also good if you use your body and legs, to walk or cycle to your part-time job.
-          It’s good to see something from the world outside, to enjoy (or experience the bad) weather, to see what is going on in your neighborhood.
Of course you can still do this when you are a freelancer, but a lot of people won’t do it as often.

It’s not easy

Sometimes I have a really bad day, when it’s cold outside, it’s really early and I just don’t want to get up from the bed and go to the part time job. I just want to work freelance full time already. Or more simply, sometimes I just don’t even feel motivated to go to my part time job, because it’s not always fun, challenging or anything that interests me.
It can be pretty hard to work at a job that wasn’t in your future-plans in the first place.

Stay positive
There is not always a good medicine for it (you just have to go and work anyway), but I guess you can realize things that might get you more positive:

-          Cut yourself some slack: you are actually fighting and working really hard for your ideal job.
Be proud of yourself. Life isn’t easy, really and there are a lot of person who would just give up on having like two jobs. It’s honestly something to be proud of.

-          Be happy with what you do and what you have. For example, if you just got a new freelance job and you’re excited about it, it could be annoying when you can’t work on it right away because you need to work at your part time job. But at least you can be happy to have gotten the job and you have something to look forward too.

-          Most people didn’t get ‘there’ in days, weeks or even years. It takes time.
So take it easy, take your time and don’t rush yourself.

-          In case you can’t easily be proud of yourself, try to share your hardships and achievement with other people. I’m sure that at least your family and close friends can tell you that you’re doing great and that they will support you if you need them.

Looking after yourself

Juggling with two kinds of jobs can be really difficult and ask a lot of you. Think about it: it eats up your time and energy. So in some ways you’ll have to learn to take care of yourself so you can work successfully. No really, when you neglect simple basic needs like enough sleep, food and social contact you can get overwrought, so pay attention to it. Not only yourself, physically and mentally, benefits from it, but also the jobs and the people you work with. If you’re overworked, you get nowhere so it’s better to prevent it. Here are some tips to help you look after yourself:

-          Set a standard scheme. Both for freelance work (9-5, or some different time that works better for you) and for other daily needs like cooking, eating, doing groceries, taking a shower and going to bed. And stick to it. Of course not every day can be the same, but do it as much as you can. This includes the days you work at your part time job, even when you don’t have fixed hours, you can plan to not work for your freelance job at night, because else you could be very tired the day after that.

-          Set standard times to take a break from your freelance work. It helps both physically to get rest (you’ll recharge and have more energy) and mentally, especially when it comes to creative work, having a break and doing something else gives you more space and bring new ideas when you’re stuck on something. Usually business and places you work at have the same thing. And it’s for a reason.

-          If you have work in the next morning, either part time or serious freelance thing then get to bed early, or at least on time. If you have a party or something alike I also wouldn’t drink too much alcohol because your body probably has to recover from that even in the morning after.

-          If you feel like you have to work too hard at the moment, you should take it more easy. It’s quite hard to identify this problem, because we often think we should work hard,  ‘so’ it shouldn’t be easy. The human mind can easily nuance these little message your body can give you. These messages can also be from the outside world, like somebody telling you don’t really look healthy or asking you what you’ve been doing lately and you can only answer that you’ve been working really hard but not in an enthusiastic way.
Earlier on I said something about being able to work at your own pace, because of a part time job, and it’s true. If it’s hard, take a day (or half) of your freelance work off. I almost never heard of a freelancer being successful full time at once, or even in a year or more. It takes steps. So keep that in your mind.

-          If you earn money with a part time job that means you can also have fun or treat yourself once in a while. It’s not for nothing that most parents give their children a treat or gift when they’ve done something right. You’ve earned it. And of course you should save money for things that are needed, but I think to treat yourself is also a need. We need to stay happy as a human.

So that was the article for now. I hope someone can use something like this. Maybe I'll finish it one day :)!