A Guest Post by Noah Rue
Job security, benefits, stability — the perks of a 9-to-5 job can easily offer peace of mind. It’s no wonder why freelancing is regarded as a risky venture. Being your own boss and all the flexibility that comes with it may be enticing, but without guaranteed income, you may not be ready to leave the career that keeps you comfortable.
You’re not alone if you’re still weighing the pros and cons of staying full-time versus going freelance. But perhaps you don’t have to. For driven entrepreneurs, freelancing while retaining a 9-to-5 is possible. These four questions will help you identify if this path is for you.
1. What’s My End Goal?
Freelancing as a side gig is a great fit for several financial and professional goals. For example, if you’re aiming to achieve any of the following, freelancing can be a great supplement for your career:
- Earning extra cash to cover non-essential expenses
- Monetizing a hobby
- Saving up for a vacation, major appliance, or down payment
- Practicing skills for career development
- Building your personal brand and niche
Freelancing outside of work can also help you steadily gain clients and work up to full-time self-employment. However, keep in mind that this route isn’t risk-averse. Eventually, your spare time won’t be enough to nurture your growing business. Many business owners need to ditch their 9-to-5 incomes — initially, without an equivalent income to replace it — to put their full focus on their new companies.
2. What Opportunities Are Available?
You also need to consider if opportunities are even available in the field you want to freelance in.
If you’re planning to take on gigs that are similar to your full-time role, you can probably access more freelance opportunities than most — especially if you’re in a high-demand field like accounting, where economic conditions and increased retirements are creating a dearth of qualified individuals. The rise in digital marketing needs has also created a tremendous need for copywriters and editors. Experience and connections are great assets that will help you land your first clients.
You will need to keep any non-compete agreements you signed with your current employer in mind before taking on clients. If you’re still working a 9-to-5, you may not be allowed to offer the same services, especially if you meet your clients on the job.
If you’re planning to freelance in a brand new field — for example, if you’re a web developer, but want to do freelance photography — you may need to spend unpaid time building up your portfolio and brand before you consistently land clients.
3. How Much Can I Realistically Make?
Not every field is equally profitable. Depending on your level of expertise, you may not be able to charge quite as much either.
Research how much freelancers in your industry charge for similar products or services. Is there a pricing model you can use that’s both competitive and profitable? Estimate your potential earnings based on how much you expect to work or sell.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to pay self-employment taxes (15.3%) on freelance income, in addition to income taxes.
The level of pay doesn’t necessarily matter for some freelancing goals. But if you want to eventually become a full-time freelancer or you’re saving up for a time-sensitive goal, make sure your potential earnings work for you. Full-time freelancers also need a career path that can cover their health insurance, time off, and other benefits typically provided by employers.
4. What Do I Value About My Free Time?
Freelancer burnout is just as prevalent (if not more so) than employee burnout. Working for yourself can take its toll. That’s why it’s important to identify what your non-negotiables are. Specific questions you may ask yourself include:
- How much time do I need to reserve for family and friends?
- What self-care habits do I need to keep up with?
- How do you normally spend your time off?
This will help you identify if you have time to freelance outside of work with your desired lifestyle and, if so, how much. Plus, if your goal is to go full-time freelancing, this will tell you when to pull the plug on your 9-to-5.
Should You Freelance Outside of Your 9-to-5 Job?
There’s no right answer to the question of whether or not freelancing outside your 9-to-5 is a good path. To make your decision, it’s critical to assess your goals, opportunities, and values. These four questions will help you decide if freelancing is a good supplement for the lifestyle you want to live.