I’ve been writing as a freelancer for about 18 months now – my freelance career is a toddler.
I’ve gotten to the point where, at times, I’m bringing in a few hundred dollars a month, especially with a couple of clients who ask for consistent weekly or monthly articles.
Some of the time, the months trend upward, making me begin to daydream about quitting my day job because there is enough interesting work to go “full-time.” I read all over the internet about this dream, and while I’ve never seriously considered it in the near-term, it looms as a new level of achievement in my field.
However, consistent work sometimes dissipates, the people I’m pitching don’t respond and even full drafts are rejected outright. Who can blame editors for making those decisions ruthlessly? They are probably having as hard a time as we are!
What I’ve realized from the downturn months, though, is that I love a lot about freelancing part-time, and though there’s a world where freelancing full-time might make sense, I’m way happier than I thought I’d be with a long-term writing side hustle.
Here are some signs freelancing as a side hustle might be your sweet spot too.
1. You actually love the work you do full-time
Nothing makes you rethink what you want in a job like finding a surprisingly happy work environment where you didn’t expect it. I love my job in higher education administration, and it doesn’t have me writing very often.
When you love your day job, there might still be good financial and fulfillment reasons to write on the side, but diving into something else, like a full-time freelance career, when things are working really well at your day job, isn’t for everyone.
2. You aren’t sure where you want to end up as a writer
This sign isn’t just for new freelance writers, though it is true for them too.
When I first began freelance writing, I didn’t know what I wanted to write, exactly. I blogged to start trying out different niches, which led to me trying different publications that might fit my various passions. However, almost a year and a half later, I don’t have a single place I call my home within writing.
Keeping your writing part-time allows you to reach into new places and spend your writing time on articles for places that you’ve never written before; more certain contracts and nailing down a niche tend to be important steps if you want to pay your whole rent off the freelance checks.
3. You never want writing to be the source of stress in your life
It is occasionally stressful to think about potentially losing my day job and having to find another.
For freelancers, that feeling is magnified because they get their work from many sources, all of whom could let them go at a moment’s notice.
When I get into a busy time in my freelancing, I find myself relishing the low-stakes nature of writing as a side hustle: I want to be consistent with my clients, but if they choose to go with someone else after I work my best, that is okay.
It keeps the looming stress and dread out of the experience of writing, which is something I value.
4. You value the many definitions of “part-time”
Once you call yourself a full-time freelancer, there is a certain threshold — all discretionary, housing and living expenses need to come from freelance writing.
With part-time, though, you get to define it however you want – five hours a week or 25 hours a week or anything else. It’s nice to have so much leeway!
5. You actually write more when you have a structured job
I have part of my summer off because of my day job, and during that time, I always expect to get a lot of freelancing done.
To some extent, I do accomplish some writing, but when I’ve crunched the numbers, my most productive months are actually during my full-time job.
Some of us thrive on this kind of structure, and I certainly fall in that category.
6. You are sick of pitching and have lovely clients already
Some people reach their writing sweet spot with a few select clients and it suddenly seems odd to have to pitch more.
In these circumstances, it’s easier to continue as a part-timer than to keep those same clients, at a living wage, long term. Obviously, it is also great to have long-term, high-paying clients, but the freedom to take longer breaks from pitching is a definite upside of part-time freelancing.
7. You love being able to drop everything for the right opportunity
There have been times when it would have been really inconvenient to have to keep writing at a full time level.
For example, a family trip to Iceland this summer took us away from home for 10 days, during which I neither submitted stories nor pitched anyone. This would be much harder to recover from in a freelance full-time situation, since full time freelancers don’t get “automatic” vacation days and have to prepare to take those days through budgeting and working more at other times.
With writing as a side hustle, taking those 10 days off from my day job (and side hustle) was a welcome break.
In all of the above “signs,” there will be exceptions: people choose part-time and full-time writing for so many more specific reasons! What I’d say is that if the first eight reasons didn’t fit you and you are still part-time, realize that this is where you are, and it is still a success in a big, complicated industry.
Whether you stay part-time or move full-time sometime in the future, it is absolutely fine that writing is a side hustle for you right now.