Thanks to Emily Suess for contributing this great guest post. While most of us probably think in terms of full-time when it comes to our commercial writing careers, there’s no doubt plenty of folks out there for whom part-time would make more sense. Enjoy!
Until recently, when people would ask me what I do, I’d have to make a serious decision. Should I define myself by my day job as an administrative assistant for a synagogue and preschool, or should I define myself by my part-time freelance career as a copywriter and editor? The day job got more of my time; the freelancing got more of my devotion.
Then a few months ago, I came home from a particularly mind-numbing eight hours at the day job. I dropped my keys and purse on the dining room table and started assaulting my boyfriend, Dan, with complaints about the woes of being an early childhood administrative assistant.
I could tell he was getting less patient with the increasing frequency of my rants, but somehow he found the grace to let me complain about the broken printer again. I had a headache, I told him. All thanks to the preschoolers listening to those insipid Miley Cyrus songs again.
On a loop. All day long.
To get to my happy place, I took a dry erase marker and wrote on the white board clinging to my freezer door, “I will be a full-time freelance writer by January 1, 2013.” And by God, I meant it. I would be free, I would be my own boss, and answering questions about my vocation would be so much easier.
Now, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. My nine-to-fiver was a pleasant gig, and I loved my coworkers. But after several years of freelancing on the side, I began to feel the itch.
So it was settled. I would begin the transition, pick up more clients, refine my services, and market myself in earnest. I’d turn my part-time hobby into a full-time, mortgage-paying career.
Just two weeks ago, I gave my notice at work. Only I wasn’t going to be my own boss after all. I accepted a corporate gig complete with cubicle and time clock.
I know, I know. But one of my freelance contacts from a local, well-established company told me about an opening they had for an editor, and the next thing I knew I was peeing in a cup for the pre-employment drug screen.
More than once I had to ask myself if I was a sellout. I decided I was not. The opening was truly serendipitous, and, most importantly, it was in my field.
Being a Part-Timer Has Its Advantages
Maybe I’m just rationalizing or maybe it’s a personality thing, but moonlighting is good for me. Here’s why:
• I can still explore topics and genres. Right or wrong, for me specializing has always been synonymous with restricting. Exploring different avenues is less threatening when you’re part-time, and the need to commit to a niche isn’t an imperative.
• I can wait for the clients to come to me. I still make the first move from time to time, but the majority of my clients find me through my website—like magic. I have to spend very little time searching for work, and that eliminates a lot of cold-calling, querying, and rejection.
• I get to be choosy. If a client relationship isn’t a great fit, I can move on to the next project without wondering if I’ll be able to buy groceries next week.
• I still love being a freelancer. Who knows? Maybe after a year of full-time freelancing I’d be burned out and dying a slow and painful creative death. Now I feel like a kid getting paid to eat candy.
Emily’s Unused “Part-Time to Full-Time” Plan
I won’t need this plan for the foreseeable future, but feel free to take my plan and tweak it for your specific needs.
1. Deliberate on potential niches, selecting one that is both marketable and suited to your education and experience.
2. Increase web visibility through more frequent guest posting and press release distribution.
3. Accept more clients, even if the projects seem boring or tedious.
4. Join professional groups and attend at least one professional conference every year for networking purposes. Hermits make poor businesswomen.
5. Hire a virtual assistant and delegate non-writing tasks to keep up with increased workflow—especially while you are still working the day job. Having someone to schedule and format guest posts, address and send direct mail packets, and compile research frees up more time to write.
Are you a part-timer or a full-timer?
If you are thinking of making the switch, what is the one thing you are most worried about?
If you have already made the switch, how did you know it was time? Was it scary?
Do you have any words of advice for those ready to go it alone?