Want to give yourself a raise? Or maybe a new career?
If you’re an employee, you only have so much control over your salary and responsibilities. In most jobs there’s not a lot of room for you to “try new things” and pursue your passions. Even if you're full-time freelancing, you may have cornered yourself into one niche that you no longer enjoy.
That’s why everyone -- full-time employees, part-time waitresses, freelance graphic designers, school teachers -- should have a side gig.
Side gigs have the power to transform your career and change your life. If you’ve dreamed of being an entrepreneur, it’s the first step to owning your a business. If you’ve dreamed of making a living from art, freelancing is how you build a sustainable path to full-time independence. If you’ve been wanting to change fields, getting just one or two gigs in that field is the way to test out whether or not you even like your dream career -- and build a network to find jobs and gigs in that field.
In other words, a side gig is not just about making extra money. It’s about building a better life. It’s about breaking out of your current beliefs about what you can and cannot do.
But first, start small.
Keep your 9-5. Keep the job that pays your rent. But use the 1-2 hours each evening and the 3 hours each weekend day for your side gig.
At some point, you’ll want to make the leap to full-time independence. But for now, get used to it. Are you really as good at following your own schedule as you thought? Do you get lonely when you work from home? Do you not actually like to knit hats for your Etsy shop more than one hour a day?
Starting small also shortens the time it takes to kick off. In the beginning, you won’t need business cards. Maybe you won’t even need a website. And while I’m a big proponent of business plans, at this point you should be able to fit your plan on a cocktail napkin.
Start with one client. (Here are 7 places to find one.) Start with a simple portfolio filled with whatever you have. (Here’s how to build a portfolio if you’ve never had a client before or are changing careers.) Set a reasonable hourly rate. (Here’s how to figure that out.) Go to one free networking event a week. (Key networking tips for freelancers.) Figure out your taxes. (Ultimate freelance tax guide.) Get your feet wet.
Let’s say you want to make an extra $2000 this year. So before taxes, that’s about $2900. This means you only have to make $241 a month, about $60 a week.
That may feel small to some people, but it’s a great place to start. I’m sure you can come up with one or two ways to make that extra money with the skills you have that you’re currently too busy to use (or too lazy, I’ve been there!). When your goal is low, the pressure is low, the time investment is low, and therefore the incentive to procrastinate is low(er).
If you discipline yourself to achieve these goals in the first couple of weeks, you’ll start seeing tiny returns. Then you’ll be hooked and the habit will be much easier to keep.
Over time, you’ll notice yourself changing.
First, your perception of what “work” means will undergo subtle but important shifts. Time will become your unit of value. You’ll find yourself piecing together different aspects of your time in a way that at first feels chaotic and stressful, but eventually falls into a pattern. You’ll begin to question whether the 8 hours you spend at your 9-5 are an efficient use of your time.
You’ll start to feel like your job title is not who you are. When someone asks what you do, you may pause and give a rather longer answer.
You’ll learn what it means to do every part of a business from sales to invoicing to marketing. You’ll have huge respect for Sales professionals. You’ll have new role models: that woman in your hometown who balances family life and runs her own candle business, not the CEO of that Fortune 500.
What new business will you start?
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