Wearing Multiple Hats

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Last month, I cashed paychecks from six different entities.

While the total sum of all of those outlets isn’t anything to write home about (so don’t hit me up for money please), I’m very happy that the income was so diversified. Here’s a breakdown of the income according to type of work:

  • 70% of it came from my full-time gig
  • 16% came from various freelance writing gigs
  • 8% of it came from miscellaneous tasks like freelance editing, ghostwriting, and blog support
  • 8% came from teaching various group fitness classes

Oh, not included in that total sum is the $20 I made last month from making breakfast for coworkers (yes, my breakfast is that good).

I’ve long been a big fan of wearing multiple hats in your work. While previously, I thought that extra work outside of my main job would take away from my performance, I’ve actually found quite the opposite. The freelance work on the side gives my mind a much-needed break from the day-to-day grind. The extra income also provides me with some peace of mind regarding financial security.

While I understand that it can be difficult (particularly at first) to find various ways to earn money rather than relying on one sole provider, it’s not nearly as hard as you would think, and it will be increasingly necessary in the future.

Cashing Multiple Checks

My desire to pursue other opportunities outside of my typical 9-5 arose mainly out of boredom and an increasing interest in other career fields. While I was personal training, I found that I was able to freelance for various publications and get the articles done outside of my time training clients. It provided me something extra to do while I wasn’t at the gym, and I always had extra income coming in during lulls in the personal training season (mainly summers).

The outside work eventually grew, both in number of opportunities and the depth of those particular opportunities. I found that as I completed assignments, delivering quality content on or before the deadline, I was assigned more and more topics to write about. Eventually, the extra work became somewhat addicting. If I didn’t have assignments to do before or after work, I didn’t feel as though I was working (or trying) hard enough.

That mindset is a bit over the top, but the importance of solidifying extra avenues for income can’t be overstated.

Unemployment is a real fear in today’s society. College grads are getting out of school with a painfully high amount of student loans and no guaranteed job on the horizon. Folks that previously were married to a particular career field are ditching their interests to head back to school or to switch their career field altogether.

Depending on your particular career field, the workplace can be increasingly fickle.

Establishing an alternative means of making money is one of the most important things someone (especially college students) can do to bolster their finances in the face of workplace insecurity. Outside of simply being an extra addition to your monthly income, this extra line of work may help to scratch an itch for a particular hobby or even transform into a full-blown career down the road.

What Can You Do?

Most people understand the importance and inherent benefits of adding another revenue stream. Unfortunately, there isn’t necessarily one secret that will lead to a successful freelance life to compound your income. It takes quite a bit of hard work to build up the extra assignments to a point where it’s a sustainable addition to your regular job.

With that being said, the biggest question I get is: What can I do?

That’s a bit easier to answer. While the question can be answered differently for everyone, here are some steps to finding out what you can do to make money.

1. DON’T get a second job.

The easiest answer to diversifying your income is to get a second job that pays hourly at your local food joint or coffee shop. That’s the worst plan of attack. A second job will only force you to work another set of mandated hours. The point of diversifying your income is to provide extra funds while maintaining a sense of freedom.

2. DO something you love.

Sit down and think about what you would like to spend your free time on. Since you’re going to be doing this outside of your normal job, this extra work will in fact become your “free time”. If you don’t enjoy it, you’ll just become more miserable, which is opposite of the goal effect. What you do is the most important thing to me. I like spending time doing things I enjoy (mainly publishing related). You can monetize virtually anything so it’s important that you chose something you want to do rather than something that you think will make a bunch of money.

3. DO read any and all resources available.

There are books and blogs covering virtually any avenue you might want to explore (from selling things on Etsy to building up your freelance writing business). The point is not to jump in blindly. Figure out the necessary steps and plan out how to turn your freelance dreams into a reality.

4. DO figure out if people are paying for your service.

People pay for freelance writing. That made it a lot easier for me to enter that particular market even though I didn’t necessarily have the skill sets required at the time (skills can be learned anyway). Find out if there’s a way to monetize your current passion. If you love photography for instance, figure out the major avenues that casual photographers use to sell their photos online. There are dozens of options to sell most particular services. Your job is to find out the ways that are most effective.

5. DO establish a schedule.

Perhaps the hardest part about building up your freelance schedule is learning how to fit it around your current routine. The extra hours can really wear you down if you aren’t smart about scheduling your time. First, learn when you work best. If it’s in the morning, plan on dedicating part of your morning to knocking out assignments down the road. If it’s at night, don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to do work in the morning. You’ll just end up frustrated with several hours down the drain.

To keep my sanity, I’ve developed a system that works well for me. I wake up and work from 4AM-7AM on various freelance projects. I’m At night, I might put in a few extra hours if needed, but that time is typically reserved for my own projects (like this blog) and family time.

6. DO establish a presence.

Start a website showcasing your work. Tell others. Get business cards. Tweet about it. Tell others in any way possible.

I’ve gotten probably 20% of my freelance writing gigs through referrals from other individuals. The connections you establish are invaluable. Whether they pay off right away or a year down the road, it behooves you to become a player in the industry you choose.

The easiest way is to contribute to bigger publications where your name is going to get noticed, but that’s often not available when you’re just starting out. Take advantage of the internet and network with others in your chosen passion. This can include:

  • Linkedin Groups
  • Commenting on popular blogs
  • Tweeting industry leaders
  • Engaging in discussions on Facebook pages

7. DO build a system.

One of the initial mistakes that I made when I started to freelance was approaching the invoicing in a haphazard manner. I had no real way of keeping track of invoices or who owed me money at any particular time. If you’re taking your freelance work seriously, you need to treat it like a business. To make matters easier to track, I ended up just using a spreadsheet that tallies totals at the end of the month. I also record payments (including check numbers) for future reference.

Freelance Business Plan

Lastly, I built a system that I rely on each month to continuously bill for pieces and submit checks. My system goes like this:

  • 1st-5th of the month – Review monthly projects that are due
  • 15th-20th of the month – Submit pitches for next month (occasionally based off the current month’s topics)
  • 30th-31st of the month – Bill everyone. I send out all of my invoices at this time and typically ask for some kind of confirmation. This has been beneficial for multiple reasons but mainly because I then have checks coming in at the same time every month.

It’s not a perfect system, but it works for me.

The fact of the matter is that generating an extra source (or sources) of income can be extremely difficult. However, the payoff in the end is well worth it in my opinion. While it might be more stress initially, it leads to less stress down the road and less reliance on one income stream.

Paul Jarvis is a guy that I really look up to in terms of building your freelance work. The man has built a reputation customizing websites for some huge names. If you’re interested in learning to build your freelance business, I’d recommend backing his latest book, Everything I Know on Kickstarter.
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