5 Ways Moonlighting as a Freelancer Can Help You Take the Leap

By Liz Alton, Contributor, on May 2, 2017

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Moonlighting as a freelancer is one of the best ways to help you figure out if it’s the right fit for you. When I first started, I worked in economic development and dealt with a fairly grueling schedule. But I began to think about writing full-time and wanted to see if it was for me. A local paper in my hometown was looking for contributors, and they let me write articles in the evenings or on the weekend when I wasn’t on the clock.

Even though writing about snowstorms and reviewing the best gyro restaurants didn’t align with my future career in B2B content marketing, it gave me an important insight: I loved writing in a professional context enough to make the leap and pursue it full-time. And I’m not alone. Freelancers Union reports that over 13 million freelancers moonlight. Is moonlighting as a freelancer the right way to help you figure out if you should dive in?

1. Keep Investments Low

Going freelance full-time is a big commitment. Before you dive in headfirst, find a strategy allowing you to test out the market without requiring a massive investment. Investments can come in many different forms: websites and marketing, courses to increase your skills and experience, software, a computer and more.

Working as a freelancer also requires having the runway to pay bills, cover benefits and plan for the future. Not needing to invest these funds up front, as you might when launching a business, is a strong selling point for freelancing part-time. Ultimately, if you decide to switch, you can make deeper investments, knowing they’re more likely to generate revenue and a positive return on investment.

2. Grow Your Business With Your Skill Level

I’m in a completely different place as a writer today than I was when I launched my business. Part of that is having written millions of words over the last several years. However, other areas of expertise include understanding different formats, being savvier at managing clients, knowing what support systems I need in place to succeed and more.

Moonlighting lets you grow your business with your skill level, so your client acquisition doesn’t outpace your own skills development. If you grow too fast, you can under deliver and compromise future relationships. It can also leave you feeling overwhelmed and thinking you’re not suited to the freelance life. Moonlighting inherently limits what you can take on and lets you grow over time until you reach a point where you feel ready to tackle bigger projects or work with more diverse clients.

3. Build a Portfolio

Finding clients and building a book of business is easier when you have a fleshed-out portfolio. Your portfolio demonstrates the range and quality of your work, as well as your expertise in specific areas. But developing a portfolio is time-consuming. What better way to do it than while freelancing part-time? You get the benefit of being paid to grow your portfolio, while laying the foundation for long-term success when you eventually make the switch.

4. Test It out With an Escape Hatch

Freelancing full-time can have unexpected demands. The hours can be long. Finding new clients can prove challenging. Managing the ins and outs of a business can give you pause, even if you love writing, design or the strategy services you offer to clients.

While it’s always possible to go back to a full-time job, many people simply like to moonlight, because it allows them to test out freelancing with an escape hatch. If the day-to-day realities of designing logos leaves you creatively uninspired and you haven’t left your day job, there’s no major regret you must face. You can scale back or stop freelancing altogether and continue on with your financial and professional lives largely unaffected.

5. Refine Your Approach

If you decide not to take the escape hatch and want to keep on freelancing, there’s another benefit to moonlighting: It allows you to refine your approach while making those decisions without affecting your ability to thrive and survive.

Do you want to work with startups or enterprises? Are you best suited for writing blogs or tackling in-depth projects, like books or reports? Moonlighting lets you experiment over time and refine your approach to your business. As you become more experienced, you learn the clients, services and subject areas you enjoy. A deeper visibility helps you better target your freelance career and can make it easier to gain traction when you make the switch to full-time.

Moonlighting as a freelancer allows you to build your business, test the waters and decide if making the switch is right for you. At the same time, it minimizes the up-front investments you need to make and keeps your financial life stable. If you decide to launch a freelance business, moonlighting can pave the way for long-term success by helping you build a portfolio, better understand your market and take your business and creative skills to the next level.

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