Freelance Writing as a Side Hustle

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So you want to begin writing more. But you already have a full-time job. A side gig seems like just the ticket to give you the writing experience you seek while earning steady income from your day job.

Side gigs are common these days. People use them to earn extra cash to pay down debt, build a portfolio, begin a career transition or simply do work that they love that they can’t do during their regular job.

It is possible to have the best of both worlds. For example, my former co-worker Debbie worked full-time as an editorial assistant in our organization while pursuing a freelance writing career on the side. (This was several decades ago before social media and cell phones existed.) She used her private email to conduct business, contact editors and set up interviews. Research was done on her personal time on her home computer. Debbie occasionally used the office phone for business, but it was rare and the calls were short and to the point. Debbie worked this way for a couple of years before deciding she had enough clients to go freelance full-time.

Making the transition from full-time employee to full-time freelancer is not easy and does not happen overnight. It helps to have a side hustle as a bridge between the two. Side hustles help you gain valuable experience, increase your contacts, and eventually line up a steady stream of work before jumping into freelancing full time.

Before starting your side gig as a writer, consider these important points.

1. Be discreet with your communications. With the advances of modern technology, starting a freelance writing business as a side hustle is much easier to achieve than it was a few decades ago when my friend Debbie started her side gig. All the same, be sure to use your own computer equipment and electronic devices to conduct research, set up interviews and make phone calls. And be sure to do all that on your personal time, not company time.

2. Make sure you aren’t violating any company policies. Some companies frown on outside gigs but most seem to accept it as long as the side gig does not compete for the same clients or promote a competing product or service. Still to be on the safe side, speak with your supervisor to make sure you are not violating any policies. Assure them that you are still committed to your job, but that your writing gig is also important to you.

3. Schedule your writing time. With a side gig, your schedule is likely to be stretched to the limit. That means being smart about how you use your time. Review your schedule and see where there are gaps in your schedule that you can use for writing. Then put it in your calendar. If you get an hour for lunch, can you set aside half of that hour for writing? If your company provides 15-minute breaks for its employees, can you use them for setting up interviews or jotting down notes for story ideas? With fifteen minutes or a half hour, you’d be amazed how much writing you can get done in a short amount of time.

4. Remember that the day job comes first. No matter how tempting it is to work on your side hustle,  stay focused on your job responsibilities. Even if you hate your day job, slacking off will not put you in good stead with your employer. When you eventually leave the comforts of your day job to begin freelancing, you want to leave on the best of terms.

5. Be grateful that you have a paid gig. Many people who start freelancing don’t have that luxury. Take advantage of the security it offers you for the time being. It’s a gift. It allows you to work on your passion on the side.

6. Be patient. Creating a freelance business does not happen overnight. There’s a lot of prep work you need to do in advance to build your portfolio and build your confidence.

Writing as a side gig can be fun and exciting. But it’s also hard work, and it’s not for everyone. If you are someone who likes steady work and a steady income or if you’re uncomfortable with uncertainty, freelancing may not be for you. Starting a side gig might be a smart idea so you can decide if this is a route you want to pursue full time. You may decide you don’t want to, and that’s okay. At least you’ve made an informed decision based on actual experience.

To make your writing side hustle work, you need to decide if you’re willing to sacrifice your personal time, family time, socializing and hobbies to work your side gig. Are you willing to make that commitment? For ideas on how to get started, check on the links below and read about other writers who have done it – with success.

What about you? Are you writing as a side gig? Do you hope to transition to full-time freelancing at some point? What has your experience been like as a side hustler?

Related Stories:
7 Secrets for a Successful Side Gig
From Side Hustle to 50K
The Ultimate Side Hustle: 14 Ways to Get Paid to Write

Who Needs Resolutions When You Can Create a Three-Word Theme for 2019?

Girl with thought bubble
Photo courtesy of Hubspot Marketing 

Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Most people don’t know how to make them so they’re able to keep them. And most of those resolutions are unrealistic anyway.

Think instead about a general theme for the New Year, something that will guide your actions, not just for one day, but for the entire year.

Here’s what I mean. In 2013, I made several ill-advised career decisions that put me into financial and emotional debt. Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of what was really important to me. So at the start of 2014, I came up with a simple three-word phrase as a guide for the rest of the year. I chose “Reclaiming Your Life” as my mantra, and that phrase guided me to make better choices about my future.

When I first started this blog, I wrote about three-word mantras in terms of career missions. You can read that post here. My comments then still hold true. A three-word theme can relate to one specific aspect of your life, like your career or your relationships, or your entire life. The important thing is to come up with a phrase that resonates with who you are today and what you want to achieve.

As we enter the first week of 2019, I’ve come up with new phrases – two of them, in fact, to guide me throughout the year. “Rewrite my story” not only refers to one of the novels and the numerous essays and short stories I’ve begun writing and haven’t finished, but also my own life story. I’m not changing anything about my past – that has already happened. But I do think about how I can change the direction of my life moving forward.

The second phrase, “Say Yes More” is intended to be more accepting and welcoming of everything that comes into my life – new people, opportunities, invitations.
How would I – or any one of us — rewrite the course of our lives if we said yes more?

Here’s another example. Perhaps you are going through a major transition in your life, perhaps a career change or a divorce. You might use the phrase “Build a Bridge” to connect from your past to your future. There are numerous other possibilities. Try one of these for yourself, or create your own.

* Believe in Yourself
* Believe in Others
* Find Your Passion
* Speak Your Truth
* Treat Others Kindly
* Act with Compassion

No matter what you choose for yourself, your three-word phrase should consist of three elements.

1. Be action-oriented. Begin your statement with a verb — Build, Find, Act, Believe, etc. The verb drives the action, like the engine of a locomotive. You’re not waiting for something to happen to you because you are the one driving the action. It’s proactive rather than reactive.

2. Make it positive. A positive tone and message is more inspiring and motivational. With a positive three-word theme, you’ll want to follow it all year long.

3. Focus on your power as an instrument of change. What influence do you want to make in the world? Do you want to help others, heal others, write, build homes or make people laugh? Or do you just want to be a better human being?

Once you’ve come up with your theme, write it down and put it somewhere where you can see it every day, like the refrigerator door or the bathroom mirror. Every time you see it, think of it as an active meditation.

Instead of a general theme, you can make it project-specific. For example, if you need motivation to maintain a writing practice, try the phrase “Write 500 words” or “Publish a story.”  When you see those messages on your mirror every day, it serves as a reminder of what you want to achieve and it can help you stay on track of your goal.

The three-word phrase works because it’s short, it’s action-oriented and it’s positive. There’s also a rhythm to the sound the phrase makes when you say it, especially if you choose words with a single syllable. For example, listen to the pattern of sound when you say “Speak Your Truth.” It’s like a heartbeat – boom, boom, boom – and that heartbeat is coming from you.

Make New Year’s Resolutions if you want. Or you can take a different approach with a three-word theme to guide your actions throughout the year.

Good luck, and Happy New Year!

Can a ‘Returnship’ Help You Transition Back to Work?

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Mid-level professionals who have taken career breaks are gaining in popularity. So too are returnships, or sometimes called re-entry programs. Returnships sound a lot like internships, but they are geared toward mid-level professionals who want to return to the workplace after an extended leave of absence, whether to raise a family, care for an elderly parent, travel the world, pursue more education, or simply take time to rethink their career path.

The concept of returnships was developed in 2008 by Goldman Sachs’ execs when they found through their research how difficult it was for women to return to the workforce after a long break. Returnship programs offer short-term employment, usually 10 to 12 weeks, where returnees can become re-acclimated to the business world, update their skills and gain valuable real-world experience to close the employment gaps in their resumes. It’s especially difficult for mid-level professionals to return to work if they choose to pursue a different line of work or enter a new industry, and returnships can aid in that transition.

As I go through my own struggles to re-enter the workforce, the concept of returnships is intriguing. What I like about returnships is that they provide employers with a valuable recruiting tool to help them when hiring. Both the employer and employee can use the program to test out the working relationship to see if it can work for the long term.

But not everyone is sold on the idea and there are a few downsides. For starters, most re-entry programs seem to target financial and technical professionals and are sponsored by larger companies, such as GM, J.P. Morgan and Credit Suisse. If you’re not inclined to work for large firms or don’t have a background in finance, operations or tech, then these programs are probably not going to appeal to you. If more small and mid-sized firms offered these programs (and they probably do and I just haven’t heard about them), they might appeal to more people. (If you do know of a small or mid-sized business with a similar type of program, I’d love to hear about it.) The rest of us (including myself) may be better off pursuing temporary and contract gigs.

Some opponents suggest that returnships don’t always result in job offers at the sponsoring company, which puts you back to square one. But even if the program doesn’t result in a longer-term situation, returnships can open the door to other opportunities that you did not have before. With the new and updated skills you’ve acquired, an expanded professional network and valid work experience, you have more to offer future employers. Those are major pluses you did not have before. So in that sense, a returnship is not a total loss.

Another argument (see Working Mother blog) is that returnships are a waste of time, and you are better off skipping the temporary gig/internship route and pursue permanent placement right away. The theory is that you already have established skills and workplace experience, so a returnship isn’t necessary. But the truth is when you spend any length of time away from the workplace, there is always the risk that your skills may acquire a bit of rust. Also, not everyone has the confidence to leap back into the workplace after an extended break. Returnships allow returning workers the chance to get their feet wet, slowly at first, until they do gain confidence in their skills.

If you’ve been out of work for more than two years, it may be more difficult to convince potential employers to hire you. Perhaps too, your network of professional contacts isn’t producing the leads you had hoped, or you are trying to enter a new field. Returnships can ease the transition, but a lot depends on how comfortable you feel about returning to work in the first place, how much time you have spent away from the office, and how rusty your skills are.

If considering this path to a new career, here are a few additional things to keep in mind:

1. Do your homework. Just as you would research a potential employer, take time to research returnships. They are not all created equally. Find out what kind of work you’ll be doing, how long the returnships last, and what the pay would be. Also check out sites like iRelaunch.com which help  returnees navigate their way back to the working world and find an appropriate re-entry program.

2. Keep expectations low. Even if you are accepted into a returnship program, there is no guarantee that it will result in a job offer. You may very well have to start over with a new job search. See it for what it is – an opportunity to get re-acclimated to the workplace, update your skillset and gain valuable experience that may be a stepping stone to the next opportunity.

3. Have a Plan B. If you aren’t accepted into a returnship program or they don’t fit in with your career plans, consider other options. There’s always contract work and temporary gigs to help you transition back into the workplace.

Returnships are not for everyone, but they can be a viable away to return to the workplace and gain new experience.