Part-Time Freelancing Is Okay, Too

There is a huge focus on full-time freelance careers with conversations often centering on how quickly a writer (or designer or coder) can run away from work and stay at home being creative all day long. Understandable, but I don’t think it needs to be a universal message. Writing full-time is not for everyone, and it’s certainly not for me.

Freelancing Full-Time

There is no doubt that you can get more writing done in a day if you’re focused on it for hours upon hours. You can build a business more effectively and work the necessary time to grow your business without interference – provided you don’t have family obligations, of course. But as great as I’m sure freelancing full-time is, there are some elements that make it not fulfilling for me, personally, and I suspect for many others out there.

I spent fifteen months at home with the opportunity to work full-time hours, and at the end of the fifteen months I was ready to go back to the classroom. I fully realize this is strange, even among most teachers who desperately wish they could get out of the classroom. It’s no secret I love being a teacher and I’m happy to teach full-time for less than I make writing part-time because it has other benefits. And frankly, I’d find full-time freelancing less than satisfying for me personally.

I Like Being Fully Engaged

This might be unique to me – it’s hard to say since I only live in my own head – but in the year I spent at home primarily writing for a living, I didn’t feel as sharp as I do normally when I’m fully engaged as a teacher. I truly felt as though I was only using a few areas of my brain to write and that others areas where sitting there collecting dust. Every job is different, but for me, writing used the creativity part of my brain and it tickled the organization and research parts, but the communication and altruistic parts were definitely under stimulated.

I Like Sharing With Others

The best ideas come from discussion and action in my universe, and to sit at home and chat over IM or send emails around doesn’t create the kind of energy I like to really light fires and brainstorm. Honestly? I was lonely and not very creative sitting at home most of the day. I did go out and had plenty of play dates as all moms of toddlers do, but I didn’t get to experience any great meetings of the mind and there weren’t many lively discussions between adults over anything outside of bills and baby food.

I Like Intangible Rewards

There are many, many writers who feel called to the job and who feel enlightened just settling down in front of the keyboard. I feel that way at times, but I have a true calling and I’m fortunate enough to recognize that and embrace it. Teachers don’t get paid shit for what we have to deal with – no secrets there, but working with the kids and inspiring them to find success where they haven’t realized they could even hope for acceptance is hugely satisfying. I stay very busy over the summer, but even two months out of the classroom makes me a bit antsy. I have never found that sort of satisfaction through writing.

That is obviously totally personal to me, the teacher, but I know I’ve seen other comments and posts with a similar theme – we have to defend the right to write part-time. It’s okay to like your full-time job. It’s okay to even like it better than the writing – that doesn’t mean you don’t like writing, too. You don’t have to live, breathe, eat and dream about a freelance writing career to be a “real” writer. It actually irritates me when the message –overt or subliminal – comes through posts and articles that being full-time is the holy grail of writing – to the exclusion of any other arrangement.

I teach full-time, but even if I didn’t teach full-time, I would still only write part-time. Why? Because, like so many other WAHMs out there, I would spend those extra hours with my children or in some other “helping” capacity. You’d find me up at the school volunteering and organizing the Cub Scout outings. I’m just a part-time writer any which way you cut it.

Part-time doesn’t mean you’re not serious about writing. I have every intention of writing part-time as long as I can – it’s part of my partial retirement plan twenty-odd years from now.

Part-time doesn’t mean you work for hand-outs. My hourly rate hasn’t fallen below $50 for years now and it’s usually closer to $100. I just only work 2 or so hours a day in the evenings instead of 4 to 6 hours of writing during the day.

Part-time isn’t less respectable than full-time. Never be ashamed of having a job or “working for the man” if that’s something you enjoy.  There are plenty of benefits of working full-time elsewhere and enjoying writing part-time in the evenings and weekends. You can have two careers, you know. And as far as I’m concerned, raising children properly counts fully as a career in and of itself.

I can’t tell you how to live your life or how to handle your career. I can only tell you that part-time works for me and I’m certainly not hurting for clients or profits. If you’re craving the full-time lifestyle of a freelance writer, go for it and revel in it when you get there! But if you’re thinking part-time seems better for you and your lifestyle – hey – that’s perfectly okay, too.

Profile image for Rebecca Garland
Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

22 thoughts on “Part-Time Freelancing Is Okay, Too”

  1. Rebecca, there you are again saying the things that need saying 😉 The most important thing I pulled from this post was what you mentioned about rates: I knew I wasn’t alone in thinking that just because I don’t derive my full-time income from clients I don’t need to somehow lower my prices. I just took on my first client project in a long time and quoted rates (that were accepted) at just over $100 per hour. My time and services are worth it, dangit!!

    Oh, and in other news I just wanted to let the AFW community know: I’m 36 weeks pregnant now AND my husband will be home from his deployment sooner than we thought: and for good. Definitely no need to drop rates when those two things are happening!

    I’ll be back around the freelancing fold, this new momma just had to get other things going first 🙂

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  2. I find full time freelance not for me either- but I also don’t (and WONT) do ANYTHING else full time. I can make full time money working 20 hours a week and spend the rest of my life doing things I love: being with my kids, working out, etc.

    I put in MANY 60 to 80 our weeks setting up my business and client list, now I am reaping the rewards of that.

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  3. Another thing, Rebecca, one fallacy I see in this post: about 90% of the people I talk to who want to write for a living are desperate to get the heck out of their FT job. You are very fortunate that you like yours.

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    • I’m envious you had 60 to 80 hour weeks to invest – a lot of part-time writers don’t, of course. I’d wager that you do have another full-time job with plenty of rewards of its own – parenting.

      If a mother were truly writing full-time, she’d likely have her children in some sort of child-care from the equivalent of 8 to 5 missing out on a lot of time with family or writing between school hours and then some – again losing out on a lot of the recreational time other full-time employees would normally enjoy.

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    • I am fortunate, but it wasn’t an accident that I have it – I spent years walking away from high-paying careers until I found one that I liked. I also know a lot of people who are envious that I *could* walk away from teaching any time I like and they want to know how to work at home, too.

      It’s been my experience that most people who are desperate to get away from a full-time job aren’t interested in building a writing career as much as they are interested in finding something other than the job they are in. But then we might have very different experiences.

      I think if a lot of those people had a few months to try and freelance with all the scheduling problems, procrastination issues, fluctuating incomes, isolation and lack of corporate insurance they might decide that part-time writing is okay after all. You don’t have to love what you do to enjoy having a full-time job. It might just be that you love the security of a paycheck every two weeks and having insurance for your children and spouse without paying out the nose.

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  4. I like this, Rebecca. It’s a good reality check. I worked part-time AND full-time for many years and wrote on the side as a hobby, with the occasional published article. At times I’d wished I’d been able to quit and focus on writing full-time but wasn’t in that position, and in the end, I’m glad I continued to work as I developed business and communication skills I otherwise would have not.

    I’ve since been “downsized” – and enjoy being home with my two teens (actually, I just plain enjoy being home, most likely because I worked all those years) but I can relate to all the other things you get if you work outside the home. At times, it is a struggle to replace those work relationships and positive challenges with equally satisfying relationships and challenges at home. On the other hand, I don’t have the stress of a daily commute – or the time crunch I had when working.

    So there’s good and bad to both – seems like it’s one of those areas where you make the most of whatever position you are in.

    Again, enjoyed your post!

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  5. Love this post, Rebecca.

    I started to take freelance writing seriously in January 2010 and developed my writing career alongside my 9 to 5 job. It meant working 70 hour weeks to start with, but I believe it was worth it, as I made some fantastic contacts and secured projects with some great clients.

    Things quietened down for a few months as I got everything streamlined – in both jobs – but my writing work has taken off again in recent weeks and I’m back to 70 hour weeks (it’s 7.30pm on a Sunday – I said to myself a few months back I’d stop working weekends!).

    I’m going to bed late. I’m getting up early. I spend the vast majority of my day in front of a computer screen.

    But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    You like your 9 to 5 job, Rebecca and that’s great. I don’t particularly like mine, but I’m good at it and I get paid pretty well for doing it.

    The primary reason why I do it is, strangely, because it gives me the freedom to be a freelance writer.

    I could be a writer full time and I’d love it. It’s my aim to be able to focus on my writing first and foremost before anything else.

    But I’d also be losing out on quite a substantial amount of money each month. At the moment, I can work both effectively, so why give up one when there’s no need?

    And I also get what you mean about being engaged and sharing with others – it’s the reason why I’m also a small business consultant and am planning on developing this side of my work into a company.

    Plus, I’ve also got a few other projects in the pipeline which when things quieten down again – or I think it’s time to leave my 9 to 5 job – I’ll get started on.

    It annoys me when I go on Facebook and see my friends from school saying “I’m so bored”. I don’t want to get into the scenario where I spend my evenings and weekends wondering what I should do next and end up doing nothing.

    I love being busy. I love the buzz of it all. And I think being a part time writer, for me, is the perfect career choice that goes hand in hand with all of my other projects.

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    • I love being busy, too. My husband sometimes tries to tell me that he is going to make enough that I don’t have to do both jobs anymore. I tell him the same thing – It would be great to have the choice of working even less without thinking about budget concerns, but I’ll never give up both completely – I live them both, and I like that both careers bring me something different. I’m the sort of girl who gets bored easily, so I think challenges are great.

      I do like what I do, but thank you for illustrating so well that you can like a full-time job for other reasons as well – like the steady paycheck. 🙂

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    • I love being busy, too. My husband sometimes tries to tell me that he is going to make enough that I don’t have to do both jobs anymore. I tell him the same thing every time – It would be great to have the choice of working even less without thinking about budget concerns, but I’ll never give up both completely – I live them both, and I like that both careers bring me something different. I’m the sort of girl who gets bored easily, so I think challenges are great.

      I do like what I do, but thank you for illustrating so well that you can like a full-time job for other reasons as well – like the steady paycheck. 🙂

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  6. I am so glad to see someone else say this! I recently made the transition between working part-time and writing part-time to writing full-time and I’m now applying for a job outside the home! I miss the people contact and I miss teaching. So, I’m going back to a 12 hour a week job (if I get it of course).

    I love being busy, too, but writing all the time makes me kind of nutty so I’ve decided that I am going to mix it up.

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  7. The isolation of working from home made me feel quite sad, which surprised an introvert like me, but it is more than worth it. I would rather have the extra three hours wasted on commuting and spend time outside the home just being free to do as I please. Not to mention, one day the freelance money will be good enough that I can work less hours and spend more time doing other things I love – I could spend that extra time volunteering if I want to get out more.

    Luckily I am not the breadwinner in my home, so I am about to quit my full-time job and start my freelance career. I cannot take the daily commute, repetitive work tasks, and menial pay any longer. Better things await.

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    • I read an article not too long ago that said one of the keys to happiness in your life is how far you are from your job. The closer your job is to home, the happier you’re likely to be. I currently work 15 minutes away from home, but I’ve done 45 minute commutes, 30 minute commutes and 75 minute commutes. It’s definitely true that being close is far more satisfying and less stressful.

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  8. Technically I work part-time (28 hours per week since I decided to move to a 4-day work week), but I earn a significant full-time income. And I wouldn’t have it any other way — except maybe working a bit less while keeping earnings up. 😉 That’s a part of the freelancing life. It gives you more time to enjoy your freedom and pursue other interests. Yes, in the beginning you might have to work long hours if you want to push into your desired income range in a reasonable time. But once you have the clients coming in, you can work as little or as much as you want and still manage a successful freelance writing career. It all comes down to pricing and your target market at that point.

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    • I was just beginning to think that part time and full time, measured in hours, is more for the employed and not the self-employed. Jenn, you’re proof of that. I’d consider you a full-time writer 100%…you’ve just taking your skills and smarts to make that mean less hours.

      I’m curious to know…about what percentage of your daily hours are billable? I know that a lot of writers look at half as they start out…a writer with your platform and your smart schedule probably has a higher billable percentage, I daresay.

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      • Nope. I generally still stick to 50% billable just like I recommend to newbies – maybe 20 hours a week during a busy week nowadays. In the case of new freelancers it’s because they really do need to put in that much time marketing early on. In my case at this point it’s more about the fact that I have a somewhat more diverse business than just freelancing. So not only do I market myself by maintaining my visibility during that other 50%, but I’m also busy launching and running sites that are income streams, working on book writing, e-books, etc. — whatever other projects happen to be going on at the time. I have that luxury because I’ve built my projects into viable income streams overall, so they serve as a replacement for what would otherwise become more billable hours.

        If someone were in a similar position time-wise to me but not diversifying in the same ways, then I would certainly hope they’re billing closer to the 70% range — maybe a bit more depending on whether they have regulars for the bulk of their work or they have to actively pursue each gig. But I’m in the process of slowly moving towards completely working on my own projects, so it just doesn’t make sense for me to increase client time anymore. At most I’ve been toying with the idea of opening up one more blogging spot for a new client, but I’m really not sure yet. it would depend heavily on how I think it would affect my other projects in the works. Once two more launches are complete it’s a possibility though.

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        • Thanks for sharing about your billable percentages. I think that it helps a lot of writers to think that 70% billable time could be a reality with good startup marketing and platform establishment. As long as we all remember to keep marketing 😉

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  9. I did only have that 60-80 hours to invest because I despised my full time job and left it to build my freelancing career. My husband supported us for a time, and then I became profitable pretty quickly mostly due to NEED. It was turn a profit, get work, or go back to the cube.

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  10. Love your post (as per usual!) Quick question which has likely been covered somewhere else on this blog, but I’m too lazy to go looking… 🙂

    What are we doing in those long hours of “freelance writing start up” that we will not be doing in that far off future world?

    The reason I ask is that I’m doing the writing gigs P/T as well, on top of another P/T job and the whole mom thing. (Whoot for mentioning that properly raising a child or three is also a full time job!) I’m working those long hours and have almost reached the breaking point… Is the future truly any different? Am I just building a portfolio and making contacts with the hope of something else? I guess I’m looking for that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel before I simply curl up in a puddle at the bottom and whimper.

    Any help for me?

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  11. lol No whimpering required. Yes, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just going to look different for different types of writers.

    1. If you’re a magazine writer for example, you might have to keep on pitching ideas frequently. But the light comes when your editor contacts come to you with assignments or you can just shoot an email with ideas without all the formality or they refer you to others without you having to query them.

    2. If you’re a business writer or Web writer, that’s where I suggest a query-free emphasis — building a platform and a network in a way that you can stop looking for clients, and instead they find you! It really works — you just have to focus on being found via search and keeping your name out there within your network so people think of you when they come across gigs to refer.

    I remember those breaking points quite well. And in my experience I found that you can’t wait for things to get easier. You have to make them get easier. You can start by focusing on productivity. Make to-do lists. Try a strict daily schedule. Do whatever you can do to streamline things and get more done in the time you have. Then you can devote less time overall once your have your process down, you’ll be less stressed about it all, and you can enjoy it more. And I find that when you’re able to relax a bit and really enjoy the smaller amount of time you do work, you get more done in the long run (which means more client work, more money, etc.).

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  12. By day, hospice social worker.

    By night, freelance writer.

    I wouldn’t give up either of my jobs. They’re so different from each other, and each is so rewarding in its own unique way. Who cares if I have a few dark circles under my eyes. 🙂

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