One of the questions that comes up frequently when talking about LIS career options is freelancing. Does it make sense to pick up freelance work if you already have a job? The answer very much depends on your individual life circumstances, but for me, freelancing has been integral to my career growth (and opportunities) from the beginning.
Benefits of Freelancing
Freelancing can be a great career “add-on.” It can give you a modest source of income in addition to a full-time job, it can help you build out your professional portfolio to include demonstrations of additional skills, and it can help you expand the network of people who have first-hand knowledge of those terrific skills.
Freelancing can also offer some pretty interesting psychological benefits. It can provide a greater sense of financial stability (alternative/additional revenue stream) in the midst of ongoing workplace upheaval. It can provide a potential pathway to a new job or career, offering some hope if pink slips seem to be falling all around you. And freelancing can also provide you with the confidence that comes from knowing you control some aspect of your career, that your employer doesn’t “own” all of your efforts or intellectual abilities.
Freelancing While Employed
While I was a single mom, I needed the steady, reliable income of a full-time, permanent job. Fortunately, I had a job that I loved as an information advisor to the CEO of a large telecom company. Later I worked as a managing/acquisitions editor for a publishing company, the developer of an information center for a newly established cultural institution, the interim head of an MLIS program, and the developer of the first virtual academic library, among other positions.
While I had all of these full-time jobs, I also always did freelance jobs on the side. It was part of my “exit strategy” – I always knew I could walk away from a job if I needed to and pick up additional freelance jobs. But it was also a part of my mental-health strategy – I needed to know that my career was independent of my employer, and my freelance work gave me the sense of independence and freedom I craved.
None of my freelance gigs were particularly glamorous – mostly researching, writing, editing, some information organization projects, a bit of training and coaching, and even proofreading – but they all represented potential career paths that could, if necessary or desired, be developed into more robust (and lucrative) professional opportunities.
And, in fact, almost all of them have developed into major revenue streams for me now, as I am asked to take on larger projects (at higher prices, thank you!) by clients who have worked with me through the years. Those freelance gigs over the years turned into Dority & Associates, Inc., my solo-entrepreneur content development business.
Freelancing As a Way to Test Going Independent
In fact, freelancing can be a great way to test whether going independent is something that might appeal to you, without having anything at risk. You quickly find out whether you’re willing to give up your evenings and/or weekends when necessary, you discover how well you manage your time, you determine whether you like working with clients, and you find out whether you’re able and willing to ask a client for money. Also, you can test approaches to marketing to see how comfortable you are with this role.
In my next post I’ll talk about what to avoid when freelancing (lessons learned the hard way!), but please note any questions you have about freelancing here as comments, and we can cover them in future posts.