The secret life of part time freelancers

“Working as a full time employee in an office is a bittersweet experience. Expectations always seem different from the reality…”

Flylancer Tian in London: part-time freelancer, full-time powerhouse

How many of you have ever thought about quitting your job? What about quitting your job without a Plan B? I bet a lot of you have had this impulse. However much you might feel like packing your suitcase and moving to a beach hut in Goa, you might not have to say goodbye forever to your job as you know it…

What stops you from quitting?

According to The Washington Post, only 13 percent of people enjoy their work. A more recent report published in The Telegraph stated that half of all employees in the UK are thinking about changing their career.

But believe it or not, most people don’t actually quit… because they are too scared.

Everyone has bills to pay. I love living in London, with its diversity and multicultural environment. But it’s also one of the most expensive cities in the world, and I have to pay the rent, council tax, plus all kinds of fees. Without a consistently steady income, life can be a struggle.

The majority of people aren’t working in what they would call their ‘dream job’. Whether it’s because they need to earn enough money to pay the rent, or for other reasons, a lot of us put up with jobs we don’t like. But the only thing we do about it is complain to our friends, and then go back to work again the next morning.

For others, working as a full time employee in an office is a bittersweet experience, especially those junior or mid-senior staff. Expectations always seem different from the reality. It is easy for workers to feel fed up with the 9 to 5 lifestyle. I’m sure that almost all white collar workers have experienced a similar feeling, including me.

Even though relaxing with family and hanging out with friends might take the pressure off temporarily, just complaining about the problem will never solve it.

So here’s my advice: become a part time freelancer. Going freelance on a part time basis allows you to try new things, discover what you enjoy and perhaps even earn a little more money on the side.

Diverting from “The Plan”

I used to work as the full time journalist and news website editor for a well-known news agency based in Hong Kong. Being a journalist was something I decided to do when I was 6 years old. However, the 24-hour job and working all through the night wreaked havoc on my health, so I made the decision to leave the front line and go back to school.

After I graduated from my Master’s degree, the media and news industry had changed dramatically, new media and social media started to take over. Spotting an opportunity, I decided to move into a new permanent, full time position in media and social media management in London.

I still have a passion for news and writing, so I set myself up as a part time freelance journalist and set up my own blog, writing on current affairs, book and film reviews and a travel diary: Skylightian. I’ve even found a way to utilise my Chinese skills to work on translation projects.

Since I started working freelance on these little projects, I realised I spent less hours wasting time on Youtube or Facebook, but learnt more things from a variety of projects and made friends a wide range of backgrounds.

Attended the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office 2017 New Year Reception, with the Lord Mayor of Westminster (left)

We all have our secret talents and passions

Turns out, I am not the only one who is working as a part time freelancer. A good friend of mine was working at one of the top banks in the world, but is also a freelance yoga teacher and choreographer on the side. Last month, she finally quit her job at the bank to freelance full time, posting on Facebook, “Where fear or habit itself is the thing that holds you back, focus on stepping out of the way and watch it dissolve into a rooted truth, trust and clarity.”

An old colleague of mine who is working as a community manager, is also coaching a junior rugby team at a school after work. She loves having fun with the kids and contributing to the community.

To be or not to be…

A few people ask me if I want to work full time as a freelancer, but my answer is: not yet. Unlike many full time freelancers who have spent more than 10 years in their previous positions, or talented young entrepreneurs who prefer to work for themselves, I still enjoy working with my colleagues in the office; but at the same time, I would like also to discover my own interests after work as I love languages, learning about new cultures and food.

People might ask: does your company know? Are they happy about that? Honestly speaking, none of my friends working as part time freelancers have had this problem, as we make an effort not to mess up our responsibilities as professionals with our part time jobs.

On the contrary, many employees see the benefit in their employees working on additional freelance projects. My yoga teacher friend was helping her company to organise events and annual celebrations. Another friend of mine who is managing his own professional networking club sometimes brings business to his full time employer, a tech company, as well.

With more flexibility comes great responsibility

As soon as there is no conflict of interest between your employer and your part time freelance work, the two things can be perfectly balanced. One thing to remember however, is that you are responsible for both. Sometimes I have to sacrifice freelance jobs if I know I won’t be able to finish an important task on time, or if deadlines overlap.

If the day you can no longer juggle these two positions, then you might need to decide whether to stick with the job or move on to become a full time freelancer. Being a full time freelancer is not easy. Try starting as part time, and when you have built up enough contacts, you can always transfer to becoming a full time freelancer.

Taking up freelance jobs part time is for people who have a ‘free spirit’. It can also be great for people who feel restricted in their jobs, or who have spare time and energy to devote to something new and fulfilling.