June 29, 2018 Freelancer en_US testing the freelancer market through a side-hustle before jumping into full time freelance work can give you valuable insight into the potential of full time freelancing. https://quickbooks.intuit.com/cas/dam/IMAGE/A0FAFm8VX/564d78a3a58fc6e4788f55d1b0d01638.jpg https://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/freelancer/should-you-side-hustle-before-becoming-a-freelancer/ Should you have a side hustle before becoming a freelancer

Should you have a side hustle before becoming a freelancer

By Eric Carter June 29, 2018

Recent research shows that one in five Americans will work a side-hustle in 2018.

The popularity of the side-hustle is largely attributed to the need for supplemental income. Still there are many full time employees using their side-hustle as a chance to pursue their passion.

Passion and supplemental income are great reasons to start a side-hustle; and, a side-hustle can be a stepping stone to a full time freelancing career.

A side-hustle provides numerous benefits as you consider full time freelance work. You can:

  • Test your services in the freelance marketplace
  • Learn how to run a business without being fully dependent on it
  • Understand the tax impact of freelancing
  • Build a client base
  • Find your niche
  • Diversify your income

Test the Freelance Marketplace

Full time freelancing is a full time job, with full time responsibilities.

Maintaining a side-hustle, however, awards you the flexibility to explore a freelancing business without the stress of running a full time business or the risk of being completely reliant on freelancing to live .

It’s not uncommon for new freelancers to overestimate revenue and underestimate costs needed to manage and grow their businesses.

However, since your side-hustle is providing you with real numbers, your ability to estimate both costs and revenue will be more accurate and reliable. After reviewing variances between your estimates and results, your projections will improve.

This provides you with a more honest outlook of what it takes to turn your side-hustle into a full time business.

On the Job Training

With any type of real world training, you may find you’re lacking some of the necessary skills to run a business. When you have a side-hustle, you can afford to pause, identify where your skills or knowledge are thin and make a plan to improve.

There are plenty of opportunities to address skill and knowledge gaps. Maybe you sign up for an accounting class or reach out to a friend who runs a successful small business for advice. You may even decide that some things are better left to the professionals and hire a third party to take on some specialised tasks.

The nature of a side-hustle means you’re more likely to address your business needs with a clear head and less pressure.

Some common skills you will want to be familiar with include:

  • Accounting
  • Tax planning
  • Contract development and management
  • Marketing


Understanding your tax exposure might be the most beneficial, of all the on the job training you’ll complete through a side-hustle.

For many freelancers, the single biggest shock in their move from employee to self-employed is the tax impact. Most employees underestimate, or completely ignore, the taxes their employers take care of on their behalf.

Once you move to self-employment, the full burden of taxes falls on your shoulders, whether you understand taxes or not.

Fortunately the internet provides many resources to assist self employed people understanding their tax exposure, and minimize tax liabilities.

However, no amount of research or tax planning produces the insight that living through a tax season provides. My suggestion: run your side-hustle for at least one tax season before making the leap into full time freelancing.

Build a Client Base

You need a consistent network of reliable clients if you want to freelance full time.

When freelancing on the side, you can spend more time developing clients. Client development includes two primary elements:

  • Recruiting the right clients
  • Over deliver on client expectations

When recruiting clients for a side-hustle, you can afford to be picky. Find clients that fit your existing skill set. You aren’t fully reliant on your side-hustle, so you don’t need to accept every job.

When you are first starting out take the type of jobs your most comfortable with, use them as portfolio builders that both you and your client can be proud of.

Once you intentionally select your clients, spend quality time with them. Use this time to ask for feedback on your work. How can you improve to meet client needs? Can you expand your services to that client?

Picking the right clients, and then deepening your relationship with those clients will make you a trusted partner. Trusted freelancers are more likely to referral business.

Over deliver on client expectations to strengthen client relationships. You can afford to be less price sensitive at the side-hustle stage.

Accept a hundred dollar gig, but deliver thousand dollar work product. Wow your client by over delivering to build your reputation.

Over delivering proves to your client that your services are worth more than market price. Proving your worth during a side-hustle allows you to charge more when you transition to full time freelance work.

It takes time to build your client base through a side-hustle, but the strength of relationships you build over time will set you up for success as a full time freelancer.

Find your Niche

Writing is a common freelance skill. The list of freelance opportunities for writers is long: blogging, copywriting, journalism, ghostwriting, the list goes on.

You may be skilled writer. But, not all writing is the same. You need to tailor your skills to match the specific type of writing needed by your clients.

Some types of writing will come more naturally to you than others. You may be able to hone your writing towards a specific niche, but maybe not. For instance, I tried my hand at writing ad copy with no success. After a few failed attempts, I crossed ad copy off my potential list of side-hustles.

But what about skills that aren’t so obviously marketable in the freelance marketplace? Maybe you are a solid golfer, but not good enough to go pro. Is there a freelance opportunity for you?

I argue: yes. And, a side-hustle is the best way to uncover the freelance opportunities tied to your love of golf.

Think about the community surrounding golf beyond the pros on tour:

  • Broadcasting
  • Lessons and training
  • Journalism
  • Online communities
  • Events
  • Podcasting

Golf generates revenue through entertaining golf fans. Produce a golf-related service that helps entertain golf fans, and you’ve found a freelance niche in the golf industry.

Use a side-hustle to tailor your skills to the specific needs of hiring clients. Eliminate specific opportunities that don’t fit your abilities. Improve your skills in areas where you can excel.

Diversify Income Streams

In a previous article, we mentioned that the average millionaire maintains at least seven income streams. You don’t have to aspire for millionaire status to benefit from multiple income streams.

In fact, a recent study showed that nearly 25% of baby boomers will have a side-hustle in 2018. As conventional retirement strategies like pensions, social security, and even 401ks fail to provide the financial comfort they once did, diversifying income streams by freelancing has become an attractive alternative.

With freelancing opportunities rapidly expanding, the side-hustle is becoming an alternate savings, investment, loan repayment, and retirement strategy.

Full time freelance work is attractive, and potentially lucrative. But, test the freelance marketplace through a side-hustle first.

A side-hustle allows you to learn the business of freelancing, build a client base, find your niche, and diversify your income.

Full time freelance work may be your perfect fit. But, it may not be. A side-hustle enables you to make this determination with little risk.

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Eric is the founder of Dartsand and Corporate Counsel for a global technology solutions provider. He is a frequent contributor to technology media outlets and also serves as primary legal counsel for multiple startups in the Real Estate Development, Virtual Assistant and Mobile App industries. Read more