Today, I’m excited to share with you Rob’s story. Rob Erich writes about the digital nomad lifestyle on MoneyNomad.com.
Hobbylance: keeping your day job while freelancing on the side.
What do you do when you wake up every morning to a lackluster job?
When you find yourself stuck in a rut, working 8-5 for a mediocre paycheck and limited benefits, how should you respond?
Most of your traditional cautious friends will say something like, “No one enjoys their work! Put in your time and one day you’ll be able to retire and do what you love”.
Meanwhile, ask your wanderlust friends and the response will be quite different: “Make every moment count! Life’s too short to not pursue your dreams. Quit your job right now!”.
Although there are variations to these two statements, almost everyone falls into one of these camps. Either they believe that a paycheck is the only reason to work, or they completely through money (and financial security) out the window.
For someone like myself, who’s both idealistic and realistic, neither of these options sound good. Sure, financially preparing for the future is important, but we also don’t want to become one of the 80% of people who are unsatisfied with their job.
So what in the world do you do?!
Stop thinking “either/or” and embrace “both/and”
After spending a year in a job that placed me in front of Excel spreadsheets every day, I knew that being a financial analyst wasn’t the career path for me. I valued the mission of the healthcare organization I worked for, I enjoyed working in a corporate setting, and I loved my team – but the work was utterly boring.
I had spent far too many years drudging through school, eagerly awaiting graduation so I could do something I enjoyed. But I was not doing something I enjoyed. In fact, I was less satisfied than I had been in school!
Something had to change…
I could go get another job. But my wife and I were planning to move for her education in about a year – and I really craved some autonomy and freedom. Meanwhile, it appeared that most jobs I would be qualified for I wouldn’t enjoy – which left me in a tough place!
My dream has always been to write about and teach leadership, entrepreneurship, and personal finance. Whether that’s on my own or in a job doesn’t matter – I just want to be developing and educating people.
This wasn’t happening in my current role.
One idea was to start my own business/blog/training program. This sounded appealing, but I also had to pay the bills. I wasn’t in a position to just quit and try my own thing.
So I decided to keep my current job AND try my dream job – as a hobby.
Rather than “quit to pursue my dream” or give up on my dream altogether, I decided to do both/and. I decided to take on a side hustle.
In addition to working at my regular job, I decided to start writing for B2B (business to business) clients. Not only did this give me an opportunity to learn and teach business – it also gave me a broader skillset. Rather than telling people that I was competent at Excel and Tableau (data stuff), I could show them that I was a clear communicator as well.
All while getting paid!
So I worked my eight to nine hours every day, and then I came home and spent another few hours finding clients, writing, building a network, and developing my own websites.
And things started going well. Very well!
After three months I started hitting weeks where I earned 50% of my regular job’s pay in just 10 hours of freelancing in the evenings and weekends. There were some weeks where I was even close to doubling my pay.
The day finally came where I realized that I was hindering my finances by keeping my job! If I quit, I would actually have the opportunity to earn more – and have more free time.
More money AND more time, who wouldn’t want that?
So I left my job – thrilled. Not only did I leave to pursue my passion, but I knew that my passion could replace my paycheck.
Over the next 8 months I freelanced, moved across the country, and spent several months traveling through Central America. It was awesome!
Then, after resetting in the US, my combined experiences were able to land me a job as a corporate trainer – giving me the ability to get paid to travel and teach financial tools across the country. Yes – I hobbylanced my way into a full-time business, that ultimately turned into my dream job.
If you aren’t thrilled with your current job, and feel like you aren’t on the right career track, all is not lost! Like me, you can escape a mundane career track for a job (or business) that you enjoy. Here’s how…
Before you quit your job, become self-employed
As a blogger who often discusses the digital nomad lifestyle and how to escape a mundane job, many people ask me: Should I quit my job to pursue my passion? I always tell them “no”.
Why? Because when you’re already employed is the best time to pursue your dream!
Not only does your job keep you financially stable, but it allows you to evaluate how disciplined, skilled, and motivated you really are.
If you can come home from work excited to spend several hours on your business/freelancing, you know that it’s something you’ll enjoy working on full time.
Meanwhile, if the thought of pursuing this venture or career track seems overwhelming after a full day of work, how do you know that you’ll be able to commit 8-12 hours a day to it once you quit your job?
The best time to quit your job is after your venture is already thriving.
Before quitting your job, I recommend that you:
1. Try it out by starting a side hustle!
A lot of ideas sound great as a dream, but are miserable in reality. So before you quit your job, determine if you will truly enjoy doing this long term. Discover if it’s an activity that can actually make money.
The only way to know if freelancing is right for you is to try it out. The only way to discover if your business will succeed is to start selling.
Even if you have an 8-5 job during the week, you still have evenings and weekends to give it a shot. It may even be beneficial to take a week of vacation time to really get involved with your idea.
Of course, the question arises: How do you get jobs to test out your skills in the first place?
What worked for me was to jump on a few freelance websites and start applying for different projects.
I got 80% of my initial freelance business from Upwork – and I was able to do this before ever having my own website. You may need to do a few projects for free or at a very low rate to build up your portfolio, but it doesn’t take long before you can start making good money through freelance platforms – especially if you follow my suggestions.
As you develop your reputation and build up a portfolio, your social media channels and personal website can quickly send additional clients your way.
When you try “hobbylancing” on the side, you should have these three goals in mind:
Evaluate the demand for your service.
Ensure that you will enjoy doing this long term.
Determine how much money you can really make.
2. Develop a productivity plan and evaluate your work ethic
Once you realize that you enjoy this new work and can actually make money, it’s time to evaluate your own work ethic and develop a productivity plan. Ultimately, you need to determine how successful you will be at focusing on your work.
Are there TV shows you’ll be tempted to watch at 2 pm? Will you be able to turn down friends who ask for your help in the middle of the day? Can you differentiate between your work and personal life?
Freelancers have a tendency to fall into one of two camps. Either 1) they don’t take their work seriously and never really succeed, or 2) they spend all of their time working and forget to take personal time.
By lining up your priorities and developing a solid work schedule, you can ensure that you work when you need to be working, and relax when you need to be relaxing.
3. Know your personal & business finances
The last step before leaving your job is to make sure that you can afford quitting.
The benefits of your job are more than just your hourly paycheck. Consider the value of your health benefits, paid time off, 401(k) matching benefits, and any other perks at work. Additionally, remember that the office pays a portion of your Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Work for yourself and you become responsible for these employer-covered expenses. For most jobs, these benefits and taxes come out to 30-50% of what you actually get paid. In order to fully replace a $50/hr job, you need to make closer to $75/hr as a freelancer. To replace a $20/hr job, you need to earn about $30/hr.
But that’s not all, it takes time to grow your client list. Even if you already have some great clients when you quit, it will likely be a few months before you can replace your full-time income.
If you can save up enough to cover your expenses for 6-9 months, you’ll be in a much better place during this transition. Sure, this isn’t easy. But remember, if you spending 10-20 hours a week freelancing for several months before quitting, you can sock that money into your emergency/transition fund.
By doing a conservative audit of your finances, you can ensure that your escape to full-time entrepreneurship/freelancing is as stress-free as possible.
Will you hobbylance yourself out of a job?
Thanks to the internet and great services like Upwork, it’s easier than ever to freelance your way out of a job. With just a few hours during your evenings and weekends, you can turn that dream of independence into a reality.
Many successful online entrepreneurs and digital nomads make the following transition: employee > freelancer > business owner. Hobbylancing is a great way to make that first step intelligently and successfully.
[Claudia’s note: This is exactly how I started. I was an employee. I started a side hustle. Now, I’m a full-time business owner and aspiring digital nomad enjoying nice hikes at parks nearby my home. I love the freedom and flexibility I have in my day!]