Up until that point, I had it made. I earned a very comfortable $72k a year salary living in Los Angeles, had a huge office with state of the art equipment, an amazing boss, and great benefits.
Since full time work in my field was scarce at the time, I started freelancing. While I had a great severance package for six months, and a couple large freelancing jobs in the beginning, what mostly happened over the next four years was me blowing through my savings, not budgeting, not networking enough, not improving my skills as a video editor, and not creating my own opportunities.
The good ol’ days are over. I’m not even sure when they ended “officially,” but if you think you will stay in one job, or even one career your whole life, and get too comfortable just phoning your work in and collecting a paycheck, then you are missing out on some incredible opportunities.
Multiple Streams of Income
With freelancing it’s almost always feast or famine. At the time of the feast it can be difficult to do things like side jobs, or to set yourself up for passive income, because of lack of time. That’s why it’s important to set up these things or work on them during downtime, or during “the famine.
Now I realize a lot of you might be full time employees or students, but you never know when your situation might change unexpectedly, and having several sources of income can be very helpful.
There are a lot of different ways you can work on side income/side jobs/or passive income:
Freelancing: If you work full time or are a student, find out what skills you could put to good use. Are you good with drawing? Then start creating art to sell on Etsy, or create graphics for websites and blogs.
The same thing if you are a good writer or editor. There are so many websites out there like Elance, Guru, or even Craigslist that look for freelancers.
I started freelance writing after I created my own blog, and realized I could make a little extra money staff writing for other blogs.
Virtual Assistant/Errand Runner/Handyman/Driver: Sites like TaskRabbit take bids on jobs from everything like rides to the airport, party help, hanging holiday decorations, cleaning, helping people move, etc. It takes a while to get set up and established on these sites, but once you do, you can take jobs whenever you get free time, which for me tends to be in the summer when my video editing work slows down.
The bonus for taking these types of jobs is that it leads to what everybody should be doing regardless of their employment status, which is networking. You never know when you might be picking someone up from the airport that might be in the same field as you. You’d be surprised what a small world this is!
It also gives you a chance to work on socializing skills if you’re like me and have a tendency to be on the shy side.
I’ve been a TaskRabbit for about a year, and have made a lot of great connections through various assignments.
Like I mentioned before, take every opportunity to network, regardless if you’re in that comfy job which you love and think you’ll be at forever.
That was one of my biggest mistakes as a full time employee. I got complacent about networking, so by the time I really needed to have contacts when I was laid off, I hardly had any!
It’s a good idea to set up some kind of database using a simple Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all your contacts.
What do they do? Who do they work for? How did you meet them? It’s OK to get business cards, but how often have you misplaced them? And just putting the info in your cell phone leaves out key details about the context of the relationship.
It’s a good idea to drop a line (a simple email will do) to your contacts at least a couple times a year.
Dear _______, I’m _____ and we met through our mutual friend ______ at the (company name) Christmas party. I just wanted to touch base with you to see if you’d be interested in grabbing a cup of coffee sometime? I’d love to hear more about the work you do at your company.
This is why having some sort of database is very helpful.
I also think it’s a good idea for everyone, and I mean everyone to have a basic website which contains your resume, examples of your work (if that pertains), and testimonials.
You can set up a basic website with little to no cost these days, so there is no excuse not to have one. If you don’t know where to start then I highly recommend WordPress. Also keep up your LinkedIn profile, and utilize social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to network.
Keep Up With Your Field’s Job Skills
This is another area where I completely dropped the ball when I was working full time. Because I was only required to work with one or two types of software in my editing job, I got lazy and never took advantage of employee educational discounts, or even free training.
Now when I look for video editing related work, most companies require far more software skills than I possess and should have to make myself more employable.
If you plan on staying in your field and being successful, it’s imperative to stay on the cutting edge, at least as much as your budget permits.
All of this stuff I learned the hard way. The good news is you can learn from my mistakes, and do all of this now instead of later when it may be too late or more difficult.
How are you currently creating your own opportunities?