Freelancing On The Side: Getting Started Without Quitting Your Job


Beginning a freelance career can be challenging. It involves giving up financial security, a set routine and is a usually big step out of your comfort zone. However, transitioning from a regular day job to freelancing doesn’t have to be terrifying, or a huge risk. You can start freelancing on the side.

Here, this article is going to show you how to make a smoother transition between freelancing and side jobs from home and your current job without having to dramatically quit your stable income before you get started. 

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Overemployment: A Rising Trend

Overemployment is a rising work trend that refers to the act of having two or more full-time remote jobs at any given time. This trend essentially advocates for workers to exert control over their financial and professional lives but some view this as being unethical and wrong.

Overemployment is sometimes more than just earning extra on the side though. It can be very beneficial for professionals if it’s done right and communicated properly. Let’s take a look at the reasons why people would consider having a second job on top of their primary job.

Reasons why people consider overemployment

You must be thinking why anyone would want a second job if their primary job is hard enough. There are loads of reasons for this, some of them being:

#1 More money

This is one of the main reasons why someone would consider overemployment. Being over-employed means getting two or more salaries from multiple companies per year. This is ideal for people who are unhappy with their current income or for those who simply want more. 

#2 Better job security

Another reason for over employment is the desire to be free from office politics and layoffs.  Having multiple jobs means you get to diversify your work and have financial security in case something goes wrong at one of your jobs. 

#3 To ‘test out freelancing’

A growing fraction of people are now looking to test out freelancing without giving up their primary job. This could be for a number of reasons including financial security as stated above and greater career fulfilment with more meaningful work. 

#4 A desire to work on more projects

People with full-time jobs are so accustomed to their work and the repetitiveness of it that sometimes all they want is the opportunity to work on more challenging projects. They may then turn to overemployment and begin looking for other jobs without giving up their first one.

#5 To be a part of a community

Last but not least, some people choose the path of overemployment for a chance to be a part of a community. Overemployment culture is a huge thing online with dozens of forums and platforms dedicated to it. 

This is an attractive prospect to people who are looking to share their insights and be a part of something bigger than themselves. 

Overemployment through Freelancing

Interestingly, freelancing is unstoppable:

Google Trends 2024 Freelancing
Google Trends 2024 Freelancing

People seek out overemployment as a long-term strategy, looking for more experiences or just a way of testing freelancing.

Workers are now using side gigs as a way of understanding how they feel about their career choices and if they should turn to freelancing full-time. Provisional data from our actual freelancer survey 2023 shows that 36% of freelancers were part-time freelancers before freelancing full-time. So it’s a transition for many.

Other terms referring to this concept are side-gigs, side hustles, and moonlighting.

Side gigs, or side hustles, offer workers the chance of learning all about freelance life without having to make the full transition into it. Professionals with side gigs can learn if they have what it takes to work as solopreneurs.

If you are a night owl, you could consider what everybody calls moonlighting and become a moonglighter. This is a concept that generally describes the situation of having a side job in addition to one’s regular job which is typically done remotely and at night.

According to a report published by Zapier, approximately 80% of US employees would consider pursuing a freelance career whereas 40% of employees already have a side gig.

Freelance expert, Jon Younger, refers to these professionals as ‘freelance lite employees’ – as all of these individuals are tuned into freelance life through their respective side gigs. 

These individuals choose to work full-time while also expecting the advantages offered by having a freelance career. And if these advantages aren’t met, the majority of freelance-lite employees are willing to move to organisations that support their choices.

But do all organisations support side gigs? Not quite.

Lots of businesses have started implementing strict policies around moonlighting. Employers have the legal right to use clauses against side jobs or could insist on disclosure of secondary employment. 

However, some organisations encourage employees to get a side hustle. For example, according to CEO and co-founder Michael Hudson, employees at GameBake are allowed to work on the side and even encouraged to find what they’re good at. 

The same can be seen in Mitsui & Co – a major Japanese trading company that now allows employees to pursue side gigs as a way to retain employees.

Portfolio Dragos Muntean

Why Not Jump Into Freelancing Right Away?

Getting started as a freelancer does come with risks: you haven’t yet built up a reputation to get clients coming to you, and you probably don’t have a strong portfolio yet to guarantee you can build up a host of regular clients within the first few months. 

For many freelancers, the first year is going to involve a fair amount of financial insecurity as you build your business up. Side income isn’t going to be as plentiful as regular full-time work. If you don’t have the savings to support yourself, keeping your current job is a great idea while you begin freelancing.

What’s more, freelancing alongside your day job will allow you to get a better idea of whether this is a career path you really want to pursue – after all, it’s not for everyone. Jumping the gun could be a huge mistake that leaves you without any kind of job.

Not quitting your day job means you have financial backing and can see if your dreams can be achieved in reality. You may want to quit now and fully launch your freelance business, but unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.  

Trying and failing will hurt, but not trying at all will hurt even more.”

So give freelancing a go, but make sure you have something to return to just in case it isn’t for you.

It can also be sustainable to have a forever side gig. Having some extra work on the side could also be a long-term strategy for you alongside your full-time job. Testing freelancing and building your business on the side doesn’t mean you will need to transition to full-time freelancing.

Maybe a combination of full-time work and short-time freelance projects is a good combination for you.

Freelancing on the Side: the Benefits

Benefits of Freelancing on the side

There are many benefits to freelancing on the side, whether you do this temporarily as you start out, or do this, in the long run, to supplement your income from your full-time job.

A few of the benefits you’ll see from freelancing on the side include: 

1. Increased Income

If you quit your day job and begin freelancing exclusively, you are more than likely going to see a drop in income while you try to replace your salary with freelance clients (not an easy task while you are still new and lacking in experience and testimonials).

However, if you freelance on the side of your day job, any income you get from your freelance job will actually increase your current income, which can only be a bonus! Even if you’re doing overnight freelance work, more time is more money, right?

2. Financial Security

The freedom and independence freelancing provides do come at the cost of financial insecurity. Your paycheck will rarely ever be the same each month, and there is always the risk of finding yourself without any clients at all.

Freelancing on the side removes this risk, ensuring that you have financial security in the form of your day job while you build the foundations of your new business.

Also the other way around, in today’s economy nobody can be sure that he/she will be working in the same company a few years from now, so having your freelance business on the side can also have your back in case that happens.

3. Provides More Room for Learning and Finding Opportunities

While freelancing while you’re still employed will mean you need to manage your time more effectively (and probably get up earlier or go to bed later!), it also means you will have more flexibility in learning new skills and finding different opportunities that allow you to really hone in on what path you want your freelance business to take.

Full-time freelancers are tasked with creating financial security and keeping their businesses afloat.

Employed freelancers, however, already have financial security from their day job. This means that if you decide to take a course to learn a new skill or want to start specialising in a totally new skill, you have the freedom to make that decision without worrying about a lack of income.

Building these new skills on the side can open new opportunities for you even if you decide to stay as a full-time employee.

4. Builds confidence and competence

Working a side job allows you to grow as an individual which in turn leads to a growth in confidence. The more you see your actions turning into successful results, the more you believe in yourself and your skills.

And don’t worry if your growth is slow! Steps taken, however small, to actively pursue what you want to do in life can help boost confidence and competence.

5. Can help prevent burnout

As mentioned above, oftentimes your primary job becomes repetitive and provides few challenges. Having a side project can help give you a creative outlet for your skills and interests. 

This outlet can help prevent burnout and also help find creative solutions or find new ways to get things done.

6. Improves time-management skills

Last but not least, freelancing on the side can help make you an expert in how to manage your time. Taking on a side hustle means working more hours and having less free time which means you will want to work as productively as possible in the hours of your work. These are skills that will help you beyond your side hustle and primary job.

Part-time freelancing has its challenges, too. If your regular job is in the same field as your freelancing business, you will have to be extremely careful and make sure there is no conflict of interest. Your work on the side can also have consequences on the way you do your taxes as well.

So make sure you check if you can do freelance work part-time while you are an employee before taking on any freelance job.

Join our IT freelancer community today! Create your freelance profile in just 2 minutes.  

Can I do freelance work on the side while employed?

This is the first question you’ll need answered before deciding to freelance on the side. The regulations and possibilities might be different depending on the country where you reside and work.

For instance, in Belgium, you need to be employed at least 50% as an employee in the private sector or work at least part-time as a civil servant.

In the UK, it is perfectly legal to have a side job. However, you need to inform HMRC and declare your income in case any income tax is due on those earnings. In usual cases, HMRC considers your primary job as your main source of income and allots a personal allowance for this. The standard allowance for 2022/23 is £12,570. You are not required to pay tax on earnings up to this amount.

In the Netherlands as well, you are permitted to work as both an employee and a freelancer. They refer to it there as a ‘part-time entrepreneurship’ and just like the UK, it is important to notify the tax office because of income tax deductions.

💡 It’s important to check your employer’s policy on freelancing on the side. Even if it’s legal to work a side job in your country, employers could have policies that restrict you from working with a competitor or clients within the same industry.

In Germany, you are allowed to have a ‘Nebenerwerbstätigkeit’ (official term for a second job) on a part-time basis. However, there are a few rules you need to follow:

  • Clear separation of the main job and self-employment
  • No work in direct competition with the employer
  • No orders from a direct competitor of the company
  • The main job must not suffer from the part-time self-employment
  • In the event of illness and vacation, independence is also suspended

Again, we can’t stress the importance of asking your employer enough. Almost all contracts for full-time work in Germany contain a clause that says you must obtain your employer’s agreement. 

Like the countries above, you’ll be liable for tax returns for the profit of your freelancing (Einkommensteuererklärung).

📖 Freelancing in Germany: Guide & Insights

Examples of countries that allow freelancing on the side:

GermanyReferred to as Nebenerwerbstätigkeit – need to follow certain rules such as clear separation of the main job and self-employment
BelgiumYou need to be employed at least 50% as an employee in the private sector
UKNeed to inform HMRC and declare your income
The NetherlandsReferred to as ‘part-time entrepreneurship’ – you need to notify the tax office

Getting Started With Your Freelance Business: A Step-By-Step Guide

Once you have the OK from your employer, have registered your side job for business and taxes purposes and understand the implications, it’s time to start your freelancing business on the side.

But how can you go about it?

1. Check if it’s worth it (money-wise or personally)

Freelancing on the side can be a great way to make some extra income, but it’s important to consider the financial implications of taking on a side gig

Depending on where you live, your additional income could put you in a higher tax bracket, meaning a higher percentage of your earnings will go to taxes. 

You also need to check social contributions and other costs (e.g. insurance) that you might need to cover if you freelance while being an employee.

It’s important to do your research and make sure that you are aware of any applicable tax regulations before taking on a side job.

If earning more is not your ultimate goal, but something personal is, that’s fine. But, we recommend you check these implications (ideally with an accountant) to see how much you will ultimately earn.

You might find interesting: How to set your prices as a freelancer

2. Make Time for Yourself

Let’s talk about how the transition is supposed to function. You work 9 to 5 and maybe even have a family that needs your time and attention.

In order to make your freelancing work, you need to be selfish and take some time to pursue your goals – but you can’t always be selfish while you’re working and you cannot be selfish when your family needs you.

Getting up an hour ahead of everyone else or staying awake an hour longer will give you the time you need to develop your business idea.

Start building up towards your dream, but remain responsible as well.

Your wife or kids won’t mind if you put in an hour of work before they wake up, and your boss won’t either – provided you’re discreet.

There are different activities that you can do as on the side as a freelancer:

  • Sell your experience packed in service plans
  • Consulting thanks to several years of experience
  • Sell your knowledge in ebooks, podcasts, Patreon, etc.
  • Create a YouTube channel and monetise as you grow your audience
  • Create products that can be sold: books, products (Etsy, your online shop, etc.)

3. Get Your Name Out There

As a fresh freelancer who is starting out, the first and most important thing you have to do is let people know that you’re available. Putting your name out there is something that is mainly associated with building an online presence, but keeping your offline networking in check is essential as well.

Online, you should create professional social media profiles – it’s not a great idea to mix your personal tweets with your professional image! 

Focus on building a network of freelancers in similar fields to you, and businesses that you are interested in, and post regularly (whether that’s a link to a blog if you have one, or just providing commentary on news related to your freelancing field).

Engaging in social media and having a self-marketing strategy for your freelance business will do wonders in finding clients.

You never know where the next project or contract will come from – your neighbour from across the street, a colleague or a friend of a friend. Offline, tell your family and friends that you are going to start freelancing on the side.

Let people know what you plan on doing and offer your services – it can be scary to put yourself out there, but it does pay off.

Here is an e-mail template that you could use to let your network know about your next career move:

Hi [Name],

I hope you are doing well.

I’m just reaching out to let you know that I’m leaving [Current company] and starting my own business as [services you provide]. I’ve been doing this on the side for a few months now and I’m excited to start this new adventure full-time.

I have a few projects going on but I’d be happy to discuss with you any potential opportunities to work together. Could I buy you a coffee sometime next week?

Let me know when will work for you and we can set something up.

Would be great to hear from you soon!

💡 Do not forget to include your new business signature with links to your website and social media networks.

4. Create and Work on Your Brand

Having a strong personal brand is critical to making yourself memorable in the sea of freelance workers. That can entail anything from keeping a consistent font in your work to making sure your supplies are color-coordinated.

This goes into creating your freelance website. Make your name and your work memorable, and clients will be eager to return for further services.

5. Create a Portfolio

For most freelancers, having a strong freelance portfolio is the golden ticket to winning jobs and quickly filling your diary with well-paying clients. 

The paradox, however, is that you need a portfolio to win jobs – but you need those jobs to build your portfolio! When you are first starting out, freelancing on the side has an amazing bonus of giving you plenty of time to build your portfolio before you need to worry about earning a serious income.

When you are first starting out, there are a wide range of ways you can create a strong portfolio without having to pitch for jobs against more experienced freelancers. These include:

  • Offering to work for free for friends or family (your future clients don’t need to know this portfolio piece was done for free!)
  • Creating a blog of your own to showcase your work
  • Guest posting for other, more established, websites in your field
  • Taking on lower-paying jobs that may have less competition when pitching
  • Create some hypothetical pieces or teardowns (for example, re-designing the website of a popular brand is a great way of showing your skills and creativity to potential clients)

6. Start Applying for Jobs

Once you have an online presence and portfolio for your freelancing business, the next obvious step is to look for freelance jobs. Spend half an hour a day looking through job offers on the internet and emailing out your résumé, cover letter, and portfolio.

This serves two purposes. First, you actually get freelancing experience, allowing you to improve your skill set and try out the job you dreamt of. Second, you diversify your income and can start making more money alongside your day job.

As a freelancer gains experience and makes clients satisfied with their services, they can look forward to passive client acquisition.

This means that clients will start to refer them to others, freelancers may send them work, and so on. This should be the end goal for all freelancers, as it eliminates the need for aggressive cold pitching.

Must read: Client Acquisition: Tips to Acquire Clients & Set Up Your Strategy

7. Care about Client Relationships

When it comes to freelancing, having strong relationships with clients is one of the keys to success. Of course, the quality of the service delivered matters, but it has to fit on a human level above all. 

Building a strong relationship with your clients will not only help you land follow-up jobs and recommend to other potential clients, but it will also create a mutually beneficial working relationship between you and the client. 

Here are a few tips to help you build strong relationships with your clients:

#1 Learn to communicate and communicate often:

Communication is essential for any successful working relationship, so responding to emails, slack messages, etc. regularly is necessary. You can define your working hours in advance, but nobody appreciates someone who unnecessarily takes several days to respond to a project-related email.

#2 Be flexible:

Client are often working to tight deadlines, so it’s important to be flexible and accommodating when they need something done quickly. Of course, you can consider charging a rush fee for the urgency, but if you have the time to go that extra mile, that will show that you are reliable.

#3 Show your expertise:

Take the time to show your client that you are knowledgeable and experienced in the area that you’re working in. This will not only help to build trust but will also give your client confidence in your abilities

#4 Have empathy and patience

It is essential to be patient and have empathy in the IT industry, especially when dealing with people who are not as familiar with technology. Demonstrating that you comprehend and value their worries and requirements will help to create a strong working relationship. Furthermore, it will guarantee that you can work together to discover a satisfactory solution for everyone involved.

#5 Feedback

Give and take feedback on the project worked and look for potential improvements in the relationship.

8. Evaluate Your Growth

As you start to take on more freelance jobs, you will need to be careful about how you manage your time

The last thing you want to happen is that you take on more jobs than you can handle, which could cause both your freelance work and the work you do at your day job to suffer (not to mention losing any social life you have!).

It could be the case that you take on a few regular freelance clients and decide to work like this, for the time being, supplementing your full-time income with your freelance side income. Or you could decide that you have enough experience and clients to transition into freelancing full-time.

The right decision is entirely dependent on you and your circumstances.

Checklist for freelancing on the Side
Freelancing On The Side: Checklist

A Checklist for Freelancing on the Side

Getting started with freelancing on the side is an overwhelming project to undertake, and we know there’s a lot of information to take it!

Below is a handy checklist to help you breakdown getting started in steps:

  • Decide what freelance service you would focus on (web design, programming, writing, graphic design, etc.)
  • Create professional social media profiles and consider building a website
  • Grow your online presence and brand
  • Build a network of freelancers and potential clients
  • Create your portfolio
  • Join communities and engage with them
  • Start applying for jobs
  • Deliver results without neglecting your full-time job
  • Build strong relationship with clients
  • Take and give feedback
  • Evaluate your growth, costs, and time management constantly
  • Transition into full-time freelancing (if that’s what you decide to do!)

When Do You Know It’s Time To Jump Into Full Time Freelancing?

If your end goal is to transition into full-time freelancing after freelancing on the side of your day job while you build up your business, you may be wondering: when is the right time to jump into full-time freelancing?

This is entirely dependent on you and your circumstances. There is no right or wrong time to become a full-time freelancer, as your financial goals and other considerations may be entirely different from those of others. 

Of course, an evaluation of your financial growth is a good place to start when deciding if you’re ready to freelance full-time.

  • Does your freelance income match your current day job?
  • Or, if not, is it enough to support you while you focus on growing once you quit your day job?
  • Is your income growing, or has it dropped in recent months?

Asking these questions will give you a clearer picture of what your income will look like after you leave your day job.

As a side note, if you have not been tracking your monthly freelance income yet – create a spreadsheet and start doing this immediately!

The worst thing would be to not keep track of your side income and then suddenly be out of luck when you quit your day job and find you didn’t make as much as you originally thought.

Other factors that might help you decide if it’s time to jump into full-time freelancing are if you have repeat clients, or if you are still continuously pitching for new projects.

  • Have you diversified your income with multiple clients, and even considered selling a product such as an e-book or a course to have multiple income streams?
  • Do you have the time and the resources to commit to full-time freelancing?

These factors are all essential in helping you decide when it’s the right time for you to quit your day job and begin freelancing full-time.

Pro Tip: Get Your Current Employer as Your First Client

When looking for freelance clients to add to your new business, don’t overlook one of the most obvious potential clients of all: your current employer!

You have experienced, you know your job role inside out, and (we hope) you do a great job.

If you find the right way to pitch to your current employer, you may find that they are very happy to negotiate a remote contract with you. This will allow you to keep your current employer but secure a stable freelance client rather than having to stick to your current 9-5 routine.

Things to bear in mind to land your current employer as your client:

  • Find the right time – this isn’t a conversation to be had over a coffee break
  • Prepare your pitch beforehand – your employer needs to know what’s in it for them, not just why you want this arrangement to happen
  • Think about the logistics – you should be able to tell your employer where you will be working from, any obstacles you might need to overcome, how you communicate with the company, and how you will get your work done from home 

Start freelancing today without giving up your stable and secure job, and let that financial security help you focus on building your freelance business foundations to a point where making the leap isn’t scary at all!

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Natalia Campana

Natalia is part of the international team at freelancermap. She loves the digital world, social media and meeting different cultures. Before she moved to Germany and joined the freelancermap team she worked in the US, UK and her home country Spain. Now she focuses on helping freelancers and IT professionals to find jobs and clients worldwide at

By Natalia Campana

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