Guide to Part-time Freelancing: Tips, Tools, and Truth You Need to Get Started

Elena Prokopets
Written by Elena Prokopets
on February 08, 2023 11 minute read

Side-hustling, moonlighting job, or part-time freelancing — research into these topics indicates one thing: You want to supplement your main income. 

That’s a natural instinct in the ‘permacrisis’ era we’re all living through. Case in point: 58% of full-time US workers are considering a “side hustle” this year, while 30% are sizing up a career change.  

That said, having one job is tough. Balancing several gigs adds a whole new dimension of complexities. Project management, client acquisition, extra admin — you have to plan for the “extras” of freelancing.

So how do you dab into part-time freelancing without stretching yourself too thin? This guide breaks down the gist of how to make it all look easy. 

TL;DR: Guide to Part-Time Freelancing

Embarking on a part-time freelancing journey offers the flexibility to balance work with personal life or other commitments. It's an ideal route for those testing the waters of freelancing, seeking additional income, or looking to pursue their passions with less risk. This guide provides essential tips and insights for successful part-time freelancing:

  1. Start with a Plan: Define your goals, identify your skills, and understand your market to carve out your niche.
  2. Time Management is Key: Learn to juggle freelancing with your primary responsibilities without burnout. Tools and strategies for effective time management can help you maximize productivity.
  3. Build a Strong Foundation: From creating a compelling portfolio to setting clear terms of service, ensure you're well-prepared to attract and retain clients.
  4. Financial Management: Understand the basics of invoicing, taxes, and setting rates that reflect your worthwhile being competitive.
  5. Networking and Marketing: Leverage social media, freelancing platforms, and personal networks to build your clientele.
  6. Continuous Learning and Adaptation: Stay updated with industry trends and continually refine your skills to stay relevant and competitive.

Whether you're exploring freelancing for the first time or looking to transition to full-time eventually, part-time freelancing can be a rewarding and flexible way to work. Utilize the tools, tips, and strategies discussed to navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities in the freelancing world.


 

Should you start freelancing part-time this year? 

The short answer is yes. Inflation, the market slow-down, ongoing job cuts — the media paints a bleak economic picture. But matters aren’t that bad at all in the freelance economy. On the contrary: It keeps growing bigger and bolder.

Back in 2020, the European freelancing market value stood at a hefty €355 billion, with half of that money generated by digital freelancers, offering marketing, tech, design, and other knowledge services. Freelancers also contributed $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2021. 

A (very approximate) estimate puts the global total addressable market for freelance services in 2023 at over $2 trillion. That’s a lot of money up for grabs, right? 

The aforementioned job cuts also translate to higher reliance on the external workforce — aka freelancers and independent contractors. As Lindsey Cameron, an assistant professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania summed it up best

“There will be more jobs available for freelancers because, during a recession, one of the first things companies do is cut their overall labor costs. They’ll transition from workers being employees to having more independent contractor spots.”

At the same time, a new study from Oxford University also says that the demand for some jobs isn’t vanishing. On the contrary: it picks up speed after a pandemic-prompted slump as the chart below indicates. 

Source: The Oxford University 

If you're eager to give part-time freelancing a go, the timing is as good as it gets. This year, a whopping 73% of workers plan to start or continue freelancing, Fiverr found. And you can be among them! 

How to start freelancing while working full-time

Freelancing has a minimal entry barrier. All you need is a marketable skill set plus your first gig. Sure, you’ll have to put in some work to determine the first — and secure the second. 

Let’s move one step at a time. 

Here’s how to start freelancing part-time: 

  1. Check your current work contract to ensure you aren't legally prohibited from working on the side. Search for non-compete clauses in fine print. 
  2. Estimate your availability to understand how much extra work you can realistically handle to avoid overbookings and burnout.
  3. Brainstorm your main service offer(s) aka the different ways to monetize your knowledge and skill set.
  4. Do some operational prep to figure out how you’ll deliver services to clients and get paid for them.
  5. Research freelance rates to understand how much you should quote for this or that to earn a good living. 
  6. Start hunting for gigs using remote job sites, freelance marketplaces, social media, and other client acquisition channels. 

 

How to start freelancing part time

Now let’s zoom in on each one! 

1. Determine Your Availability 

Your availability will depend on two things:

  • Your full-time work schedule and employment conditions (aka any clauses prohibiting or restricting moonlighting)
  • Your time management skills (aka the ability to create a realistic schedule for juggling FT work with side gigs) 

 

While the employment terms are (mostly) beyond your control, your time is. So learn to use it wisely. 

Part-time freelancing means that you’ll have to find those extra hours in a day for client work. A Zapier survey found that the majority (44%) work on a side hustle for about 13.4 hours per week.  

You can find those extra hours by:

  • Working several hours before/after your main working hours 
  • Clocking in on the weekend or during off-duty days 

 

Of course, many people sometimes sneak freelancing in between main work tasks…but that’s not always a good idea. 

At this point, you need to map a preliminary freelance work schedule — aka block and color-code some hours in your calendar for the side-work. Treat these as potential “client spots”.  

At the next stage, we’ll figure out how to best fill them in. 

Must-remember tips to balance work-life balance when freelancing part-time

  • Don’t overbook yourself. The point of having blocked hours for part-time freelancing is to understand how much work you can fit in each week/month. As you start taking gigs, you’ll learn how much time each project takes on average — and then be able to set realistic deadlines for yourself, plus avoid stress or overlaps with work hours. 
  • Batch tasks. Bundle up similar auxiliary tasks (e.g. client outreach, intake document collection, invoicing) into one time block to finish them in one sitting. Reserve others for “deep” productive work. 
  • Be up-front about your limits.  Don’t say “yes” to urgent requests or jobs with fast turn-around. More times than not, you’ll end up more frustrated with chasing it up than satisfied from earning those extra coins. 

2. Shape Your Skills into a Service Offering 

Unlike the classic 9-to-5 job, freelancing is more about selling one specific skill set, rather than a “full package” of primary and secondary hard skills + soft skills. 

Most freelance clients don’t care about your education, “cultural fit”, or marvelous expertise at attending group meetings. They wonder if you can get a specific job done: Make a logo, translate a document, write a blog post, etc. 

So think about several specific tasks you could do. A good freelance service is: 

  • Easy to do remotely 
  • Well-scoped (aka has a deliverable) 
  • Pays well 

 

…And is in demand of course. 

Per the 2023 Upwork report, the top in-demand freelance skills were sales and business development (54%), data entry (47%), accounting (45%), and 3D animation (44%).

But let’s break these down further. 

Accounting, for example, is a wide field. You can just market yourself as a “freelance accountant”. But this would attract a lot of different gigs — from bookkeeping requests by mom & pop shops to audit requests from Fortune 500 companies. 

Do all of these suit you as a part-time freelance accountant? Unlikely. So think about how you can package your core skill (accounting) into a specific service such as: 

  • Monthly payroll processing services for SMEs 
  • Self-employment tax prep and filing 
  • Tax advisory for cross-border workers 

These are scoped services, which can be done remotely, and are well-paid (since there’s a clear target audience for them). That’s what you should go for. 

3. Figure Out Your Flow For Delivering Work 

You have an idea of what you can sell. Now you need to figure out the “how” part. Even though you have limited time, your clients should still get an amazing experience.

The art of client freelance management isn’t that mysterious. You just need to be disciplined and proactively manage client expectations. 

To accomplish the above, you need to: 

  1. Be upfront about projects you can or cannot handle due to time or skill constraints. 
  2. Create repetitive workflows for onboarding new clients and securing all project deets you need to get started. 
  3. Be firm with your communication preferences. State upfront when you can take calls or have video conferencing meetings, plus the time frame for replying to emails. 
  4. Avoid “last-moment” or “super urgent” tasks (even if they pay well) and push back on unrealistic deadlines.  
  5. Prioritize projects (and teams!) that value async work and have well-established remote work practices. 

 

Remember: as a freelancer (even a part-time one), you are in charge of your work process, not your clients. Don’t let them impose collaboration terms or workflows that don’t work for you. 

Finally, to run a lean (and well-paid) side hustle, consider productizing your service offering. A productized service is a well-scoped, replicable service you can deliver for a fixed price within a fixed time range. 

The goal of a productized service is to make the service more attractive to the client (i.e. you get X for Y dollars) while streamlining its delivery.

Examples of productized services include:

  • Set of social media captions 
  • Batch of social media content 
  • Done-for-you blog publishing 

 

Productized services are easy to stack in your work calendar, plus they lead to predictable income. And if you ever decide to go full-time, scaling up your operations would be breezy! 

4. Decide How You’ll Manage Finances as a Part-Time Freelancer

The first order of business is figuring out how you’ll get paid as a freelancer.  

For that, you’ll need:

  • An invoicing app to generate client bills 
  • Payment processing app or a business bank account 

As long as you operate as a sole trader (an unincorporated freelancer), you’re not legally obliged to have a business bank account in most countries. (Disclaimer: Do check your local requirements though!). 

But separating personal and business money is a budgeting best practice. This way, you avoid mixing personal and business expenses, plus won’t struggle as much with account reconciliation during tax time. 

Account-to-account bank payments are a standard for most clients. As an extra option, you can also set up an account with PayPal or Stripe to process card payments. 

In every case, however, you’ll have to create an invoice for your clients. 

A freelancer invoice includes:

  • Biller details 
  • Payee details 
  • Provided service(s)
  • Per item + total before tax price
  • Applicable taxes and the final price 

Taxes include VAT in the EU/UK and sales tax in the US and other places. 

You can create freelance invoices manually with a template or using an app like Xolo Go, which is actually more than just an invoice generator.

With Xolo Go, you get a “slice” of our European limited liability company — and all the indemnity protections that come with it. Using Xolo Go, you can legally invoice companies in 186 jurisdictions without stressing much about the local tax or compliance regulations. 

We also hook you up with a business bank account number to receive client payments as a bank transfer or process card payments. Also, you get some neat analytics to monitor your income and spending trends. 

Whenever you want to schedule a payday, we’ll quickly transfer all the earned funds to your personal bank account. 

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5. Strategize On Your Prices 

How much to charge for freelance service is a question that stumps even experienced freelancers. The market is big — and prices vary a lot. 

While you can (and should!) browse the going freelance rates for your niche and levels of expertise, you don’t have to charge what everyone else is charging.

The easiest way to figure out your pricing as a part-time freelancer is to do a quick backward calculation: 

  1. Decide how much money you want/need to make from freelancing part-time. 
  2. Estimate how much you need to bring in with each client or project to hit that target 
  3. Give your number a “sanity check” against market rates (but don’t get too caught up about this)
  4. Start quoting your rate to prospects and see how they respond. Remember: If you’re getting a “yes” to your rate 95% times or more, you’re aiming too low. 

 

This approach to price-setting isn’t perfect. But it gives you a starting point where you feel good about what you earn. That’s important because part-time freelancing means less free time. So the money must really make it worth it for you! 

If you want a deeper take on pricing, read more about how to calculate freelance rates

6. Start Client Hunting as a Freelancer

To rephrase Brad Pitt,  “The first rule of the Fight Freelance Club is you do not call yourself an aspiring freelancer”. 

Seriously, drop the label. If you’re pitching your services to people on the Internet, you’re not an “aspiring freelancer”, you are one! 

The second rule of the freelance club: You should not be shy about using every opportunity available to land those first precious gig(s): 

  • Start within your personal network. Ask for referrals and inquire if anyone’s company is looking for help.
  • Register on niche freelance marketplaces. Instead of going to a “supermarket-style” venue like Upwork, check in with “boutique” marketplaces such as Clearvoice (for writers), Communo (for marketers), Candidly (for photographers), or Xolo.
  • Apply for open jobs. Remote work dashboards and LinkedIn can supply you with a roster of “now hiring” opportunities. These can be competitive though, but still worth a try. 
  • Trawl LinkedIn and Twitter for “hiring”. Plenty of managers post public calls for freelancers on social media. Use search combos like “looking for freelance [your profession”, or hashtags like #nowhiring to scoop up opportunities. Also connect with people in companies you’d wish to freelance for with a quick, "Hi, I’m X and do Y” note. 

    💪 Experienced Freelancer? Try using Xolo's innovative new community for talented (only) freelancers. Xolo’s impeccable focus on ensuring long-term project availability and high-quality clients that need your unique sets of skills is undeniably evolutionary.

It may take a while (or not) to land your first client. Be persistent and keep going until you hear that first sweet “Yes, let’s sign the contract!”. 

Discover more advanced strategies in the downloadable “Ultimate Guide to Finding Freelance Clients”, which shares the exact tips I’ve been using to fill up my client list over the past 8+ years. 

Best part-time freelancing jobs (and where to find them) 

Still need some pointers, here’s a somewhat subjective list of the best part-time freelancing jobs. In no particular order:

  1. Content writing 
  2. Social media content creation 
  3. Product photography 
  4. Editing and proofreading 
  5. Translation 
  6. Graphic design 
  7. Illustrations 
  8. Videography
  9. Accounting/bookkeeping services 
  10. 3D image design 
  11. Quality assurance (QA)
  12. UX consulting 
  13. Website development 
  14. Podcast editing or hosting 
  15. Transcription services 
  16. SEO consulting 

 

You can always find fresh freelance opportunities for these on platforms like Xolo, Bou, WorkingNotWorking, YunoJuno, or Workana. Or you can browse popular freelance job boards like Creatively, RemoteOK, or Creativepool.    

Xolo shares even more awesome places to find clients in our jumbo-sized list of freelancer resources. So go check it next!  

 

How to transition from part-time to full-time freelancing

It’s been a minute. You’ve got repeat clients and your work schedule’s been full for some time. New inquiries keep coming — and the money you’re pulling is good. All of these are strong signs to consider transitioning to full-time freelancing. 

If that’s your ultimate goal, put some extra scaffolding in place before you pull the plug on your full-time job. Create new monthly income estimates to understand how much extra work you’ll need to earn an equivalent of your full-time salary. 

Remember to factor in the extra freelance expenses such as self-employment taxes, social contributions, insurance, and misc business admin costs. 

(Hint: Xolo Go makes income and expense management a breeze. Try it!). 

Then start chatting up your clients. Are they willing to assign you more work? Follow up with the opportunities you’ve rejected earlier and reach out to new prospects (you know where to find ‘'em!) to book more work for the next couple of months. 

You’re already on the freelance path — you just need to speed things up a bit to go full speed! 

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About Elena

Elena Prokopets writes content for tech-led companies & software development businesses, marketing to them. Her empathy for the customer, expertise in SEO, and knack for storytelling help create content that ranks well and drives industry conversations.

Elena uses Xolo so she can focus on her solo B2B content writing business without stressing over the compliance and admin overhead.

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Get the answers you need about part-time freelancing 😎

How do I determine the right freelancing niche for me, especially if I have multiple interests or skills?

To find your ideal freelancing niche, start by listing your skills and passions. Research potential markets, trial projects, and consider long-term growth opportunities. Aligning your interests with market demand and differentiating yourself are key steps.

What are the most effective time management strategies for balancing part-time freelancing with a full-time job or other commitments?

Prioritization, batching tasks, scheduling work blocks, and setting boundaries are essential strategies. Using tools like the Eisenhower Box can help manage your tasks effectively, ensuring productivity and work-life balance.

Can you recommend tools or software that are particularly useful for part-time freelancers in managing projects, finances, and client communication?

For project management, Trello and Asana; for financial management, QuickBooks and FreshBooks; for communication, Slack and Zoom; and for time tracking, Toggl and Harvest are recommended tools to streamline freelancing tasks and improve efficiency.

How do I set competitive yet fair rates for my freelance services, considering I'm only freelancing part-time?

Research market rates, consider your experience and unique value, and ensure your rates cover your costs and desired profit margin. Adjust your rates as needed based on experience and feedback.

What strategies can part-time freelancers use to market themselves effectively without a large budget or ample time?

Utilize social media, engage in networking, create valuable content marketing, encourage word-of-mouth referrals, and optimize for SEO. These strategies can increase visibility and attract clients without a significant financial investment.

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