A recent study by Contently found that just over 1/5 of workers who freelance professionally do so in addition to a full-time job — and it’s not hard to see why. With the economy and job-market still shaky and salaries stubbornly refusing to budge, a growing number of workers are learning that the best way to advance their career may just be to take matters into their own hands.
While there are serious challenges to what is, in effect, working two jobs, there are also a host of benefits, which helps to explain why the number of self-employed is expected to grow by 2020.
Here are seven such perks of having a side-gig:
- Alternative Income
With non-consumer spending on the rise, stagnant wages and inequality are an increasingly serious problem, and many expect it to become the dominant 2016 election-issue. As a result, job-security is now a thing of the past — but a side-gig may help to alleviate some of the accompanying financial uncertainty.
When investing, the advice is always the same: diversify, diversify, diversify. Betting all your money on one horse is a surefire way to lose, but betting on many can help to distribute the risk. Why should your career be any different?
A side-gig creates an alternate and additional source of revenue, which in turn can grant you increased peace-of-mind, and can reduce an unexpected firing from an end-of-the-world scenario to a mere setback.
- Meeting New People
The importance of networking to long-term career-growth is something well-studied and documented. Growing your professional network leads to increased resources, better future prospects and more opportunities.
By working a side-gig, you expose yourself to a wider and more diverse array of potential professional contacts. You double the pool of people you have to draw from to build your network, and even more so if your side-gig is in a different industry. The acquaintances you make on the side while working one job may just lead you to your next full-time one.
- Learn New Skills
One of the best benefits of taking on additional work is how it enables you to learn new skills. In a job market which increasingly favors skills over credentials, the benefits of ongoing professional growth and continuing education are more pronounced than ever.
More importantly, tackling work independently in a self-directed capacity doesn’t merely let you learn new skills: it lets you learn to learn better. It forces you to take your professional development into your own hands, by encouraging…
- Greater Confidence and Autonomy
Working for yourself makes you a better worker. Studies have shown time and again that self-employed individuals are among the happiest and most satisfied with their jobs, and the ability to direct their own work is frequently cited as the biggest reason why.
Branching out on your own lets you to assume responsibility for your work, budget your own time, prioritize your own tasks and monitor your own quality. You’ll grow more knowledgeable about your own work-processes, and you’ll grow more confident in asserting the value of your work to others, allowing you to…
- Grow Your Personal Brand
Branching out and taking on side-work forces you to engage in useful introspection. It makes you ask yourself the tough questions.
What do you like to do?
What are you good at?
What services can you offer, to create value for others?
Asking yourself these kinds of questions, and then taking steps to implement the answers, is what personal branding is all about. By figuring out your own personal competencies, you can position yourself as an authority on the subject to those within your network, which lets you…
- Lay the Groundwork for a Career Change
Quick: make a list of all the things employers hire for: things like experience, skills, credentials, personal referrals, hard work, self-motivation, time-management, emotional intelligence…
…noticing a pattern? All of the above are qualities which are directly enhanced and cultivated by taking on self-directed work on the side. The beauty of a side-gig is that you can tailor it to help nudge you in the direction of your dream job. The security of your 9-to-5 grants you the flexibility to pick and choose work which meets your career-goals — and nothing boosts the effectiveness of a job-application like direct, hands-on experience doing that job on an independent basis.
Or, if you’ve got a different end-game in mind, a side-gig can also help you…
- Prepare for a Switch to Self-Employment
If you’re looking to launch out on your own, why wait? Take on some side-work in the industry you’re aiming for, and start making preparatory moves. Build a portfolio of sample work. Collect names and business cards. Start pursuing clients. Use your full-time job as a runway while your side-gig slowly taxis, takes off, and soars.
A Side-Job is Hard, but Rewarding
The fact is, working for yourself is hard. While self-employed workers and those who work on the side are generally more satisfied than standard 9-to-5ers, they also face a slew of unique challenges. They work longer hours, they have a blurrier work-life balance and they may be at an increased risk for burn-out and depression.
But if you can manage to pull off the balancing act, the rewards are great: the side-gig of today may just lead to the career of tomorrow.