Leaving Work Behind

Is It Possible to Freelance Across Multiple Fields?

Written by Alexander Cordova on August 2, 2016. 17 Comments

Three juggling balls in front of a blue  backgroundA lot of people divide their time working online between many different tasks. It could be transcribing in the morning, content mills in the afternoon, and writing fake reviews in the evening. But no serious freelancer would consider splitting his time across multiple fields, right?

While I’m still a long way away from being an expert in either of my fields, I’ve done a pretty decent job of achieving a balance between freelancing in two different worlds: web development and writing. It’s not a matter of money either (although more is always welcome!) – just a personal decision to pursue the two fields that fulfill me the most in the only way I know how: right from home.

If you’re curious, please bear with me while I explain how this works in my case, why it may work for you as well, and the reasons why it may not.

Why Freelancing Across Multiple Fields Works for Me (And Could Work for You Too!)

These days, I’m working both as a writer and web developer (with a penchant for WordPress) and have done so for a couple of years now. However, the beginnings of my freelancing career took me down a couple of paths I still shudder to remember. Namely writing for a couple of content mills, transcribing undecipherable audio files for pennies, and filling out endless surveys.

Hardly glamorous work, but a few dollars go a long way when you’re living in a third-world country, and I still held a regular job for a while as the random gigs transformed into regular, stable clients. Aside from a marked distaste towards exploitative enterprises, my dabbling in various kinds of online gigs did provide me with one clear benefit: I discovered I had a penchant for writing. So, I decided to continue pursuing it as a hobby while I built up a more steady freelancing career as a web developer.

Over time, the second benefit of my eclectic background reared its head. My background in web development gave me an edge when applying to tech-related writing gigs. Not only was I familiar with the tools and the processes, web development also teaches you to worship Google above all as a problem-solving device, and boy, researching skills come in handy when you need to write authoritatively about any given subject.

Somehow, what started off as a weird combination of two fields that I pursued due to my personal preferences turned out to be a good career move. Being able to express myself clearly came in handy when dealing with clients – although I’m still working on my concision – and my web development skill set opened up several niches in the writing world.

I’m hardly unique either. I’m willing to bet that many of you possess valuable skills that could pair together nicely and open career doors you haven’t considered yet. For example:

If you feel that I haven’t made my case yet, let me round it off by exposing two additional benefits to freelancing across multiple fields:

  1. Splitting your time between two areas provides you with a way to wind down from the stresses of either. Writing works wonders for me after long troubleshooting sessions, and coding provides me with the necessary structure to rinse off the excessive daydreaming of writing.
  2. Being firmly established in one field enables you to jump into a second one without worrying about all the usual pitfalls of freelancing (an initial lack of clients, loss of regular wages, etc.).

Why Working In Multiple Fields Might Not Work For You

Now that (hopefully) I’ve convinced you that you might find success working across multiple fields as a freelancer, let me play devil’s advocate and walk you through the reasons why it may not be a good idea.

First of all, splitting your time across two or more fields naturally means that you’ll have more work to do. More work requires more time, and climbing each ladder requires more investment in developing your skill set. Frankly, if you’re already stretched thin for time, then throwing your hat into a new ring likely won’t end well for either you or your clients.

Having less downtime available translates to increased stress levels. If you thought trying to eke out a living as a freelancer and dealing with client expectations was difficult before, multiply that by two. If you’re unable to manage your stress properly, the quality of your work will plummet.

Finally, it’s impossible to pull off a balancing act unless you’re certain about your footing in the first place. Think back to your first days spent freelancing and ask yourself honestly: could you have done it if you had to balance two sets of industry rules and expectations at once? Unless you’re a robot, I’m betting the answer is no.

The truth is that the whole concept of working in different fields simultaneously only works if you have a little bit of flexibility in your professional life, or are willing to find it. If you’re just beginning to find your footing as a freelancer, then you might as well try communicating with your customers in pig Latin, because the results of attempting this will be equally disastrous.

Conclusion

Most people make up their minds to focus their professional efforts on a single field to increase their chances of success, and that’s a reasonable decision. That said, you could be better served by splitting your efforts.

With that in mind, let’s quickly recap what we’ve covered in this post.

The Pros of Freelancing Across Multiple Fields

  1. It enables you to pursue new interests in a professional capacity.
  2. It provides you with a way to unwind from the unique stresses of each type of work.
  3. Your diverse skill set can make you more appealing to prospective clients.

The Cons of Freelancing Across Multiple Fields

  1. Pound for pound, it typically takes up a lot of time than focusing on a single field.
  2. You’ll be pulled in different directions.
  3. It’s difficult to balance working across two fields unless you already have solid footing in one of them.

Do you have any questions about choosing a second freelancing career, or your own story to share? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image credit: Hans.

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17 Responses to “Is It Possible to Freelance Across Multiple Fields?”

  1. Akaahan Terungwa
    August 3, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Hi Alex,

    You have an awesome idea…however, it is bound not to work with stupid people like myself 🙂

    Personally, running more than a single task professionally (i.e. across types) is a rather quick way to the hospital and a rest bed.

    However, here’s a variant that has worked for me over the years:

    1. I am a freelance writer majorly.
    2. I write Amazon Kindle titles by weekend &
    3. Maintain a blog geared primarily towards affiliate marketing whenever I’m less busy.

    This way, all my tasks are primarily writing and in such a manner, I have succeeded in avoiding the fears of not having a client at any given time.

    I wonder if you see my point? 🙂

    Be sure to make the day great!

    Always,
    Akaahan Terungwa

    • Tom Ewer
      August 5, 2016 at 7:20 am

      I absolutely see your point, Akaahan. What’s more pertinent is that you’ve found a system that works for you, with roughly the same end result – great stuff!

      Thanks for your insight. 🙂

    • Alexander Cordova
      August 11, 2016 at 2:40 am

      That’s definitely a good system, Akahaan. You get all the benefits of not placing all your eggs in a single basket without spreading yourself too thin.

      I’ve always wanted to test the waters at Amazon Kindle in particular, maybe it’s time I took a shot at it!

  2. Josh Paiva
    August 4, 2016 at 1:42 am

    Very interesting article. What first took me over to your blog was the domain name. Leaving work behind!! That’s great. Thanks for the awesome content. Bookmarked 🙂

  3. Iqra Beth
    August 4, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Interesting thoughts. I am getting into freelance writing and also trying to work with affiliate marketing. However, sometimes it gets too hard to wear multiple hats at the same time.

    • Tom Ewer
      August 5, 2016 at 7:17 am

      That reminds me of the old saying, “Nothing ever worth doing was easy”. It may seem tough now, but it will ‘click’ eventually – and that will be a great day!

      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  4. Paul
    August 6, 2016 at 12:01 am

    Really good thoughts here Alex. This is something I’ve been debating for a while, trying to balance these two things:
    1. Wanting to be really good at what I do (the best)
    2. Not wanting to be a one-trick pony, or put all my eggs in one basket.

    It’s a lot harder work to focus on two separate things (I’m focusing on three at the moment—which includes writing & developing) and making slower progress than I otherwise might if I focussed on one.

    The jury’s still out on that one but good food for thought. Thx for sharing

    • Tom Ewer
      August 8, 2016 at 9:14 am

      No problem, Paul – thanks for your insight!

    • Alexander Cordova
      August 11, 2016 at 2:42 am

      Something to consider is, do you actually enjoy working in both fields?

      Personally, I always had issues focusing on my work until I happened to find something that I found fulfilling.

      As long as you really enjoy the work and put your mind to it, you’ll definitely see improvement in the long term, don’t let the slumps discourage you!

  5. Patrick F Ramsammy
    August 17, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    That’s amazing because I design and build websites and I love writing. Currently more of my time is spent on web development and honing those skills and a lot less on writing. Happy to know that I can do both if I watch my time carefully. Thanks. Signed up with you at the same time.

  6. Adam
    September 16, 2016 at 12:26 am

    I really like the idea of having multiple freelance jobs. I think it’s one of the best benefits to freelancing. If you want to try different things, you have no reason not to. I hadn’t really thought about the two focus areas crossing over, like writing about web development, but that’s another added bonus!

  7. Fumiko
    July 12, 2017 at 1:51 am

    Thank you for good information! It’s useful!

  8. Agencia de marketing digital sp
    August 27, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Very nice and useful info.

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