A 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 dabble in photography, it could provide a boost to your graphic design gigs.
- If you help clients develop their online marketing strategies, a background in graphic design could enable you to pair up your proposals with detailed infographics.
- If you enjoy writing, then you’re in luck, since writing pairs up nicely with pretty much everything else.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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
- It enables you to pursue new interests in a professional capacity.
- It provides you with a way to unwind from the unique stresses of each type of work.
- Your diverse skill set can make you more appealing to prospective clients.
The Cons of Freelancing Across Multiple Fields
- Pound for pound, it typically takes up a lot of time than focusing on a single field.
- You’ll be pulled in different directions.
- 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.