Don't Put All Your Pigs in One Basket

Financial Independence Side Jobs Freelance

I’ve always valued financial independence. From an early age, my mom taught me how important it is to be able to support myself. I’ve really taken that to heart. I don’t ever want to be a situation, whether it’s due to a job or relationship, where I can’t leave because of financial reasons.

It’s that advice that stuck with me through college and as I entered into the workforce. In fact, I can’t remember a time in the last five years when I haven’t had a primary job plus several supplemental gigs.

In high school, that primary job was working as a cashier at a local fast food joint. Now, to be totally honest, I HATED that job. The grease-stained pants, dealing with rude customers and the excessively long showers immediately after work to avoid smelling like french fries were just a few of the reasons why I wasn’t sad to let that job go. But, I worked there 20 hours a week through my senior year of high school to be able to pay for my car insurance and gas—a requirement from my parents. On the side, I used to babysit, petsit and housesit, which is something I enjoyed a bit more.

Then, college came around. I had multiple gigs in college. From working as a virtual legal assistant and making sandwiches at Subway to being a TA and so forth.

After I graduated, I found myself in the same boat as so many other recent grads—UNEMPLOYED in a very tough economy. I knew I had to find work and continue to build professional connections. So, I hopped on the part-time job bandwagon through connections from a prior unpaid internship. I was able to get a part-time gig (30 hours a week) working at a local TV station. While it wasn’t ideal and certainly didn’t pay all the bills, I would be getting valuable experience in my field, which is exactly what I needed. On the side, I continued to work remotely for a company I worked for in college. I also wanted to expand my experience and take advantage of my web and social media skills. So, I decided to build websites and do some social media consulting on the side for some “pocket money.”

And now, I find myself starting a new chapter in my life. I’m balancing a full-time job in my field with occasional freelance work (like website development, video editing and social media consulting from time-to-time).

I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been networking the entire time. I can’t stress this enough. NETWORKING is key. Both online and offline. You never know where you may get that next big opportunity. Networking doesn’t just happen at a professional conference. A conversation with friends and acquaintances at a bar could just as likely lead to more opportunities. It’s the same with online networking. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (to name a few) are so valuable to opening up the lines of communication. At a certain point, it’s important to take those connections offline; this might involve a “tweet up” or even a phone call or Skype video chat if an in-person meet up isn’t possible.

But ultimately, what works for me won’t work for everyone. I’ve always been a very driven person, who doesn’t mind working long hours with little sleep to get what I want professionally. YOU are the one, who has to decide what you value. Do you highly value financial independence? Or, do you just want to continue searching for a job in the traditional fashion until you find that “perfect” gig? I’ll let you decide.

Jessica Malnik is a Gen Y blogger and social media enthusiast. For Jessica's social media, technology and workplace ramblings, please visit her blog or contact her on Twitter.

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