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I’ve done some form of gig work for over 20 years, and I can tell you there have been many highs and some lows. Mostly, my time as a freelance writer has been a great experience, and I’ve been fortunate to write for some fantastic big companies over the years and plenty of great, small clients, too.

But in all my experience, I’ve learned one huge downside to relying on freelancing as my sole source of income: You have to work hard to maintain consistent pay.

Here’s what you should keep in mind for your personal finances if you intend to rely solely on gig work.

Maintaining consistent pay takes a lot of effort

There are many different types of gig work, but one thing they all have in common is that you’re paid a fee directly for the work you do, whether it’s creating a website, delivering food, or writing an article.

When the work is completed, you receive your pay, and that’s it. There’s no guarantee of more work, no guarantee of more pay, and no money being paid to you if you’re not working. That means you need to know how to budget your money and your time.

I’ve tried to explain this to my friends with salaried jobs, and sometimes, it’s hard for them to understand. They think that since I’m working daily on projects, there’s little difference between salaried and freelance work.

But the truth is that as a gig worker, you have to think much more about your work and how long it takes to complete it. For example, I’ll get paid the same amount for an article I write, whether it takes me one hour to complete or four. Contrast that to a salaried position where a worker gets paid the same amount on payday, regardless of the work done.

Gig workers have to be efficient to ensure they don’t waste their time on tasks that don’t pay enough or take too much time to complete.

The upside is that you have a lot of control over what projects you take, what clients you work with, and when and where you work. My freelance writing business has allowed me to live out of Airbnbs on long road trips and work mostly out of coffee shops.

I love the autonomy, but managing my time effectively to ensure I’m making enough money comes with a lot of responsibility.

Most workers don’t rely solely on gig work

About half of Americans have a side hustle, but most don’t rely on that pay as their primary source of income. That’s a good thing, considering that the average annual pay for gig workers is $5,676.

But if you’re looking to make the transition from a part-time gig worker to relying on it as your primary source of income, here are a few tips I’ve learned from my transition from writing as a side hustle to my only source of income.

1. Test the waters

I freelanced for many years in addition to my full-time salaried position before I made the jump. This helped me build experience with clients and get a good feel for how much work I’d need to do it full-time.

2. Find big clients

This has personally worked well for me over the past 11 years of solely relying on freelance work. Larger companies tend to pay better and typically have a lot more consistent need for work. This will save you time by not having to track down additional clients.

3. Explore new opportunities

I almost always take the call if someone contacts me about a potential writing job. There are exceptions, but most of the time, I’m open to at least having a conversation because you never know where it may lead. I once got a message on LinkedIn that turned into several years of working as a freelance journalist for the BBC.

4. Be disciplined

If you’re not disciplined with your time, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to rely on gig work as your only source of income. Find out what working environments motivate you to get work done, what time of the day you’re most productive, and keep track of your time to know what’s working and what’s not.

5. Be ruthless about your time

Admittedly, this may not work when you’re just getting started, but eventually, you’ll want to decide whether a client and their projects are worth your time. Whether you’re a delivery driver, writer, developer, or designer, evaluate how long the past few projects took you to complete and how much you were paid. If you’re not earning the money you want, try raising your prices or looking for better-paying clients.

Turning a side hustle into a full-time job can be very satisfying, just make sure you’ve spent the time understanding the risks, and have the right clients in place before you make the transition.

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