Q+A: How to find the perfect part-time job

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Dear Amy,

I recently read your excellent blog post about why artists & illustrators should get job and wonder if you have any advice about finding the ideal part-time job to help one reach one’s goal.

In my own case, I really want to write and create graphic novels full-time but am at a loss to find a complementary job that pays well enough and fits my analytical personality. I am even considering going back to school to learn animation or going back to learn something high-tech. But I also know that I’d toss both away if I ever had the chance to write and illustrate full-time.

What are your thoughts?

~ Benjamin

Hi Benjamin!

Finding the ideal part-time job is definitely the way to go as you go experiment and take time to hone your craft and work! Having a part-time job does wonders in alleviating the stress of having to worry where your next meal will come from and to avoid that awkward moment of trying to fake not being around whenever your rent lady comes a-knocking.

Finding a part-time job involves a two main scenarios:

Scenario #1: You have many different skills – writing and illustrating and illustrating is just one of them

This is the sort of situation where you’re a multipotentialite. Not only do you have a talent for drawing and writing, but you might also be a good strategist, or a great chef. I think that deep down, we all have different skill sets. While they may not necessarily go together and culminate in one job (that’s a tough find); finding different outlets where you are able to flex your skills is a great way to make yourself happy.

Scenario #2: You have one main love – writing and illustrating – and it’s hard to imagine yourself doing anything else.

If this is the case, you’ll need to do a bit of sleuthing to find out what would be a good fit for you. For me, what has always worked is to find something that would help me balance between time, money, and interests. And this formula would change throughout the years. For example, when I was in university, I would work part time as a retail assistant at a clothing store. I didn’t have much time (because I was standing on my feet the whole day tending to customers), little money (because the pay was a mere RM3.40 (USD$1) per hour), and I wasn’t really interested in it so much.

So the equation would look something like this:

[box]Retail assistant = Less time for myself + Little money + Low level of interest = on a scale of 1-10, this would be a 2/10 [/box]

I learned to balance things out by finding jobs that would tip the scales to what I was looking for at a particular time. For my part-time writing positions a couple of years after I graduated, the equation looked like like this:

[box]Freelance writer= Adequate time for myself (to work on Pikaland) + Adequate money (if you hustle enough) + High level of interest =  5/10 [/box]

Currently, I want to free up my time and also up the money factor (what this means is that I want to add value to what I do, instead of having my hours count instead). So I have a few options here – find higher paying writing jobs, or find another interesting part time job that would pay me more money than what I currently do. I’ve done both before, and I’ve just accepted a job as a part-time creative director of a PR/digital strategy agency, and this is how my equation looks like now:

[box]Part time creative director= Adequate time for myself + Good money + High level of interest = 7/10 [/box]

It’s always about finding out what you need at a particular time in your career or life – whether you’re looking to have more time to spend on your interests, to want to find more money to supplement your income, and what you’re willing to put aside (your interests) in search of a part time work that works for you.

Now we move on to another point: How do you find the perfect part time job for you? I’ve broken it down into a few key strategies:

#1: Find out what your skill sets are.

When I first graduated from university, I avoided sending my resumes to landscape architecture firms. I had a 6-month experience with being in one before, and I wasn’t exactly looking forward for more. So I thought to myself – I’ve been submitting my writing to the local newspaper and magazines, so why not try to do more of that, and get paid too? So my first job was as an editorial assistant – there was a lot of writing, running around scrambling for photo shoots and also helping my editor manage a few editorial projects, all the while keeping a tight deadline.

A few years later, I was an editor myself. And then I left to run Pikaland full time to see where it could lead me. My past experiences made me realize that I am quite fond of writing. And I could organize and manage a team of people. I could manage projects. I loved solving problems. I am happy when I am able to take something complicated and make it simple. And so I took these skills that I have and I ran with it. Starting up Pikaland utilized those skill sets (apart from my love of drawing and writing). So did determining what sort of part-time job I could pursue to supplement my income.

#2: Do what you’re comfortable with (for starters!)

A lot of times, finding a part-time job is about extending what you’ve been doing in the past, but perhaps scaling it down to suit your lifestyle. I chose to continue writing because I was able to excel in it (at least I think so!) Writing for an architecture and design magazine was a comfortable setup that I could tap into. It also helped that I love meeting people within the field, and they felt that they were talking to someone who understood where they were coming from. It became second nature.

As I go along, I began to embrace experiences that made me move out of my comfort zone – like teaching. Pitching bigger projects to clients. And it opened up new possibilities for myself. Soon, I wasn’t just accepting job offers – I made my own.

#3: Count on your contacts.

A lot of my freelance jobs/part-time job inquiries came from my friends and contacts over the years. I’ve found that when I did good work, it would lead to more referrals. Personal recommendations and rave reviews from my contacts – especially when I’m dealing with new clients – has gained me an easy foot in the door; sometimes even without the need to for a portfolio viewing. My illustration jobs were commissioned this way too. It doesn’t hurt to put your ear to the ground and ask around if anyone needs a hand or two!

#4: Create a bigger circle.

In addition to counting on your contact list, one of the best things that I’ve done is to not be content with who or what I know. When I quit my full time job, it freed up a lot of time for me to explore other things and topics that I liked (as opposed to it being something I had to do). So I got myself involved with the local tech community (yes, I am a geek!), educators and also other female entrepreneurs. Aside from having fun from all these experiences, I gained lots of new friends – we throw ideas around, get feedback and lots of support as we go along our way. The beauty of being able to craft your own circle (as opposed to just hanging out at your usual ones) is that you get to learn about a lot of things from different people. I think that this is one of the most interesting and fulfilling aspect of working as a freelancer and a part-timer that is harder for me to accomplish if I had been working full-time.

Finding a part-time job that will be able to cater to your analytical side will take some time and experimentation to see what works for you. A lot of times it will be through a series of trials and errors! The important thing is to go out and try out different things, and see what sticks. You won’t know something for certain until you’ve tried; and by taking that leap, you may just be pleasantly surprised at where you’ll land.

So there you have it Benjamin – I hope this will help you in some way! If you have any experience, advice or tips you’d like to share with Benjamin, I’d love to hear from you! Just write in your thoughts in the comments below and I’m sure it would greatly help others who are in the same situation.

Do you have a burning question that you’d like to get to the bottom of? Whether it’s questions about your life, career or if you’d like to just vent out your frustrations – send me a note and I’d be happy to offer my thoughts! And if you haven’t gotten on our newsletter just yet (but love articles like these) – sign up for the mailing list so you won’t miss out on anything!

9 Replies to “Q+A: How to find the perfect part-time job”

  1. Dana says:

    Thanks for this post, Amy. I think it applies to everyone at some point in life. I like your tip about networking with people. I have found great opportunities and resources just by talking to people in my everyday life, joining groups, going to seminars, going to art events, visiting galleries, and chatting people up in shops. The more I put energy into getting out and talking with people the more I learn, try, and find jobs and opportunities.

  2. Candace says:

    Your posts always make so much sense and help things feel like they “aren’t so tough”. That everything’ll be okay. I love that. Little bits of encouragement on all things inside illustrator’s worlds; hip hip hooray!

    One thing I did want to mention about Benjamin going to school: an education is never “tossed away”. Learning new things is always to our inner benefit, and it may even help us find a good part time job in that industry to pay the bills while we do our art. Helping our minds grow is a great opportunity in itself! 🙂

  3. Louisa says:

    I also think that having a part time job gives you some time to get away from the creative pressures of trying to pursue your own thing full-time. Just a chance to think about something else for a period of time can be very helpful. I actually find that when I’m really busy with work work, I might miss out on drawing for a couple of weeks – and I often see a big jump in my drawing when I get back into it. Don’t know why, but it’s always nice!

  4. Kiara says:

    Hi Amy,
    Thank you so much for this post. It comes with very good timing for me as I had been trying to focus on my freelance career full-time and have been really anxious between jobs when I don’t have income.

    I recently started to do administrative work full-time and that didn’t feel like a very good fit, but once I scaled it back to part-time I have found more energy when I am creating and as Louisa put it a place to get away from creative pressures. Also, working on my own was becoming a bit isolating and I am finding my life is in better balance now that I spend a few days a week at home working and creating and a few days a week away from home working.

    I also really liked the part of your article where you talked about taking a leap and finding the right thing by trial and error. It’s such a simple thing but I find I need to be reminded of it often because so often I get caught up in trying to do the perfect thing that I miss out on lots of imperfect things that could be really great.

  5. Benjamin says:

    Hi everyone,

    I’m Benjamin (the one Amy refers to in her post) and I want to thank everyone for chiming in. Her insights are certainly valuable.

    A bit more about myself: I actually hold a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a diploma in graphic design/illustration. Both seem to offer a lot of employment opportunities, but the competition has been stiff and I haven’t been able to able to land anything part-time. As a result, I find myself working retail in a bookstore.

    Currently, I’m thinking of going back to school again for a certificate in Geographic Information Systems, mostly because of the demand and because I like geography. But as soon as the program faculty found out that I liked to draw and make comics, I’ve been encouraged to turn the other way. I’ve also learned that there aren’t a lot of part-time jobs in the GIS field either.

    All of this leaves me confused. I definitely want to go after my dreams, but I also feel the urge to do something that makes money in order to care for the family I may someday have (currently single at the moment :)) To complicate things, I also feel I’m not good enough to earn a living from my art yet and I don’t have the funds (yet) to enrol in another art program.

    Any advice?

  6. Bryan Beus says:

    This is all great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    I particularly liked your breakdown of the three beginning factors (time/interest/skills etc.)

    While I was getting started in my career I worked for two days as an assistant to an artist’s agent. It was great on all three levels, and I’d recommend that path to anyone.

    About meeting new friends and expanding circles:
    Do you (Amy) find that you’re getting more commissions directly through your social media accounts nowadays (for instance, in a Facebook message)?

  7. CrisisMaven says:

    Hi Amy, from my experience, the problem most start-ups (and freelancing is a start-up like Facebook once was, only more limited in scope) face, is that while as a salaried employee you bring one or a set of skill(s) to a market where the rest is taken care of. The rest, that is marketing your skill (your boss does that), your workplace (the company provides that), your invoicing (it’s pre-arranged, you don’t even have to write one), etc. etc. The moment one starts out as a freelancer, there are ten times more skills required than before. And they distract from the original work. From advising small start-ups in the oh-so-distant past I remember that often these additional skills were quite minimal, sometimes non-existent, but worse, sometimes they were believed to be there but worked to the detriment of the freelancer: he/she would accept, even create, unfavorable legal terms for contract work, forget to get a distinct enough specification of the work required (with disputes and no payment at the end, even sometimes incurring penalties etc.) and so on. And it’s not taught in school, where most teachers are salaried and “tenured”.

    1. amy says:

      That is very true CrisisMaven! It’s interesting though – once someone starts out as a freelancer, no matter how far along they are in their career, they’re bound to make mistakes (i.e. not compensating themselves enough). While they may get advice from other freelancers to avoid common pitfalls, a lot of lessons are learnt the hard way, as many learn to cope with their newfound freedom and trying to balance that with making a profit.

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