So you want to go part-time: exploring the options


My own personal journey has been one of full-time contracts for a portion of the year.  Since the work I take is almost always government contracts, I can work 90 days per calendar year, per department.  Sometimes that means doing eight-ish months across two calendar years, but it can also mean switching up departments, as I did this year.   So far I have managed to take the summer off four years running to spend it with my kids.  I call this the contract method of working, where there is a definitive timeline of a full-time work followed by a period of leisure time.

My way may not be the way you would chose, nor would it be the way your neighbour chooses: part time work looks different to different people and there is no right or wrong way.  Let’s explore a few of the options.

Part-time, permanent: I know a couple of people who have managed to finagle their full-time jobs into part-time jobs, especially after they have had kids.  This works well because if an employer knows you and knows you are a good worker, chances are they will want to keep you.

Method:  full time job already that turns into a temp job or get hired in that magical unicorn position that is a part-time job.

Pros: benefits, regular hours, being able to plan better financially, not having to find work frequently.

Cons: usually can’t take huge chunks of time off, harder to find childcare, lowest on the list for vacation time.

Part-time, seasonal (mostly retail and tourist season): Summers and the winter holiday seasons are a great time to try and pick up some hours if you don’t mind lower-paying work.  It’s also a great way to start building a resume up after an absence.

Method: scour the local job sites for keywords such as temporary, seasonal.  Research various seasonal industries in your area or close by.

Pros:  easiest way to get work if you have had long stretches of unemployment, can earn money quickly for a short period of time. Can arrange to work evenings and weekends so if you have kids, you can manage without childcare.

Cons:  usually terrible hours over the holiday/summer season, lower-paying, short duration of work.

I have a friend who has made a career out of seasonal work.  He has been tree planting since he was a teenager and has worked his way up to management.  Every summer he leads a team and since there is nowhere to really spend money, he saves it and lives off his accumulated savings in the winter.  He even uses his money to travel around Asia and South America during those cold dark days.  It helps that he lives in a city with low rents but a city that is interesting enough that he can sublet over the summer months.  It also helps that he lives frugally and has no dependents.

Temp work: For those of you who have huge emergency funds, low living expenses or who just like to live on the edge, temp work can be a great way to pick up work when you want it, and ignore it when you don’t.  Temp work is especially handy if you are in the position to travel the country.  It’s easier to roll into town, take a short-term contract and explore your new surroundings in your time off.

Method: contact temp agencies.  Most agencies are national in scope with a local office so keep a running list of agencies and contact them frequently.

Tip – temp work is one of those situations where the squeaky wheel gets the grease:  you have to stay on top of temp agencies to keep yourself on their radar.  Make sure you stay in contact frequently to remind them you are still available for work.

Pros: can make money quickly,  establishing a good relationship with an agency can get you better contracts, can specify long or short term, some permanent possibilities.

Cons:  can be cut short with little notice, depending on the area you live in, competition can be fierce,  a large time investment to make it work well, you may have to take contracts you don’t want or be removed from the call list (especially before you have built a relationship).  It can be difficult to manage if you have children.

Occasional:  Occasional work comes in many forms.  You could be a part-time babysitter for a friend in the neighbourhood, a pet /house sitter for when people go on vacation.  You could even rent a room out in your house on Air BnB.  Personally, I have been a babysitter at a religious institution during holiday ceremonies, and worked as poll clerk during elections.  This is a great way to wet your feet if you are thinking of jumping back into the workforce after an absence or are gearing down for retirement and are looking to find the odd income stream.

I have a friend who lives in a small town close to the city.  She attends a lot of local auctions and thrift stores and gleans it for things of value.  She then re-sells it on local buy/sell websites or through her online store.

Pros:  occasional income if you are afloat financially can be a hobby you make a career, a great way to learn something new.

Cons: unreliable stream of income, can be a lot of work, it can be stressful to have guests in your home.

Last but not least,

Start your own business: you may not think so, but this can be a dangerous one.  I ran my own business for 5 years before deciding to stay home with my kids and that is because a small business can get away from you.  You may think of keeping it to part-time but if you are like me and work hard and have great word-of-mouth you will find more clients coming in and it’s extremely difficult to say no to more hours.  As most small business owners will tell you as well, you put in a lot more hours than you think you will.  I owned a small cleaning company so it just wasn’t the cleaning that was difficult, it was the marketing, finances, customer service, inventory and all the other things that take up your time.  So unless you are extremely diligent in the kind of business you run to make sure it start part time, chances are you will creep up to over full-time hours if you aren’t paying attention.

So, these are just a few examples and I am sure you can think of a million and one different pros and cons that apply to your area of the world and that is relevant to your life.   The above is in no way an exhaustive list but instead examples of how you can head towards a part-time lifestyle.  We’ll address each option as the months go on, but for now this is just to give you an idea of the options.

In a future post I will explore the brainstorming exercise every person should do to start them off on the right path.