How many jobs is too many jobs?

As I write this, I am on vacation. And I'm not just working for GRS while on my break. I'm posting on social media for six other clients, and writing freelance pieces for two other websites.

So when I say I am on vacation, I really mean that I am working in a house that is not my own, with a lovely view of a beach. Since being laid off from my traditional full time job three years ago, I have fashioned a working life that involves working for multiple entities, doing multiple tasks.

Staying Afloat When Prospects are Slim

My most stable employer provides 25 hours a week (but it's also the lowest paying). The rest range anywhere from 3 to 10 hours a week, depending on what's happening and what's needed. Some of the work is seasonal. Some clients pop up for a few hours' work and then disappear for months.

I'm not complaining. I love what I do, and I have fun doing it. But juggling multiple employers, all with different needs and different temperaments, seven days a week, 365 days a year …

Well, let's just say I hope I'm not still doing this when I'm 65.

My income fluctuates, sometimes wildly, from month to month. And I never stop hustling for that next job in order to make sure we have enough coming in to keep the ship afloat.

I created this employment scenario because, after I was laid off, it became clear pretty quickly that I was not going to find a comparable full-time job in my area, especially at my age (50 at the time). And I am far from alone. Since The Great Recession began, America's part-time workforce has grown exponentially. It's called a ‘gig economy,' and it means there are millions of Americans who subsist on multiple part-time jobs to get by.

Involuntary Part-Time Workers

According to the US Department of Labor, in 1968 (when they first started collecting this information), 13.5% of US employees were part-timers. That number peaked at 20.1% in January 2010, a direct result of the massive downsizing that took place during the Great Recession. The latest data point, is 18.2% (last month). In July 2016, there were 5.9 million people categorized as “persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers)”… “These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.”

Speculating on Cause

Some also speculate that the relative stability of that part-time figure since the end of the Great Recession was triggered by the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers of large businesses to offer healthcare coverage for employees who work 30 hours or more per week (as of 2015). Many large companies, including Walmart, Target, Trader Joe's, and Home Depot lowered the number of hours that employees worked to avoid paying health care. Technically, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not define full-time employment or part-time employment, leaving it up to the employer. Anecdotally, part time is fewer than 35 hours a week.

In an article on CNN.com, Chris Tilly, a UCLA economics professor, notes that many part-timers are paid less per hour than full-time workers with the same responsibilities. They're more likely to lose their jobs than full-time workers and they often have no health benefits or paid time off.

What It's Like For People

I have lots of friends and relatives who work multiple jobs. My husband works a full-time job and a part-time job. Others work a full-time job and drive Uber, or sell their handicrafts, or pick up occasional freelance work as needed. It seems these scenarios are more the norm than the traditional 9-to-5 job that offers nights and weekends off and two vacations a year. I mean, really? Do you know anyone living that life?

We asked our friends on the Get Rich Slowly Facebook page what their employment picture looked like, and received a variety of interesting responses. Many work multiple jobs — although, according to them, it's by choice. Clear, too, is that ‘full time' is typically far more than 40 hours a week, with many reporting they work 45 to 60 hours as their regular work week, and then add a part-time gig on top of it.

Here's a sampling:

Three jobs: “3 part time. Freelance bookkeeping/taxes. In CA it's almost impossible to find a good full time position that pays well. I make triple what I used to working 40 for one job. Working 30 hours for 3 companies.”

Two jobs: “I left full employment last year. I am trying to set myself up with a few part time jobs. Right now i have 2, and am looking for a 3rd.”

Two jobs: “2 Paid, if you count a freelance writing venture I just started (already got and finished my first paid gig writing 2 press releases for an Australian music label). The second one is as a sales assistant (cold calling, up-selling, follow-up, etc) I have also taken over the bookkeeping of the bookkeeper. That's my mon – fri 9-4.”

One job: “I work one very part time job, while my husband works a full-time job. Daycare is ridiculously expensive, so I only work weekends. When i do work weekends I work the overnight shift, sleep until about 11am and spend some time with my family. It works out well.”

Three jobs: “I have one full-time salaried job, and two “side-hustles”: teaching piano lessons and selling knitted toys I make. I don't think I'd ever be able to focus on just a single moneymaking pursuit.”

Sometimes I miss the stability (monotony?) of the single, full-time job. I did take an actual vacation back at the end of June, and the amount of work I had to do in advance of taking those seven days actually off almost killed me. It's actually less stressful to just keep working, in the house that isn't mine, with a lovely view of a beach.

What's it like for you? Tell us in the comments…

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lmoot
lmoot
4 years ago

*raises hand* I’ve been working a full time + part time job about 5 out of the last 6 years. And if you count school as a job then I’ve been working 2 jobs since I was 15, since I worked in HS and most of college. I was at my least stress when my jobs were completely different from each other. Fatigue sets in for me when I have to use the same muscles and skill set double time. Since I work full time in an office, seated most of the day at a computer with minimal interaction, I… Read more »

Xyz from Financial Path.
Xyz from Financial Path.
4 years ago

I like having a full-time job and working on side-projects here and there. It is great to build passive income that will keep on coming!

Rail
Rail
4 years ago

From 1988 until 1997 when I took a job with the railroad I always had multiple jobs, at tax time I had a wad of W-2’s to turn in. It wasn’t “extra” money, my full time job paid so badly that I needed the bonus income to survive. Then when I was canned from my full time job in 93 I basically worked seasonal jobs until Fall of 97. It sucked but I made it work. The working poor. Been there and got the T-shirt. Good luck to all of you out there doing it now, I know how you… Read more »

Latoya @ Femme Frugality
Latoya @ Femme Frugality
4 years ago

I’m still full-time employed with a lot of writing gigs on the side. Diversification at it’s best…

Piggybanknomics
Piggybanknomics
4 years ago

Latoya,
I agree that diversification is the key to success. You never want to put all your eggs into one basket. What ideas have you used to generate success with your “writing gigs?” I am finding that it can be complicated to get started.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
4 years ago

I haven’t worked a full-time job since November 2002. While I enjoy the flexibility, people who think “freelance” means “works only when she wants to and makes a ton of money” are, um, MISTAKEN.

For me, the flex-time is worth the panic and fatigue of those days when too many things are due all at once.

It’s essential to pace yourself or you find yourself working from first thing in the morning until late at night. That way madness lies. (Repetitive strain injuries, too.)

Anwar
Anwar
4 years ago

Actually I’m a strong believer of entrepreneurship for creative people. However I have to admit that there are pleople liking just to know they have a 8h/d job with a stable income. But we all have seen how it’s life into the corporation world … not so nice isn’t it ?

Keri
Keri
4 years ago

I was going to say one full time corporate job and that’s it, but come to think of it, that’s not quite it. Maybe 2 part-time jobs. I own and manage 7 rental units (4 properties) and I airbnb 2 other apartments that my family lives in part time — I rent out when we’re not there which actually takes up alot of my time — as much or more as the other 7 rental units. And I think the rentals/airbnbs don’t pay me, but that’s not true, I take out money from my rentals all the time to pay… Read more »

Shan
Shan
4 years ago

One point I wonder about is whether anyone else feels the need to “hide” their other work. I teach public school, but also work significant hours grading student work for a private company. I do this at night, but still worry that others would think I wasn’t dedicated enough if they knew I spent ~20 hours a week on other work.

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