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August 24, 2009

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One job just isn't enough for a growing number of freelancers

IT'S not unusual these days for office workers with a stable job to do some freelancing or run a small business on the side. This is a group that is growing rapidly.

They might be the experts in fields such as medicine, banking, architecture or accounting, but after work they take off their professional clothes and transfer to a totally different career in their spare time.

Not only does this bring in extra income, but also gives them a sense of achievement.

However, the situation is not always easy for employers.

Zhang Wenqian, the owner of an online consulting company, hires 30-40 freelancers as blog writers.

"I employed them because of their writing talent and their knowledge of luxury brands and markets," says Zhang. "But as an employer, I don't prefer my employees to have some part-time jobs outside. It's really a contradiction."

Zhang has a suggestion for white collars doing a part-time job or thinking of finding one: "Don't put the cart before the horse."

"The white collars with part-time jobs should deal with the relation between full-time job and part-time job appropriately - to guarantee your full-time job first and then you can consider the part-time one," she says.

According to China's Labor Law, when an employee has a full-time contract with an employer, if the part-time job has a negative influence on the full-time job, the employer has the right to terminate the contract.

Yang Guang, 26, male, Shanghainese

Full-time: Chemist in hospital

Part-time: Wedding MC (master of ceremonies)

Yang Guang majored in traditional Chinese medicine in university and started work at a Shanghai community hospital after graduation.

When people look at the young man in his white uniform during working hours, it's hard to imagine his comedic style at night time - as a master, or host, at wedding ceremonies.

Yang started to host weddings at weekends in March last year.

"I am a very warm-hearted and active person. I like talking and making jokes. It's very enjoyable to bring fun and happiness to the people at the weddings," says Yang.

All the weddings are big events full of fun to him, in contrast to his serious full-time job, and also a good way to earn more money.

Yang earns a salary of 4,000 yuan (US$585) per month from the hospital. "The income from hosting the weddings reached 50,000 yuan last year for only nine months. And it is estimated to reach 80,000 yuan this year," says Yang.

The weddings are usually arranged at weekends and public holidays.

Yang usually hosts two to three every month.

He spends time after work discussing preparations with new couples and creating new ideas for wedding ceremonies.

"It has no conflict with my full-time job, as the work in hospital is quite stable," says Yang.

Yang has met a lot of friends who had taken up wedding hosting as a part-time job.

"It's a happy job. When I see the happiest and important moments of these new couples, I feel happy too."

Chen Yiru, 28, female, Shanghainese

Full-time: Bank account manager

Part-time: Drama producer

Since graduating in accounting, Chen Yiru has worked in the finance industry for six years. She is now account manager at an international bank in Shanghai, earning a monthly salary of about 12,000 yuan.

Away from her 9-to-5 job, Chen has a part-time job as a producer of dramas at a local theater studio named Yumanwen. The studio, founded in 2005, regularly puts on plays at Shanghai Dramatic Art Center on Anfu Road and elsewhere.

There are around 10 full-time workers in the studio, organizing performances and hiring actors.

Chen joined the studio in 2005 when she met some friends who were working there.

"At the beginning I was interested in the dramas and curious about this field. Gradually I found that maybe I could do this as a hobby," Chen says.

Since then Chen has spent her weekends on drama projects. There are usually two to three big productions in the studio and each one lasts for more than two months.

Chen's work is to arrange the stage, contact the sponsors and deal with the promotion and some other relevant tasks.

The income from the part-time job depends on the profits from the performances.

"The most important thing is that the part-time job must not influence the full-time work, both in time and energy," says Chen, "I mostly take the part-time job as a leisure hobby and find a lot of fun from it, just like finding different roles in life."

Xu Chenyuan, 25, female, Shanghainese

Full-time: Pubic relations executive for a luxury fashion brand

Part-time: Blog writer for online consultancy

Xu Chenyuan majored in journalism and her first job was as an editor in a publishing company where she worked for more than a year. She then joined her current company where she has been for two years.

"Higher salary is the main reason for my job-hopping. However, I like journalism, especially writing something," says Xu.

Many of Xu's classmates are still in the media industry and she got the chance of a part-time job from one of them, Zhang Wenqian, last year.

Zhang was Xu's classmate at university and now runs an online consulting company featuring online marketing and sales.

Her company, Net@lk, targets white collars in Shanghai.

A year ago, Xu was invited to write some proposals for the company and at the same time publish some articles on her own online blog - mostly promotional articles for the company.

"Many of my friends know that I am good at writing and very interested in it. My personal blog is very popular," says Xu. Her articles are popular among young white collars.

Besides the fixed monthly salary of 6,000 yuan monthly, Xu is paid 1,000 yuan to 2,000 yuan for articles published online.

"It's a case of hitting two birds with one stone. I can do what I like and also earn more money," says Xu. "Money is absolutely very important to most white collars."

She adds: "The part-time writing doesn't occupy a lot of time, but my full-time work is more important and tiring. So I control the part-time job to an appropriate amount."


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