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by Stephan Maldonado | December 01, 2019

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The holiday season is a time when many people reflect on ways they can give back—donating time or resources to their communities and people less fortunate. Of course, the weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year aren’t the only time when it’s important to give back, but it’s during this season where the spirit of giving really seems to come alive.

With roughly 45 percent of working Americans maintaining a side gig in addition to their full-time job, a lot of people wonder how they might find the time or the energy to give back, especially during the holidays. But what if there was a way to use your side gig for charitable purposes? To help you make the most of your time and best utilize your talent and skills, here are five ways to give back using your side gig.

1. Take on a client that works for a cause that’s important to you.

For part-time freelancers who provide services to individual or corporate clients, a meaningful way to give back is to work with a client that serves an important cause. Engaging a client from a non-profit, a government agency, or a community organization positions you to address important social issues through your freelance work, and lets you give back in an impactful way. 

Whether it’s designing a website for a small health clinic or managing the social media accounts for your local community center, find something that speaks to you and see if there’s a way you can contribute. 

2. Work pro-bono or for a reduced rate.

It’s never easy to work for free or for less money than you’d ordinarily make—and understandably so. Your time and your talents are worth the rate you charge for them. However, if you’re willing to donate some of your efforts during the holiday season, you could be making a huge difference for clients that might not otherwise have the budget to enlist your services.

When working with small non-profits, religious organizations, and other similar community-based groups consider offering your services pro-bono or at a discount. Set the terms that work for you; perhaps you only work pro-bono for a week or complete a specific project at a reduced rate. You can volunteer your skills in a reasonable way without undervaluing your work.

3. Create your own meaningful project.

Having trouble finding a client that resonates with you? Create your own project to raise awareness for an issue that’s important to you. Freelance writers, for instance, can leverage their own blog to talk about a cause they care about, calling out groups and charities that work on this issue and encouraging readers to donate or learn more.

4. Donate a percentage of your supplemental income to charity.

If you don’t have the bandwidth to take on a new client, or you don’t feel comfortable working pro-bono, another idea for giving back is to donate a percentage of the income generated by your side gig. A lot of people already use the holiday season as an opportunity to donate to charity. Your side gig guarantees a bit of supplemental income and setting aside a portion of this for your charitable donations is just as meaningful a way to give back.

5. Use the time you would have spent on your side gig to volunteer.

Okay, so this isn’t exactly the same thing as using your side gig to give back. However, people who are successful at balancing their side gig with their other obligations typically have a set amount of time in their schedules allotted for this work. 

According to the Stanford Center on Longevity, one of the main reasons only 1 in 4 Americans volunteers (even though more than 90 percent of people want to) is that they don’t feel like they have enough time. If you’ve got a side gig, chances are you’ve already got several hours a week penciled into your schedule. During the holiday season, why not use a little bit of that time to volunteer? 

Volunteering is one of the most personal ways to give back, and many people find it to be the most rewarding. If you leverage some of the time you would have spent on your work-outside-of-work, you don’t have to go looking for the time to volunteer elsewhere in your schedule—thus avoiding the need to stretch yourself too thin.

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