Freelancing while collecting unemployment?

It’s now eminent that I will be laid off from my current job within 2 months tops. During our last discussion my employer acknowledged that there were certain tasks that none of the other current staff could perform, and he would consider giving me project by project freelance work after I was laid off. I have some questions regarding this and unemployment. Please bear with me here because I’ve never had reason to collect unemployment and I’m just begining to research this. I am in Illinois BTW.


  1. Is it possible that my employer could petition for denial of benefits if I refuse the offer of freelance work? I’m hoping that it doesn’t constitute me rejecting the offer of paid work. I don’t want to have my hand forced into taking on work that may not meet my pay rate expectations or sustain my cost of living. It’s also not work that I could see being offered to me at a regular and steady occurrence. I’d much rather collect unemployment and at least know I’m getting a regular check vs. maybe getting $1,000 of billable work in one month (or less, I don’t know what kind of a rate he would accept) and then not getting more work from him for a month or two lapse.

  2. Could I engage in freelance work and still collect unemployment benefits? I’m an Industrial Designer and I have a Graphics Design background so it’s likely that I will pursue freelancing but I’m not confident that it will be lucrative enough to sustain a living off of. I’ve gathered the impression that in some states your eligible for X amount of unemployment based on your hours worked and pay rate in the previous work period. And, you could take the maximum amount of benefits for 6 months and run out of funds, or work part time during that, get a percentage of your funds, and thus extend those payments for a longer term? So, my assumption/hope is that if I started unemployment but sought freelance work and it was sporadic, they would just adjust my weekly benefit `checks?

    Of course I’ll be talking to the Unemployment Office once I do get laid off. At this point I’m just hoping to gather some advice so I’m not asking them things I shouldn’t!

I did some freelance during unemployment. I am an honest guy so I told them when I did it. They held back some of the weekly money they were giving me. It has been 6 years so I am unsure of the details. I believe they took a percentage versus dollar to dollar amount. But remember that unemployment laws are different for each state. I was in North Carolina both times I was unemployed.

I’d forget about the unemployment crap and focus your efforts on finding a new job. While you’re looking take the freelance gig for cash on the side.

it can vary state to state, based on how long youve been employed - but you’re essentially correct (2)
freelancing income reduces unemployment income weekly. It makes sence to take the work if it’s available.
I don’t think it’s true that “looking for a job is a full time job” once your portfolios are ready, that is.

I’d agree with nurb on this one. I’ve always freelanced so I’ve never received unemployment at all so I’m not sure of how it works. Turn your freelance into a fulltime thing and you may not want to go back. It’s a lot of work since you have to do the job of at least 3 and you don’t get paid until the work comes in but if you plan carefully it can be very rewarding. Just don’t waste your downtime (when you’re not actually working on a project for money). That’s when you have to do your unbillable work to strengthen your situation to get more work.
Hopefully you saved up a nice bit of change while you were working fulltime.
I’d say, take the freelance work and start looking for more. It might actually work out better for you if the right things happen. Good luck

Thanks guys. Do you recall if they assessed incoming freelance checks against your weekly payments, or totalled it against a monthly total Tim? I guess one of the more detailed questions I gotta ask the unemployment office is if they will consider work done for a few weeks but paid in one check on the completion of the job to count against ONLY that week’s benefits, or against the time period I did the work.

I am definitely going to give freelancing a shot regardless, and I hope it goes well. Unfortunately I don’t have any savings to speak of since I’m only 3 yrs out of college and paying on student loans. I don’t know that I could try and swing it as a permanent solution. On the plus side I’ve gained some good Graphic Design experience in layout work, etc. and I might be able to swing some work in that from some Creative Staffing Agencies. I also spoke to some companies at NeoCon who may be willing to give me a shot at doing some contract design work. I’m a bit apprehensive in that regard though, since I don’t have the background in it, nor the experience of working with part tooling, etc.

But, on the other hand, it won’t hurt to try. It would be a decent portfolio builder if they reject the design in the end and I am allowed to retain rights to it. I went down the road of attempting to sell a design for royalties in the past with one of my college projects too, so I have some idea of what to expect in that regard. I’ve already flipped over some rocks and been bit by a few snakes!

I’d still like to hear about some more experiences with unemployment and freelancing if anyone else reading this has some insight.