Freelancing is downright near normal these days.
A full 34% of American workers freelance in some way, and that number is expected to grow to 50% in the next 5 years.
The concept of work is changing and anyone with their entire career in front of them can’t afford to ignore what’s going on out there — the days of the secure job are gone, leaving workers to change jobs and to face more interviews than ever…for those of us who have to navigate race in that process, things get even more complicated.
That’s why I believe that everyone, new graduates especially, should look into freelancing. You don’t even have to do it full time, but having a foot in the freelancing world can pay off in ways you might not expect.
It’s another way of networking.
It’s not who you know, it’s what you know right?
I can confidently say that working as a freelance writer and talking to the industry has connected me to more people in my field than any networking event ever has…and most importantly, it’s done it in ways that put trading business cards to shame.
Working, or even discussing a freelance project with someone gets you time alone, a chance to show off your critical thinking skills and communication ability, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate understanding of a subject. On top of all that, people don’t forget you. I challenge any professional mixer to achieve the same thing.
You’ll get a feel for your industry.
I worked in my field for 10 years before I started freelancing in it. I learned more about the high-level happenings through articles and blog assignments than I did the entire time working. Of course I learned more detail in my normal job, but I learned my industry working as a freelance writer better than I ever could reading weekly publications and newsletters.
Beyond that though, you’ll find out what companies actually need and what they’re willing to pay for. Job descriptions only really scratch the surface.
It’s insurance against a long and possibly disheartening interview process.
A few years ago my job turned sour, but I stayed well beyond a point of things becoming unhealthy.
One of the things that kept me around was a fear of going back out into the world of interviews. I was scared of facing that “Oh, you’re Black” moment again. That’s the moment that, years ago, had given way to magical hiring freezes and positions disappearing coincidentally while I was on the way to the interview.
Not everyone will end up a full-time freelancer like me (though it’s awesome and encourage anyone who can to give it a try), but it does offer a break from a racialized process.
Don’t get me wrong though, there are still issues. I run into clients who are excited to work with me who then vanish after I see them view my LinkedIn profile. That’s fine, and expected (Side note: It’s usually the younger ones). Much of the reason people reject minorities during an interview process is because they see their job environment as a sort of sorority or club where they want to be comfortable, and different isn’t usually comfortable.
Being a freelancer means you aren’t facing as many gatekeepers (if any at all) and you don’t risk upsetting whatever cultural norms they may be protecting.
It’s quick income.
Sometimes you just need to survive between jobs or in a position that pays too little or doesn’t let you work enough hours. Freelancing is a good answer to the underemployment question.
You’ll feel more confident.
Freelancing requires you to know and learn how to sell yourself, but in relatively low-stakes environments.
You’ll learn to create a profile (which is really just a resume) with skills that people actually need (as opposed to what a career counselor who probably has little experience navigating employment in your field tells you). You’ll talk to the people who make decisions about what a company will pay for. You’ll see what moves people to give you money and what doesn’t. You’ll walk away more confident with your varied, practical experience than ever. Promise.
Have questions or concerns as a new grad? Want to see a specific topic covered? Leave a note in the comments section.
Wondering if freelancing works for your field? Check out this list of top paying, most popular, and most flexible freelance industries.