This post will help you with Phase 1 of the Black Freelance Foundations Workbook…if you haven’t started yours yet, download it now!
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.
So get out there and see what sites like Upwork and Contently have to offer. You never know what kind of potential your industry has for offering your skills on a freelance basis.
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.
Job at home says
Also, in my opinion, freelancing gives you more opportunity to grow. You constantly craft your skills and expand your knowledge while freelancing and therefore your services can get more expensive, which only means your getting more successful and going forward in your career.
Black Freelance says
Definitely true…freelancing is the constant work of improving yourself and better adapting the services you offer.
I recently completed my MSW, and as one who has always been interested in entrepreneurship (and has always dreaded the job search process), the idea of freelancing appeals to me. However, with little work experience and only a few internships, I’m not sure what skills/knowledge I have that people would pay for. I should also mention that I’ve always been a great writer, and would love to go into freelance writing, but again, how do I go straight into that without experience? I would love to start off as a full time freelancer, but I’m not sure if that’s realistic for me. I think that I may need to take the gradual approach, but I’m not sure. Could you offer any suggestions?
Black Freelance says
I always recommend that people start slowly if they can. Entrepreneurship can be rocky and while the idea of just jumping and starting is nice, bills don’t care about how much of a risk you take.
Since you’re a great writer, you’re in a really nice place to find a position in the age of communication. Your biggest challenge will be finding that sweet spot between what you enjoy/can tolerate doing and who’s willing to pay. That takes some work, but I’d suggest starting your discovery process on the end that’s the most important to you right now…so if you’re short on cash and know of a mainstream publication that might be interested in publishing educated pieces on SW (just a hypothetical), start there. If you’re working full-time and have some time to play to find what you love, create what you enjoy and start looking for buyers.
On here, I’m going to suggest two things…first, read this piece for mid-career workers. The questions will be helpful regardless of your stage of work. Second, join our forums. Finding a workable freelance life can take some time, and you’ll need ongoing support. Our first 100 memberships are free and it would be great to have you on as a founding member. I’m there talking about my own journey with everyone else, and I think you’ll end up finding a lot of help and support there.
If I were in your position and wanted to write in social work (not sure that’s what you want to do), I’d look around at the materials in your field…manuals, articles, even software text and grants…who’s creating them? What companies are involved? How is case management software marketing? Anything you read is written by someone and it’s likely they’re being paid. You’d be surprised at who’s paying for what in your field, and how poor some of the communication can be (something you can fix). There’s likely a need for technical writers, marketing/copywriting creators and even communication consultants who are highly specialized in your field.
I wrote all that assuming you’re looking to stay in SW…Are you looking to focus there or branch out? Since you don’t have experience, I suggest starting on easy places like Upwork or Contently…you don’t want to stay there too long, but you can get a profile up in a few minutes. Check out our page on beginners’ resources to move on from there.
Just remember to keep at it…even if you decide to brave the job search process (I feel you on the dread…you might just have cold feet since you’re going out there with a new degree, but you might also genuinely hate being subjected to evaluation of that type). Thanks so much for commenting, and I hope you’ll join our forums!
Clark Alford says
I’m a firm believer in ‘do for self’. With the economy being imploded (on purpose); it is now more important than ever to develop your entrepreneurial skills, before it’s too late.
Chichi Ogwe says
I graduated from university last summer and after being treated poorly in my job (and many other jobs I’d had in the past) I decided to go freelance. I’m so glad I did because:
– I’m learning and doing so much every day.
– I’m much more fulfilled.
– I’m earning – not a lot to pay bills/rent/board (but I live at home so no expenses) but enough to get by for now.
– I’m receiving positive responses from the people I work with.
– I have more time to dedicate to the things I love – writing, blogging, networking, socialising, relaxing.
– I’m able to experience marketing and writing in a completely different way.
– I know that when I do a job the client is treating me like an expert in my field. I’m treating like a person, not like a machine (which was the case in my marketing job).
– I don’t have to constantly deal with the unfair interview processes and awful hiring practices, especially as a Black woman.
– There is no such thing as job security anymore anyway.
– I don’t have to deal with office/workplace politics.
Overall, I feel as though I’m better suited to freelancing over working in a job.
This was HUGE for me. I didn’t want to have to deal with that process EVER again.
I just recently moved to NY, and it’s been such a big change for me that I feel I should take more risks—like freelancing. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time but now that I’m in the process of looking for a job (got then quit one in less than a week) and going through that process, I think it’s time to wade into that pool. Thing is, as much as I want to write professionally, I can’t get over the doubts and fears that have been holding me back for years now. But you’re absolutely right—the job market is awful for Black women.
It’s also generally low yield.
Just know that getting past doubts and fears is a process, and usually a slow one, which is just fine. Have you checked out this post on fear?
No, I haven’t but I will now. Thanks.