The workforce is changing rapidly in the digital, pandemic-driven age.
The job economy that students once graduated to has changed significantly in the last couple of years, and schools are finding that they need to acclimate to this changing landscape in order to better prepare their students for life after college.
With greater remote work opportunities available and remote work becoming more common, many are turning toward freelance as a way to find more freedom to grow within their careers. Students in the Humanities in particular—such as artists and writers—often find that freelance careers give them the opportunity to do what they love on a day-to-day basis. Schools can embrace freelance as a valid career path and encourage students to pursue the career if they think it may be right for them.
The freedom that freelance provides draws many students to the career in the first place. Freelancers are not confined to an office, they don’t have to work an exact number of hours per week, and they have the opportunity to make as much money as they can, rather than having to negotiate a salary and stick with that for as much as a year at a time.
Freelance allows workers to go at their own pace, accepting as much or as little work as they can handle in a certain period of time. While the work pace of a freelance career ebbs and flows, many find that the flexibility of being able to design their own day-to-day schedule is a better opportunity for them than working for a company that sets those requirements.
After being confined to their homes for over a year, many students are itching to get out and see the world. Freelancing can be a great path to being able to travel and work remotely for students that want to prioritize seeing the world. At the same time, workers with families may find that freelancing gives them the freedom to spend important time with family while getting work done at their own pace.
While there are inherent risks to freelance that could make it harder to succeed financially, one of the benefits is that there is no cap to what someone can earn in a period of time. Freelance income ebbs and flows, and some months may be more prosperous than others, but many freelancers find that they’re able to earn more money freelancing than they would in a salary position for a single company.
The Job Economy:
Many students are graduating college hopeful to begin their careers only to find that there are little to no jobs actually available, and even less that they would feel happy and fulfilled in. Many companies are opting to hire freelancers or third-party companies instead of full-time workers because it saves them money. In social media, for example, companies can cut costs by hiring a third-party company that has several clients instead of taking on a full-time social media manager. For the freelancer, the ability to take on several clients often results in more income, creating a better situation for both parties.
Students that are questioning whether they want to get into freelancing should be given the tools they need to decide if the career path is right for them. While it may not be right for everyone, many students don’t know what questions to ask about the career path in the first place in order to determine if it might be right for them. Here are some resources that schools and universities can provide to students that are questioning freelance:
One of the many challenges associated with freelance is navigating tax season as a self-employed gig worker. In the United States, freelance taxes are often expensive and complicated. Provide some insight to curious students that might be considering freelance by offering resources on things like taxes, navigating 401k’s as a freelancer, estimated costs associated with owning a business, and tips on finding an accountant that has expertise in working with freelancers.
Navigating Life as a Business Owner
One of the many details that often gets overlooked about freelancing is that freelancing is closer to being a business owner than it is to be an employee. Students considering venturing into freelance should look at their careers as if they were starting a business, not starting a career as a worker. Students considering freelance should take classes on business, especially topics on growth and scaling that can help them succeed as freelancers long term. It’s easy to look at freelance as a temporary solution during a job hunt, but with the right tools, students can succeed on their own.
Even if students plan on entering the job field as freelancers, encourage them to get involved in networking opportunities on campus and off. Alumni networks can be especially beneficial to students that are trying to make it on their own, and encouraging students to embrace networking can help set them up with clients later on.
Marketing & Investing
Looking at freelancing as launching a business can help reframe the ideas students have in their heads about what freelancing is and what to expect from it. Headstrong students that want to put in the work that comes with freelancing will find that the day-to-day operations require things like marketing and proper investing in order to scale. Teach students that investing in themselves, such as spending money on creating a strong portfolio or business website or investing in marketing, can help them later on by providing a return on investment.
Understanding the Risks
Freelancing can be a great, rewarding career path for many. It’s a career path that requires strong independence, social skills, and organization but reaps rewards and a sense of fulfillment as well. For many, income ebbs and flows and some seasons may be more prosperous than others, and students should learn these risks to prepare for their freelance career beforehand.
Teach students that they can start their own career in freelance even while they’re still in school. It’s never too early for them to start investing in their own success—both financially and through their own time spent working on their goals. Universities are often here to help students break into traditional career paths, and in the digital age, it’s time to start looking at ways that universities can help students transition into the freedom of freelance.