With unemployment high, many people are competing for gigs. Here's a way to stand out.
Like so many of the Millennial generation, I left college without many job prospects. I'd done an internship, but they were only interested in my services when I worked for free. Once I required a salary they just moved onto the next free employee. What resulted was nearly a year of waking up in my parents' house, wishing I had a job but not making much progress.
One afternoon, while I was lazing on the couch feeling sorry for myself, my dad came to me with a suggestion. "Why don't you try some freelance writing?" he asked. I did work on the college newspaper, and wrote daily for my own enjoyment -- including a blog, which everyone at the time was doing. Dad thought I could leverage that experience and desire into at least a few freelance gigs, which would help improve my resume.
At first I gave him every excuse in the book: Publications don't want inexperienced writers like me, I don't know where to even start, I've never written a query letter in my life, I'm too busy looking for a full-time job, and on and on. He only stood there and looked at me with a disappointed countenance. And so I got up off the couch and, for the first time since I'd graduated, started doing some homework.
It didn't take long to find that there are plenty of freelance gigs out there. Some you can just browse, like on Craigslist. Others you can seek out by learning about the publication and querying its editor. It takes a fair amount of work, especially for someone with so little experience. But it paid off in many, many ways. Not two months after I started freelancing, I landed a full-time job.
Here are some of the reasons I always tell people that if they have any hirable skills, they should try getting freelance gigs.
Freelance gigs snowball
The hardest gig to nail down is your first one. Once you have that credit, your work is immediately perceived as more salable. Of course, that second gig won't exactly be easy, either. You'll have to work incredibly hard to get the second, and the third, and probably the twentieth as well. But each one will get easier. If you're good enough, you can eventually write your own ticket. And it's all because of the snowball effect.
You might actually like it
When you get out of college, you're probably looking for any job. You want to get out of your parents' house and start your own life. And so you'll take an offer from any company that pays a livable wage. So many people fall into this trap without considering the nature of the work they're doing. If you end up hating the job, then what? Quit and go back to square one? Or forge on and potentially hate your life? Neither seems ideal.
There are plenty of freelancers who hate their gigs, but since you aren't tied down to a single company you have a bit more freedom. Freelancing affords you the opportunity to find something you actually enjoy. If you enjoy it enough, you might even start looking for a full-time job in that field. Since you've freelanced in it, chances are you're more attractive as a job candidate.
You learn valuable skills
By necessity, freelancers learn skills that traditional office employees do not. For starters, you must have a better grasp of time management. When an office employee wastes time, they're wasting their employer's time. When a freelancer wastes time, it's his or her own time wasted. That means potential money lost. Nothing teaches you the value of time and money than having your own time and money ride on your own decisions.
Modern freelancers also have to learn technical skills. It's not enough to be a good writer any more. A freelance writer must learn basic HTML for formatting purposes. They must learn online research skills. And freelancers don't just get paid; they have to submit invoices. Learning to use invoice software is a key to getting paid on time.
Lifelong income supplement
Once you do find a full-time job, you can continue freelancing. It will take up much of your free time, but that's actually a bonus. Instead of going out and spending the money you make at your full-time job, you spend more time working to make more money by freelancing. There seriously is no better way to get out of debt or pay off a student loan. At the same time you can build up a savings account, setting yourself up well for the future.
Yes, freelancing is a lot of work. It also doesn't pay as well as it once did. But, at least at the start, it's not about earning a full-time income. It's about earning at least a supplementary income, while building skills and making connections. As your freelance business grows you might start to make some serious money, which comes in even handier when you get a full-time job. Freelancing isn't for everyone -- you do need technical skills, after all -- but for those who measure up it can be a great way to earn some money and build necessary life skills.