Why freelancing after graduation is a good idea

19 May 2021
By Hazel M., Freelance writer, journalist and total bookworm at Unite Students

As the job market shrinks with the pressures of a bad economy and a growing number of competitors, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you’re never going to get your dream job.

Don’t let it get you down, though. There’s more than one way to chase your goals and it doesn’t have to be stamped with a graduate job title.

How? By going freelance.

Often, universities will push us in the direction of going after full-time jobs as soon as we graduate because, after all, it doesn’t look great if the majority of their graduates aren’t full-time employed within the first year.

However, the freelance world – or gig economy – is massively underrated. In fact, it’s growing rapidly, as more people take up the path to work for themselves and start valuing lifestyle over money.

Businesses are loving it, too, as they battle a pandemic that demands flexibility and change on a routine basis.

So, as a freelancer myself, I’ve pulled together a little guide on why going self-employed might be just the path for you.

Gain experience with different sectors

Since going freelance, I couldn’t tell you how many different businesses I’ve worked with off the top of my head – and that’s a good thing.

Though I started off in full-time work after I graduated, those years I was employed were spent in one specific sector, meaning I only had experience with a couple of different businesses by the time I decided to go my own way.

While that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it also meant approaching new projects was quite intimidating.

Today, though, I’ve worked with everything from jewellery-makers and 3D manufacturers to accountants and national charities, and each project has been wonderfully different. It also means I’ve learnt a lot about how these different sectors work, making it even easier to pitch to new clients in the long run.

Being flexible and able to show a portfolio that demonstrates the true extent of your talent is invaluable, especially when pitching to new clients (or for a job, if you change your mind and go in that direction).

Learn about what it means to run a business

Nothing teaches you how to run a business quicker than going self-employed. And, believe me, it’s not easy.

When you’re a full-time employee for one company, you’ll generally be muscled into one role. And that means you may have very little reason to ever learn how to submit expenses or even make a sales pitch.

When you’re freelance, though? From learning how to send invoices and file taxes, to pitching for a project and dealing with clients on a daily basis, you’ll be getting your teeth stuck into everything.

It can be tough to start with, but it does build your skills in a way that no one job could ever do. After almost three years of freelancing I know that, if I walk into a job interview, I’ve got transferable skills that others in my profession may not necessarily have.

Fortunately, there are a lot of Government-supported courses that can help you get a head-start, from free seminars on starting up a business to key marketing advice. Have a dig around and see what free workshops you can find in your local area.

Live the lifestyle you want

Okay, so it might take a little bit of time until you get to the point that you can pick and choose the work you’re doing, but it’s worth it.

Being your own boss means being able to wake up when you want, work when you’re feeling most productive and make the most of those sunny days when they come around, instead of being stuck in the office. You can even take holiday (as much as you want, theoretically) without having to wait for it to be approved by someone else, or travel and work at the same time.

However, there are some pitfalls to be wary of. For example, if you know you’re not very self-motivated, you’ll probably want to draw up a routine plan, such as being showered by 9am every day, to ensure you don’t fall behind on deadlines. It really is about organisation.

Also, while taking as much holiday as you want sounds appealing, you’ll need to remember there’s no one else to step into your shoes when you’re ‘out of office’. If those key emails are missed from clients or a project comes in at the last minute that you just can’t say no to, it can be easy to fall into the trap of not taking time off at all.

And it goes without saying that you won’t get paid for that time off, either, unless you’ve put money aside specifically for this purpose.

When you get it right, though? Working for yourself can be one of the most rewarding things you can do – both mentally and financially. So, don’t be scared to jump in and, if it takes a little while to get to the point where you’re finally able to pay the bills without support from a part-time job, that’s fine. You’ll feel incredibly proud when you do.

To read more career tips from The Common Room, click here.

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When not stringing words together, can usually be found on the local beach with her cocker spaniel pup, Huey.