Why the Class of 2020 Should Freelance

The job market isn’t exactly ideal. New graduates can create opportunities for themselves as freelancers.

Congratulations to the class of 2020. Through hell and high water, you’ve made it​​​​. Although, a lot of older people think somehow you’ve had it easier than they did. That you’re too soft, too lazy, or too distracted by your phone to be a generation worthy of carrying the mantle of American progress forward. You shrug their disavowals off your shoulders and keep it moving, knowing they’re just expressing the same fears common to every aging population that ever lived: being powerless, irrelevant, and left behind to face mortality.  So, you let your predecessors think whatever they want. You know the truth, which is that you’ve been through a lot of shit.

In all honesty, Gen Z is one of the most resilient generations in modern history. You’ve been dealing with uncertainty, even calamity, pretty much your entire life. You were just starting out when 9/11 happened and changed our worldview forever. You’ve never seen peacetime. You watched your parents grapple with the 2008 recession. You witnessed mass shootings happening all too often, even at your schools. And thanks to coronavirus, you had your academic year cut short, robbing you of an important rite of passage: to walk across the stage and receive your diploma or degree. As if all of these disasters aren’t enough, you’ve grown up in the context of an America that is arguably more divided now than it has been since the Vietnam era. 

Despite all the adversity you faced, you pressed on and did what you had to do. You matriculated through school and secured your diploma or degree. For some of you, your next step is college or graduate education. But for many of you, the next step is to land a job. Unfortunately, you’re entering a job market that isn’t ideal. Millions of jobs were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many of you believed what your parents told you. Go to school. Get a good job. It seemed like a natural progression. But COVID-19 is a snafu no one saw coming. Lots of you worked hard during school. You got excellent grades and landed impressive internships to set you up for success on the job hunt. A lot of you landed job offers, even before you graduated. And to your horror, they’ve been rescinded in light of the pandemic and the economic uncertainty it brings for companies. A lot of you have filled out countless applications to no avail, hoping that something, anything at this point, comes through

With your plans thwarted, a lot of you, much like the generations before you, are scared and unsure about what the future holds. Now is the time to rely on some of your greatest strengths: resilience, creativity, and optimism. Getting an office job isn’t the only way to make a living. You grew up in the Internet age. You’re smart and you have marketable skills. Instead of waiting around for someone to give you a job, why not create opportunities for yourself? You can kickstart your career by freelancing. 

There are currently 57 million freelancers in the U.S. today. Freelancing has been growing in popularity for years now. And it’s not just about odd jobs and side hustles. Freelancing has become a respected long-term career choice. Younger generations are taking advantage of the opportunity freelancing affords them. Gen Z freelances more than any other age bracket.

A lot of your contemporaries are freelancing, and they aren’t all just driving Uber. Skilled services — things like marketing, programming, and consulting — are the most common type of freelance work. So if you’ve got a marketable skill, ( you probably do) you can launch a viable and profitable freelance career. Here are a few reasons why the class of 2020 should freelance:

1. It’s rough out there.

In April, the unemployment rate was 14.7%, which was the highest it’s been since the U.S. started recording the data back in 1948. In May, as economies began to reopen, it dropped to 13.3%. It’s definitely an improvement, but we were at just 3.6% the same time last year, so there’s still a long way to go. 

2. You get to be in control.

Independence is an important part of adulthood. But many young adults often trade-in parental authority for micromanaging, tyrannical bosses. When you choose to freelance, you aren’t beholden to anyone. You are in complete control of your work-life balance. You are free to determine your own work schedule. You can work from anywhere you like. And your earning potential is unlimited. You can set your own rates and land as many clients as you can accommodate. As a freelancer, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your professional development. You can take on the projects that interest you and help direct you on the path of your choosing. 

3. You’re already covered.

Though freelancing has a lot of benefits, a lot of people prefer traditional employment because of the benefits. The truth is, pensions are fading away, and people are having to prepare for retirement in new ways. Of course, 401(k)s are still around, but there are solo 401(k)s for freelancers. So, retirement isn’t an issue to lose sleep over, especially at the start of your career.

One of the most important benefits for employees is definitely healthcare. But if you’re a recent graduate, you don’t have anything to worry about. In most cases, young adults can remain on their parents’ healthcare plans until they turn 26. So you’ve got plenty of time to build up a good freelance career without having to worry about healthcare. You can use your freelance experience to land your dream job once it’s time to get health insurance on your own. Or, you could always build your insurance into your rate and continue freelancing. The choice is yours. 

4. It’s a great lead-in to entrepreneurship.

There are always people who graduate knowing that working for someone else just isn’t for them. Lots of recent grads aspire to entrepreneurial success, but the fact is about 90% of startups fail. Starting a business is risky, and oftentimes very expensive. Freelancing is a low-cost, low-risk way to learn about the fundamentals of running your own business. You get to learn hands-on about marketing, networking, sales, cash-flow management, and so much more.  It’s the perfect intro to entrepreneurship. 

5. Companies want to work with freelancers.

You may be thinking, how the hell do I find work as a freelancer? In the past, freelancers had to pitch to potential clients to get their businesses off the ground. But now, the tables are turning. Lots of companies are actively looking to hire remote freelancers. Here are 13 of them. More and more work-from-home freelance positions are being posted every day. They’re easy to find online. 

6. You’ve got what it takes.

There’s a problem that was pretty common among millennials for a while. We were over-educated and underemployed. You don’t have to be like us. Freelancing is a good way to get around that problem because you get to seek out the opportunities that make the best use of your talents and time. You can do this. You are the most internet-savvy generation out there. Social media is second-nature to you. You have a lot of skills and insights that others are willing to pay for

All in all, freelancing is a great option for the class of 2020. If you’re a recent graduate who wants to give freelancing a shot, these articles can help you get started: 

I’ll be following up on this blog pretty soon with another piece. I’ll list some of the best freelance careers for recent college grads, so check back soon. In the meantime, try to enjoy the summer. You definitely deserve it. And once again, congratulations!

Chantel Baul

I’m a skilled communicator with more than four years’ experience in digital and print content creation, who has a keen ability to adapt messages for diverse audiences. I have demonstrated proficiency in editorial writing conventions, social media strategy, brand reputation management, and interdisciplinary collaboration. I’m a driven and progressive researcher with an aptitude for storytelling. I'm also a proud Public Affairs Officer in the United States Army Reserve.

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