Career Insights: Could Your Next Big Thing Be Freelancing?

If you're thinking about going into the freelancing world or maybe you've never even heard of it, Ms. Judge at the Student Professional Development Center offers insight into this growing business and whether its right for you. A freelancing gig could give you the freedom you need while honing in on the craft you're most passionate about.

This is part of a  series of columns written by the Student Professional Development Center’s professionals who offer industry insights and career guidance.

Laurie Judge, Senior Associate Director of Career Services for Elon College, The College of Arts and Sciences

By Laurie Judge, Senior Associate Director of Career Services for Elon College, The College of Arts and Sciences

Some college grads travel down the less defined road of freelancing (think: gig economy).

Freelancing (you might be asking)? Isn’t that for those starving artist types? Nope. Not these days. According to one study, 35 percent of workers are spending over a billion (with a B) hours per week freelancing, and it cuts across all industries.

So, what exactly determines whether a job is a freelance gig, and how do I know if it’s for me (yet another question you might be asking)? Freelancers are doing independent contract work (temporary and project or task-specific) where they aren’t considered an employee of the person or organization hiring them but, instead, fall under the self-employed category, which is usually tracked with a 1099 tax form.

The good news is freelancers have a lot of control over the work they do, the hours they work, where they perform the work, and the individuals with whom they work, which is the main draw for most.

On the other hand, freelancers are not eligible for company benefits, they don’t usually have a guaranteed income, and they must pay their own employment taxes on everything they earn since they aren’t considered employees – all very important to keep in mind when deciding whether to accept a freelance gig.

In fact, there are quite a few things to think about when considering this type of work:

  • Identify your goals: Why is this style of work attractive to you, and what do you want or need to get out of it (think: set SMART goals)?
  • Self-assessment: Thoroughly assess the skills you possess that make you marketable (and uniquely provide value) to find your potential clients, and research what you can reasonably charge.
  • Network, Network, Network: Get the word out that you’re doing freelance work and market yourself, get testimonials from happy clients who’ll spread the word (think: online presence).
  • Manage your business: freelancing is a business, so maintain recordkeeping, reporting, bank accounts, and track all other related things like it is.
  • Hone your craft: practice makes perfect, so use and build upon the skills you are using by being willing to learn new tricks of the trade to stay current or to blaze a new trail.
  • Evaluate: integrate evaluation into every aspect of your freelance business with a continuous improvement mindset to achieve the standard you and your clients expect.

Freelancing isn’t for everyone. But for increasingly more people every year (millions), it’s a good career choice.