If you've recently graduated from college, you're probably eager to start earning a paycheck. And in that regard, you have choices. You could opt for a traditional job that pays you a salary, or you could try going freelance right away.
Between 2021 and 2022, the number of freelancers in the U.S. increased by over 20%, reports Zippia. And 51% of workers with a post-graduate degree work in a freelance capacity.
But you should know that freelancing can be a mixed bag, especially when you're new to the workforce. Here are a few reasons you should — and shouldn't — go freelance fresh out of college.
Reason No. 1 to go freelance: Flexibility
One of the hardest adjustments you might make as a full-time employee is having to be at a desk for preset hours during the week. When you go freelance, you get more leeway as far as your working hours are concerned.
If you're not a morning person, you could choose to start your workdays in the afternoon and wrap up later at night. Or, you can opt to work weekends if you'd prefer to have shorter days with more breaks during the week.
Reason No. 2 to go freelance: Job satisfaction
Another great thing about being a freelancer is getting to choose the work you do. When you're a salaried employee, you basically have to do what your boss says (within reason, of course). As a freelancer, you can say no to projects that don't interest you or you feel will be too demanding of your time (assuming you have the financial flexibility to say no to work.)
Reason No. 3 to go freelance: The potential to earn more
When you're hired to do a salaried job, you may be not eligible for overtime pay — which means during those busy weeks, you're not seeing a dollar more in your bank account despite being chained to your desk. But as a freelancer, you get paid for all of the work you do. So the more you're willing to push yourself, the more income potential you might have.
Reason No. 1 not to go freelance: Inconsistent income
Salaried workers get the same paycheck at preset intervals, and that can make it a lot easier to budget and cover living expenses. When you're a freelancer, your income can be very inconsistent. You might earn $1,500 one month, $4,000 the next month, and $2,000 the month after that.
Here's why this is especially problematic for recent grads. This may be the first time in your life when you're 100% responsible for your finances. But if you're not earning a steady wage, you might easily fall behind on your essential bills, whether it's your rent, car payments, or credit card bills.
And speaking of the latter, you might end up racking up your fair share of credit card debt if your income varies too much. That's hardly ideal given the amount of money you risk losing to interest.
Reason No. 2 not to go freelance: A lack of benefits
Salaried employees are commonly privy to workplace benefits that include paid time off and health insurance. As a freelancer, you don't get benefits like that. If you want or need time off for vacation or personal matters, you have to carve it out yourself and make sure you can afford to not be earning money.
Then there's health insurance, the cost of which can vary a lot but tends to be very expensive when you're paying yourself. It's common for salaried workers to have their health insurance premiums subsidized so their coverage isn't as much as a financial burden.
Reason No. 3 to go freelance: Struggles with time management
When you're new to the working world, it can take some time to develop strong time management skills. But you really need those to do well as a freelancer.
Granted, if you're someone who always managed deadlines well at college, then you may be in a strong position to freelance. But if you were that person who was always cramming for tests or starting a 30-page paper the night before it was due, then freelancing may not be for you.
Working as a freelancer right out of college could end up being a great career choice. But it could also backfire on you. So make sure to think about the pros and cons before making your decision.
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