Should You Freelance Straight Out of School?

Jumping straight into freelancing after graduation can be tempting. After all, who wouldn't want to be in control of their schedule and work from home everyday? Unfortunately, most people don't take this direction straight out of school because many students feel obligated to "get more experience." There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but, there are many positive and valuable experiences that can only be learned through freelancing on your own.

After graduating, I found myself conflicted over pursuing the traditional route of getting an agency job, or following my gut and freelancing. Here's a few things to keep in mind before making a decision:

1. Do you have a marketable skill that makes you stand out?

Being marketable is very important. If you want to be a successful freelancer, you need to provide a skill to your customers that solves a problem and is in consistent demand. It also means you need to be visible online for said skill. Otherwise, no one will be able to find you. 

In conjunction with having a marketable skill, you need to make sure there is something different about you. Take a bit of time to think about why people should work with you over the next guy, or what kind of skills/benefits you bring to the table.  

2. Freelancing is a plus for most employers if you ever decide to switch lanes. 

There are many pros to freelancing and the skills it can provide for your career, even if you decide not to pursue it full-time. It teaches you to take ownership of your work, how to manage multiple clients and deadlines at once, communication skills and discipline in time management. All of these skills are very valuable.

3. Think about your financial and living situation. 

I worked as a freelancer after I graduated, but only because I was living with my parents at the time. At this stage in your career, there is more room for taking risks in terms of your finances (within reason of course). Although it wasn't glamorous, the support from my parents financially helped me go after freelancing opportunities that I may have never pursued. If you are lucky enough to be in this situation, then why not? It's a great way to get some industry experience and beef up your portfolio. You may also be surprised at how motivating creating your own paycheque can really be.

4. Are you disciplined enough?

Being a freelancer doesn't mean you're just a labourer, it means you're running a business. This means that responsibilities such as time tracking, paperwork, invoicing, contracts, sales meetings and payment collection are all tasks you need to complete in order to keep things running smoothly. If those things don't sound very appealing, it may be better to learn directly from seasoned professionals at first before taking the leap. Most freelancers don't enjoy that side of the job, but it's a necessity. 

5. Trust your gut.

It's always important to be realistic about your position. Even though freelancing straight out of school is not a common route, if you are passionate about doing it alone, you'll find a way to make it work. Or, even if you want to freelance straight out of school, it may not be feasible in your current situation. Just remember that every situation/job is temporary and that you always have control of where you end up.