Considering Freelance: What Recent Grads Should Know

How healthy is freelancing in the US?

Freelancing is an area of the economy that is growing steadily year over year. According to the Freelancing in America Study for 2019 that was conducted by Edelman Intelligence for Upwork, there are more than 57 million Americans freelancing. This is over a third of the US workforce, up from 53 million just 6 years ago. The value of freelance work is almost a trillion US dollars, some 5% of GDP.

Of those that said they have undertaken freelance work, 28% consider themselves as full time freelancers up from 17% back in 2014. The most likely group to freelance are those in the younger age brackets, with 53% of 18-22 year olds doing freelance work and 40% of millennials.

So if you are about to graduate, should you be looking for a traditional and comfortable “job” or should you be looking to enter the freelancing market?

What should you be asking yourself before you freelance?

Recent graduates should not simply leap into freelancing, after all there are some real benefits to working with a company, such as health care and pensions. So what else should you be asking:

  • What are your long term career goals? If your long term goal is to one day be the CEO of a company, freelancing may not offer you the career progression you may need.
  • What are you looking to earn? Freelancers on average earn more per hour than non-freelancers, even for non-skilled workers. However, finding very high paying freelance gigs may be a little harder.
  • What is motivating you to work as a freelancer? Many freelancers take this style of work for the flexibility that it offers. So you need to consider your reasons with care.

What can freelancers earn?

Whether you are working in mobile website development or walking dogs, the salaries that you can earn through freelancing are often higher. The median salary for unskilled workers that freelance is $20 per hour, higher than the US median salary of $18.80. While for skilled freelancers the median is $28 an hour which is better than 70% of the workforce.

So what can you earn as a freelance mobile website designer or within another role? The following are few figures for expected web development salary and what you can aspire to earn within other areas of the freelance economy from The Balance:

  • Web development: $45 per hour
  • IT and programing: $49 per hour
  • Mobile developer: $50 per hour
  • ERP and CRM software developer: $60 per hour
  • Marketing and sales: $44 per hour
  • Design and product development: $45 per hour

What do you really need to know about freelancing before you start?

Before you jump straight out to earn your freelance developer salary there are a few areas that you need to consider before you get started:

  • Networking: most freelancers do not get their clients from online marketplaces. After previous clients, most freelancers working today get work through networking with friends and family which accounts for 38%, while others rely on professional contacts, 37%.
  • Building a portfolio: showing what you are capable of is vital no matter what area you are going to work within. Clients will want to know that you are going to be able to deliver what they are looking for.
  • Handling multiple projects: as a freelancer you will often find yourself in a situation where you will need to juggle multiple clients and projects. So learning soft skills such as time management and communication are vital to your future earning potential.

Is Freelancing right for you?

If you are looking for work with a huge amount of flexibility and the ability to pick and choose what projects you will work on, then freelancing could be for you. It offers an excellent salary no matter where your skills lay. However, it is not an area in which you will be able to relax and just expect work to come to you. You need to work hard on filling your pipeline to ensure a constant supply of work.

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