wealthymattersStarting out as a freelancer when you are in school is one of the best things you can do to explore what you are good at.

My story: I have been a full time freelancer for 3 years, doing random things on my own, earning money from the web, funding my education and exploring what I am good at. I started out at 23 and quit at 26 for full time work. During my 3 year freelance tenure, I created websites, wrote for different blogs, contributed to technology newsletters, took up development projects from elance, WordPress gigs, small PHP sites. Even Logo design, data entry and uh yeh, Spamming (back then I thought its called marketing. I sucked at it.).

If you have never been a full blown freelancer, here are a few things you should know:

Starting as a Freelancer kills your Fear

The fear of “What if?”

Once you start your career as a Freelancer and make money out of it, you don’t have to depend on your job for survival. In fact, freelancing gives you invisible wings which no job can provide. It is like a bulletproof shield which you can use anytime you want to. It is the most important trump card any professional should have in his/her armory.

How is it useful? It is extremely useful since you can let go of a job anytime, if that job starts to suck. Not many people can do this, no matter how skilled they are or what position they hold or what big shot organization they work for.

I can tell you this from my observation – Most people don’t own their jobs. Their job owns them. Period.

When you start out as a freelancer and understand your industry from scratch, you know those little things which non freelancers will never know. This improves your risk taking abilities since at the back of your mind you always know that you can find something on your own, if things start to stink.

You never worry about the following:

What if I lose my job?
What if I don’t get a good appraisal?
What if the company goes bankrupt?
What if some smarter guy comes over and I am overthrown?
Cuts all the crap out of your head.

Freelancing teaches you how to say “NO”

You can easily say “NO”, when its required.

Saying “NO” is very important, since it directly affects what you want to do and not what others want you to do.
So let’s say you have were a freelance designer and have a good portfolio of your own. You join an organization as a web designer and eventually find that your design lead is not well aware of modern web design practices. If you are a fresher, you would listen to him and learn the wrong things. But if you were a freelancer and have executed projects on your own, you can tell him.Freshers can’t say this. You can. And you can walk away, if required. Let them stick to wrong methods but why should you waste your precious time learning wrong things?

Freelancing helps you “Choose” a Job, and not let the Job choose you

When you are starting out, you are mostly clueless. You have no idea what you are doing. You are trying to grab whatever you can grab and once you grab something, you stick to it.That is a mistake.I would say it is an escape. A much better option is to “Choose”.Choose the job for yourself.

You must try different things early on because risk taking abilities will reduce as you age. I have seen people sticking to the same organization for years since they graduated and “Grabbed” something. Well, that’s all right. Organizational loyalty, I get that.

But this also means that the individual has not explored much. Hence, the job has chosen the individual. The job is winning here. The individual did not really choose it and is following the track that has been defined by the organization for its own benefit. True story.

Your employer will not teach you everything

Freelancing will teach you every single thing you need to know to execute a project and get paid from the client. You are the only resource, hence there is no hide and seek going on.

When you are a fresher, you have little or no idea on what’s going on.Your employer will not teach you everything that is required to kick a project out of the gate. Heck, your employer may not even teach you anything. You can sit there doing nothing but follow the “Track” that has been defined by someone else. This is equivalent to “Career gambling”.

Freelancing helps you define your own track. It gives you freedom of choice of what you want to do, what you want to learn and how you want to learn.

Freelancing is hard. And that’s exactly why you should try it early on

Freelancing is not easy. You need a lot of motivation, patience and hard work to hang in there. There is no steady cash flow. There is no praise. Sometimes the fun is missing since you are on your own. It is really difficult to be an “established freelancer”.

People do not opt for full time freelancing for these reasons

  • They are afraid.
  • They want a steady and “stable” path that is “defined” by someone else. They like being a guided missile.
  • Freelancing requires a lot of effort and is not easy for beginners.

But then, nothing in life is easy. And if its easy, its not worth having isn’t it? Where is the fun?

Remember, if something appears difficult, less people will do it and your efforts will stand out.

If it’s hard, jump in right away since tender age is the best time to do difficult things. You can always do an “easy” job later on, time ain’t running away.

When to Quit Freelancing?

Now you may wonder

How long this solo journey can continue? Forever?

No, it cannot continue forever.

It will cease one day. It will stop when you lose your energy. It will stop when you hit a dead end and fail to be creative on your own. It can stop because of any reason you cannot even imagine. But for sure, one day it will stop and you will not like to continue it anymore, just like any other job.

But that should not stop you to pursue it for sometime and see how that works. No matter what job you do, you are not going to stick at it forever. The same is true for freelancing.

But the key takeaway is that starting as a freelancer will teach you things faster. You will develop the requisite skills on your own and will be in better control of what you want to do, not what others want you to do. Freelancing also helps in personality development, confidence building, knowing people and learning the art of “getting work done” all by yourself.

Just go out there and get your shit done!

-Amit Banerjee

About Keerthika Singaravel

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