Freelance work can either be the work-at-home dream that many people hope for or it can be a stop-gap measure as you struggle to find gainful employment. On the one hand, it allows you to work for yourself and to potentially make far more money on your own than you ever would working for someone else. On the other hand, the work is inconsistent and there are no benefits, such as health insurance or sick days.
However, for college students or recent graduates, freelance work can be the opportunity you need to find your next job. I spent many months working as a freelance writer after college – and then again several more times when I became unemployed or wasn’t making the salary I needed – and there were many ways that it helped me find the job I wanted at the time. Turns out that the job I ultimately wanted was that of freelance writer…
Here are a few ways that working as a freelancer after college can help you to find the job you want (or any job at all to help pay the bills):
Most college students struggle with a lack of experience when they are looking for their first professional jobs. But how can you get experience if no one will give you the opportunity to work and gain experience? Freelancing can fill that gap.
Fortunately, with freelance work, you don’t necessarily have to show you have experience to get hired. As long as you can show samples of your work, you are likely to be hired.
Employers who hire freelancers often are not looking to establish a long-term relationship with these workers or to invest a great deal of resources in them. Therefore, they are more likely to take a chance on young and inexperienced workers. In my case, I started with small newspapers that were desperate for copy. I did a good job, and then bigger papers were willing to take me on.
You get the work, do a good job, and then you have a reference and some samples to show you have experience in your industry.
Fill the Gap in Your Resume
A lot of students end up with a gap of a few months – or even a year or more – on their resumes after college. This can be tough to explain in a job interview, especially if you weren’t doing much more than desperately begging employers to hire you during that time.
Freelancing gives you a line to put on your resume so that there are no gaps in your employment. It shows that you were still committed to building your experience and working in your industry in whatever way possible.
Because of the fickle nature of freelance work, you also don’t have to have a client currently signed to consider yourself a “freelancer.” Start your employment from the date of your first client and end it on the date of your last client. Even if all the time in between wasn’t filled, you’ll still have a steady narrative on your resume.
Learn New Skills
Some freelance jobs are very similar to the internships you probably had while you were still a student. Employers are much more willing to show you the ropes or to give you a chance to branch out and try something new – allowing you to learn new skills that you can put on your resume and use to woo a new employer.
While I was working as a freelancer out of college, I used that to my advantage by pitching big stories – stories that I wouldn’t have been able to try had I been on staff and been relegated to covering dog shows and writing obituaries. Since the editors didn’t have to risk anything – if I failed, I wasted my time, not theirs – they were much more willing to let me try it out. I got a lot of good clips as a result.
Networking is a powerful tool for finding your next job. Freelance work helps you build contacts and expand your networking circle. Even if the company isn’t able to hire you, the management may be able to refer you to someone who is.
I’ve gotten many jobs and freelance gigs over the years as a result of referrals from former freelance editors – as well as friends, co-workers, and former classmates.
Nurturing those relationships is more than a way to make some extra cash while you’re struggling to find your next gig. They could actually lead you to your next big thing!
Freelancing is a great way to build experience and learn new skills while you’re looking for your next job (or maybe even your first job). Work as a freelancer while you are looking for full-time employment, and the experience you gain will make you a more competitive candidate.
Article contributed by Kay Winders