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Don’t Freelance Too Early in Your Career

I read a post citing research claiming that only 27% of Millenials prefer to work full-time than to freelance. Now granted, this survey was conducted by Elance, a freelancers’ website, but even so, that figure disturbed me.

According to the author, the desire to freelance is fueled by the lack of job security in the market, and the difficulty young adults have had in finding jobs during the recession. Another factor is the ability of freelancers to work flexibly, a need consistently mentioned in studies of Gen Y’s, including my own research for my book. While these are all valid reasons to work freelance, I feel this is a disturbing trend. Here are my reasons why:

Working Freelance Doesn’t Expose You to Life in an Organization

One of the most important things you learn in early jobs is how to function within an organization, and there is a lot to learn. It takes years to fully understand how to operate politically, socially and effectively within a larger group. And there’s no rushing it—it just takes time. A successful career path starts in an environment where you are learning from others.

Working Freelance Means You Are a Jack of All Trades

When you work on your own, you usually have to do everything. The article mentions the printer breaking down, but that is the least of it. You may have to take on assignments to pay the bills that don’t play to your strengths at best, and have you spinning your wheels, at worst.

Working Freelance Can Be Lonely

Unless you are extremely organized and a self-starter, sometimes it’s hard to get out of your pajamas and get with other people. If you’re an extrovert, meaning you derive energy from others, your best ideas may come from working with others. And that’s not usually on the phone.

Working Freelance Doesn’t Give You Ready Access to Mentors

Again, you have to be very focused and driven to find mentors when you’re not in an organization. Mentoring relationships are usually developed fairly early in a career, and while your mentor doesn’t need to work with you, usually they once did. For more info on how mentors and sponsors help you build your career path, see Carla Harris’s remarks.

Working Freelance Doesn’t Impress Future Employers

It will be difficult for prospective employers to take you seriously if you have only freelanced. It will send a single that either you are not employable, you’re lazy or you have some other negative quality. Also, it is hard to show a specific career path when you’ve only worked for yourself.

This is a handful of reasons to get your thinking started. I’m not suggesting at all that freelancing isn’t a good idea at some point in a career, but I don’t believe in starting your career as a freelancer—wait until later, when you can add more value.

 

This entry was posted in Career Development, Career Management, Career Path, career planning, Career Planning, Employers, Flexibility, For Advisors to Individuals & Families, For Mid-Career Professionals, For Millennials, Freelancing, Gen Y Careers, In the Driver's Seat, Interviewing, Jobs and the Economy, Networking, Self-Employment, Work-Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Don’t Freelance Too Early in Your Career

  1. Rachel Howe says:

    Hi Allison,
    I would agree with most of your points. I think it is best to work at a place of business and do freelance work at night or on the weekend. This way you get the best of both worlds. I have been working to get some side projects in SEO while also going to school and working part time. It’s a lot to juggle, so being organized and having ways to de-stress is important or you’ll go crazy!

    Not to mention, you have more security working a full time job. I wouldn’t warrant doing freelance full time until you have paid off any extremely outstanding bills like school loans, generated a large network of contacts, and feel you have the ability to get continuous work.

    Rachel

  2. Rachel Howe says:

    Hi Allison,
    I would agree with most of your points. I think it is best to work at a place of business and do freelance work at night or on the weekend. This way you get the best of both worlds. I have been working to get some side projects as a <Milwaukee SEO while also going to school and working part time. It’s a lot to juggle, so being organized and having ways to de-stress is important or you’ll go crazy!

    Not to mention, you have more security working a full time job. I wouldn’t warrant doing freelance full time until you have paid off any extremely outstanding bills like school loans, generated a large network of contacts, and feel you have the ability to get continuous work.

    Rachel

  3. Allison says:

    Wow, Rachel, you are quite the over-achiever! I’m glad you agree–I think that the idea of “entrepreneurship” has been glammed up too much for this generation. New grads sometimes think that if someone won’t hire you, you should simply start your own business. The Mark Zuckerbergs of the world are few and far between and hey, even they make (big) mistakes from time to time!

  4. Cory Huff says:

    What is too early? Freelancing is what got me the day job where I work now. I started freelancing almost immediately after college, while I was working full time, and the experience I gained from freelancing got me a better job with the company I was at, and then also got me the job where I’m working now.

    As for the idea that freelancing is more unstable than a full time job, I don’t agree with that. I know too many people who have been outsourced, downsized, and fired to believe that full time employment, with any company, is ‘stable.’

  5. tatiana says:

    This is interesting because I’ve been considering freelance work for the reasons you listed above: not being able to find a typical job is a huge factor. I’ve been getting a lot of rejections, and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong exactly. It makes me feel like I can’t get hired, but I want to develop my skills if I’m going to be unemployed anyway. By freelancing, I can make some kind of money while searching for a regular job that can give me a greater sense of stability. I’m still job hunting, but a lot of the time, I have my doubts and insecurities.

  6. Allison says:

    Hi Cory,

    I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t freelance on the way to finding a permanent job, as you did. I’m saying it should not be your career too early. You are a perfect case in point of someone who freelanced your way to a job, and that is great.

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