To freelance or not to freelance, that is the question

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Recently as part of the careers and employability week that UAL runs every year, I went to a talk by hosted by The Freelancer Club, about, as I’m sure you’ve guessed already, freelancing. The basis of the talk was that freelancing is basically the future. We the students are the next generation of professionals, and our generation is a generation of freelancers, an economy that is increasing with each day. This could be because we millennials have such short attention spans, so the repetition of a 9-5 will just get boring after a while or maybe we’re scared of being trapped or maybe we just know now how many opportunities there are out there in the world ; way too many opportunities to just be confined to one, 5 days a week.  Throughout the talk the speaker emphasised the fact that we all deserve to be paid for any work we produce, we shouldn’t let ourselves be taken advantage of by our employers; they wanted to ensure we know how to sell ourselves to employers, the level of professionalism that is needed and how to come up with our rates and build relationships. Looking back on it now, that talk was an extremely useful one. The concept of freelancing had always been a mystery to me, I just assumed it was basically like part time work, however this talk made me realise that there was so much more to it. It made me really sit back and think about myself and my future career plans, I would say freelancing suits me a lot better than a normal 9-5, however the pros and cons still needed to be carefully weighed.

Growing up in a traditional Nigerian home, when talking about careers with my family, they would usually voice the aspirations they had for me, like careers in medicine, law, engineering, accounting and various other 9-5 gigs. All things that I could never see myself doing. the idea of a 9-5 was always a scary thing for me, however because that’s all I ever heard about, that’s the only option I thought I had, which is probably why I spent so much of my youth with no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Everything seemed so boring, I didn’t want to be stuck doing one thing for the rest of my life, similar tasks every single day. I didn’t like the idea of my life being so structured and rigid, yet that seemed like the route everyone took, so I kind of accepted it. I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be trying to explain to my parents why freelancing may be better for me than a more traditional career. I mean I totally understand why they’d be sceptical about it, the security that a permanent job gives you cannot be questioned. You always know you’re getting that direct deposit straight into your account at the end of every month, whereas with freelancing that’s not the case; especially at the start of your career, when you’re still figuring out how to manoeuvre in the industry.  You don’t know when your next job will be, and as the speaker at the talk emphasised you’re going to have to become extremely thick skinned because you’re going to hear “No” extremely often. However, the idea of being in charge of when you work, what jobs you take, the variety in tasks you do and just the all-around flexibility of it all just sounds perfect to me, like it completely aligns with my personality. Yet as soon as I get content with the idea of being freelance, the fear creeps in. What if I don’t get any jobs? How will I make money? How will I survive? At the end of the day we all want to be successful and more importantly we all need money, right? It’s a big risk. A risk that will take an extreme amount of courage and building up all that courage is going to be extremely difficult; maybe it would be better at first to try both, possibly work a 9-5 and take some freelance gigs on the side until I’m ready to make that official move into the freelance world.

To be honest I have no idea what I’m going to do, I feel that it’s easy to envision your end goal, but the process of making it to that end goal is extremely difficult. There’s many different paths to take but deciding which path is best for me is definitely going to take a long time. As I’m in my final year now, I find myself trying to constantly piece that process together as best as I can before my time at University runs out. I left that talk with a lot to think about, and many decisions to make, as I write this piece now, I have a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head, when I finally pick one I’ll be sure to let you know.