Guest Post: Young pros can benefit from freelancing
Andre Willis is a freelance marketer and full-time job seeker. A native of Missouri, he now resides in Tempe, AZ after graduating from Arizona State University in 2008. Visit AndreWillis.com to read his blog, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/andrewillis.
Despite signs of economic recovery, the unemployment rate in the United States is still alarmingly high. This recession has been especially tough on the budding careers of generation Y, including me. However, I’ve been fortunate enough to secure freelance work during my job search, and recommend the same to all of my fellow young professionals, regardless of employment status.
Pros and cons associated with freelancing:
Avoid resume gaps: A large gap in your work history can signal a red flag to perspective employers. You may have a reasonable excuse, such as a lengthy job search, but hiring mangers might interpret it as a lack of commitment, and move your resume to the bottom of the pile. Freelance projects solve this problem. If you can’t find paid work, consider volunteering with a professional association or non-profit; preferably in a leadership role.
Sharpen your skills: For those not in the midst of a job hunt, freelance work offers an opportunity to build on the skill sets needed for success in your current position. For example, public relations professionals must be strong writers, so why not seek a part-time gig with a local magazine?
Networking opportunities: Successful freelance projects not only open the door to more contracts, but also could lead to full-time opportunities. Be sure to maintain a professional demeanor at all times, and never let your work ethic slip.
Irregular paychecks: Freelancers are usually paid an hourly wage or per-project rate, thus creating a fluctuating income that’s difficult to budget for. My number one advice is to resist the temptation to splurge during good months, as you never know when the work will dry up.
No paychecks at all: The Wall Street Journal estimated that 40% of freelancers struggled to collect payment from clients in 2009. Independent contractors aren’t protected by most federal employment laws, forcing some to resort to small claims court (an expensive process that doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually be paid). Experts suggest including all terms of payment in your written contract, and performing ample research on potential clients.
Tips for landing freelance work:
Maintain a personal blog: This is a no-brainer. A blog provides a platform to display a portfolio of your previous work, and demonstrate your communications skills and web savvy. Promote your blog like an actual business by learning the in and outs of important marketing tools, e.g. Google Analtyics.
Online sources: There are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs out there offering valuable advice for freelancers, from marketing yourself, to increasing productivity. I recommend FreelanceSwitch and WebWorkerDaily.
If you’d like to learn more about my experience as a freelancer, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.