It’s been a long year. Between late night study sessions and Netflix binges, you haven’t had the time to apply for any internships. Or maybe you did, but despite your best efforts, you have nothing lined up.
We tend to plan our lives in pre-defined boxes. Ambitious students tend to know exactly what they’ll do and when. The truth is, part of preparing for life after graduation, is preparing yourself for uncertainty and last minute life changes. You may not have that perfect internship you dreamed of, but that might just be the best thing that will ever happen to you and your career.
Most students and graduates accept to do grunt work, usually for free, because it is sold to them as real-world experience, allowing them to think about their future while building their network of professional connections.
You can get all those benefits and more, including work you enjoy and a decent income, from freelancing. Here is why you should consider freelancing instead:
Being Entrepreneurial Is More Than Just Joining The “Entrepreneurship Club”
Most of the skills required to set up your own business are fundamental to being a successful freelancer. Many students dream of becoming their own boss but they have little knowledge of where to start.
Freelancing is the best way to get your foot in the door and start your own business at a very low cost. Like business owners, freelancers make a living by marketing their skills and services to prospective clients. They also enjoy an ‘entrepreneur lifestyle’: more flexibility, the freedom to choose your own projects and no one monitoring your every move.
“What if I don’t want to become an entrepreneur?”. Sourcing, handling clients and meeting deadlines are great responsibilities that an internship won’t necessarily give you. Those are also skills valued by recruiters and employers in all sectors. Freelancing is not to be underestimated; it takes hard work, grit, and dedication but if done right it will open up the right doors.
Improve Your LinkedIn & Build Up Your Portfolio
Most summer jobs have nothing to do with what you want to do after graduation. If you did get an internship, have you thought about how difficult it’s going to be to reformulate boring administrative tasks and various random errands into something more meaningful?
The thing about freelancing is that you don’t have to embellish your work experience. You can directly demonstrate your skills, professionalism, and experience as you build up a positive reputation with your clients. Let’s say you want to work for a PR company when you graduate. How impressive would it be to show a portfolio of five projects where you were the lead social media strategist? Plus, you can ask clients for testimonials or reviews of your work that you can showcase online and put as an attachment to your future graduate applications.
Create Real Value For Someone Else
Fewer entry-level jobs have led to an economy where students and recent graduates fight for unpaid internships that offer little in meaningful experience or skill development. In fact, a recent study concluded that, while paid internships lead to greater job opportunities and higher starting salaries, unpaid internships do not. In fact, people who have never done an internship perform better than those with unpaid internships on their CV.
Some internships provide useful training, but not all internships are created equal. Quite often the ‘valuable experience’ you were promised never appears, and you end up doing tasks designed just to keep you busy, with no value for either you or your employer.
Freelancing projects, on the other hand, allow you to get paid for improving your skills with real-world projects. You’ll work on assignments that provide real value for the company that hired you. That is a lot more impressive than running errands or reading company reports from previous years. Many dream of working for Facebook, Google, and the likes. And if you’re good at what you do, you don’t have to wait a long time as a freelancer to get hired to work on the best projects.
Internships Are For The Summer; Freelancing Is For Life
Summer jobs and internships won’t always lead to a permanent position the next year. Since freelancing is so flexible you can choose whether you want to pursue working as a freelancer while studying. Not only does it give you a source of income to help you pay for university or save for a graduate program, it also gives you a long-term experience that job recruiters value. Many graduates will tell you that there is nothing more frustrating than reading the words “Experience Required” when applying for jobs after university. How are you supposed to have experience when no one is willing to give it to you. The answer is to go out and get it yourself.
Having a long-term professional commitment will allow you to develop as a person and future employee. It’s also one of the best ways to network and connect with like-minded people in your chosen industry. Especially in industries that are more about who you know as opposed to what you know. You would be surprised at how small assignments can open the door to job interviews with key decision makers in a way that a cold application online would not have.
It’s Perfect For Multi-Passionate Millennials
Millennials generally have multiple interests and passions. They are capable of success in multiple fields and today’s workplace environment is not necessarily made for this generation. An internship can be frustrating when you’re restricted to a few simple tasks. Freelancing is a perfect opportunity to explore your passions and determine what your skills are. It’s one of the best ways for multi-talented millennials to quit being bored at their internship and experience the excitement of working on a diversity of projects that draw from many of their interests and skills.
But perhaps the real value for students is not in freelancing itself, but in what it allows you to do and experience on the side. The flexibility and the financial perks of being a freelancer allow you to pursue projects you thought you didn’t have the money or the time to go after: volunteering in another country, traveling abroad, starting your own business, taking up a new hobby or starting any project you’re passionate about.
Freelancing isn’t presented as a viable option for students or even graduates. It’s a misconception to think that freelancing can’t be considered by students due to their lack of experience. Most freelancing jobs require skills that most students have developed as a hobby or in the classroom: writing, languages, social media, web development, marketing, business plans, research, etc…All it takes is to convince a single company to hire you by offering an introductory rate and showing how you can draw from your skills to get the job done. Once the first project is delivered, it only gets easier from there.