5 things graduates need to know about freelancing

Posted on: February 25th, 2013

When I graduated college with a degree in visual communications a little over two years ago, I had no idea where my life was headed. I started applying for jobs all around the United States, but none of them really sounded that appealing.

And any of the jobs that did sound fun required at least five years of professional experience. I was at an impasse. But then I decided to take matters into my own hands and try to start my graphic design career on my own.

In those first six months of freelancing and trying to be solopreneur, I learned a lot of “hard truths” about life and business. Here are five things every postgrad freelancer should know before they take the plunge into fulltime freelancing:

1. You need to be passionate

First things first, if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, this probably won’t work out. If this is what you’d be doing even if you weren’t getting paid, that is a good sign.

Steve Jobs, when asked for his advice to anyone starting out as an entrepreneur, said this: “People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing and it’s totally true. And the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t, any rational person would give up. It’s really hard. So if you don’t love it, if you’re not having fun doing it, you don’t really love it, you’re going to give up.”

If you think freelancing is just an easy way to make a few extra bucks, it probably isn’t for you.

2. You have to be committed

You’ve decided that freelancing could be the right career choice for you. You have decided that the 9 to 5 grind doesn’t sound fun and there are other ways to earn income. Now, it’s time to commit to that goal. No halfassing it and no giving up in the first couple weeks. If you’re not committed and don’t spend time working on your new career every day, you’ll probably fail.

3. Youre a professional now

You don’t have to wait for anyone to tell you you’re a professional or wait for someone to give you that title. The person who decides that you’re a professional is you. When you’re speaking to prospective clients, you need to present yourself as a professional.

If you actually have the skills and received a degree in that field, you shouldn’t doubt yourself. Be confident. If you act like a professional, no one will ever question your skills, abilities, or qualifications. Then, you will get paid like a professional.

4. You will need to put in lots of hard work, especially at first

It won’t be easy getting started. It involves time, research, and practice. But I’m here to tell you that even the “hard” part of getting started is fun and rewarding. When you read this book, you’ll want to put it down half way through and get started on your planning right away.

You will need to continue studying in your field educating yourself on how to take the perfect photograph, write the perfect sales letter, design the perfect logo, create the perfect…well, you get the idea. The point is, you will need to keep educating yourself and practicing so you can get the confidence to put yourself out there and freelance fulltime.

5. Be ready to sacrifice

When you first start freelancing out of college, you’re going to have to sacrifice. If you’re able to, move back in with your parents, friends, or relatives. Get a part time job for a couple of months so you at least have some money. When I first started freelancing after college, I went back and worked at my summer amusement park job for a few months.

Yep, I had a college degree and was cleaning up vomit on a roller coaster. But it’s time to sacrifice now in order to reap the rewards later. It will be worth it.

Alexander Carroll is a fulltime freelance graphic designer from Pittsburgh, PA. He just self-published The PostGrad  Freelancer, a ‘how to’ guide for starting a freelance career after graduating college.

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