Freelance Your Way to a Fulfilling Career

Freelance Your Way to a Fulfilling Career

Whether you are a college student or recent graduate, finding employment is likely to be one of your top priorities. The job search process is time consuming and a degree does not always guarantee that you’ll have your pick of the best careers, as employers often weigh what you’ve learned and the experience you’ve acquired when making a hiring decision. There is another alternative to the traditional career path, one that can help develop your career: Working in a freelance capacity.

There are options available for students and graduates. If you have gained business experience and need to jump start your career after graduation, you may be able to join the ranks of supertemps. However, if you are a college student and want to work on development of your career prior to graduation, there are also freelance opportunities for you to consider. Regardless of what category you are in, now is the time to develop proactive strategies that will help you put your talents and skills to work.

Freelance Work for Experienced Graduates

Temporary work has been an option for job seekers looking for work such as office, retail, and manufacturing positions. A recent article published by the Harvard Business Review, The Rise of the Supertemp, described a new form of temporary employee or one that works as an independent contractor. Instead of working in a traditional job for one organization, the supertemp is hired on a per-project basis. It was noted that the supertemp typically has experience and education, and is also becoming “increasingly trusted by corporations to do mission-critical work that in the past would have been done by permanent employees or established outside firms.” Instead of hiring a consulting company, many organizations are hiring individuals to complete project-specific tasks.

In the article, On the job: Here come the “supertemps”, a 2011 survey was discussed and the findings indicated that 45% of these workers took this role out of necessity and yet overall, approximately 80% of those surveyed indicated that they were satisfied with this type of work. In another survey by the Institute of Interim Management (IIM), it found that 70% of supertemps chose this path for their career because of professional goals and lifestyle choices, and only 22% sought temporary work because of having lost a job. These surveys indicate that freelance work as a temporary employee is not only a viable career option; there are opportunities frequently available.

One of the primary disadvantages that may discourage someone from pursuing this line of work is that there is no guarantee of a consistent role. In addition, health insurance and other traditional benefits are generally not included. Yet for anyone who is in need of employment or wants to further develop their career options, this may be a solution because it can fill an employment gap and potentially lead to other employment opportunities. You can find “supertemp” jobs through online job boards (usually listed in temporary work categories), along with employment search firms that specialize in finding advanced temporary positions.

Freelance Work for College Students

For college students, one of your first possible freelance opportunities may be an internship. An internship can either be paid or unpaid, and allows you to gain hands-on experience while developing connections within your chosen industry. Your best option is finding a paid internship. A recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that “more than 61 percent of students who had paid internships in the for-profit job sector had a job offer for after graduation.” Only 38 percent of students who accepted unpaid internships received job offers.

In my post, In Today’s Economy, Internships Provide a Competitive Edge, I discussed the need for developing an action plan before searching for an internship opening. Start by considering what your ultimate career goal is, what skills you have and the skills you need to acquire as a means of developing a competitive advantage, and the industries or job markets that are related to your goals. You don’t want to accept an intern position just to gain experience; you want it to further your career development plans.

Another option you have as a college student is finding freelance or project-based jobs. A Forbes article, Should You Freelance After Graduation?, noted that “to make it as a freelancer, you need to be able to perform some type of work that’s in consistent demand–whether it’s writing, web design, web development, videography, or selling things–and apply it to many different types of projects.” For students with strong research and writing skills, freelance writing, or being paid per written piece, could offer many opportunities. There are numerous online job boards that list positions, such as Freelance Writing that provide links for writers and bloggers.

Developing an Online Presence

If you want to establish yourself as a freelance worker, whether as a supertemp or freelance writer, you need a visible online presence. For both types of work, employers want to know about your prior experience. You can utilize online tools such as WordPress or VisualCV to create a digital portfolio that outlines your background and shares examples, projects, or other samples of your work. You can also utilize social media for networking opportunities and find professional groups to join through sites such as LinkedIn. This will allow you to connect with others who are also freelancers and discover tips, techniques, and possible openings.

If you are new to writing, you may want to consider developing an online blog or wiki, as you’ll need to show evidence of your writing ability. You can also join article databases such as Ezine Articles to produce and publish subject-specific materials that demonstrate your writing potential. You won’t earn a commission for this type of publication; however, it will help to establish your name and expertise. Another website to consider is Constant Content, which allows you to upload your articles at no cost (retaining full ownership) and earn a commission every time the usage rights are sold.

You know that you are entering a workplace that is going to be highly competitive in nature. This requires you to take a proactive approach to your career development. If you want to find work now, due to necessity or lack of experience, freelance opportunities may assist you. This is an effective method of building your resume by adding experience, while helping you discover more about your career interests and professional strengths. College students and graduates can both benefit by gaining work experience that provides them with a competitive edge in the job market.

You can follow Dr. Bruce A. Johnson on Twitter @DrBruceJ and Google+.

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