Freelancing is a legit career goal for young people

Similar to going into medicine or law, building a freelancer business is also a legitimate career goal. If you’ve been doing it for quite some time now, you may not be surprised that many people think it isn’t. You may have even had someone ask you when you’ll get a “real job.”

Despite the fact that 59 million Americans performed freelance work in 2021, the majority of our society still thinks it’s only a pitstop of some sort. Something people do when they’re unsure what to do next, when they’re still looking for a 9-to-5 job, or when they’re not yet ready to go all-in on a traditional career.

Freelancing might be a better career choice 

To be clear, we’re not comparing freelancing to vital jobs. Society needs good doctors, lawyers, teachers… however, it’s time we acknowledge the fact that times are changing. Millennials and Gen Z folks are more creative and innovative. Two generations yearning to build something and be in control of their lives. To not be slaves to their jobs.

“The main reason I decided to become a freelance writer was because of my health. I have several chronic illnesses, all caused by a rare genetic disorder,” shares Hailey Hudson, a 23-year-old freelance writer based in Atlanta. For people seeking freedom, and for people like Hailey who have limitations beyond their control, building a freelance business is undoubtedly a solid career goal. After all, a solid career is not only defined by your uniform or the money you earn every month. More than that, it is defined by how such a career affects your life in general!

Young people want to build their own businesses

Aside from the obvious reason that being your own boss sounds awesome, younger people are also more inclined to opportunities that allow them to explore, figure out, and build the kind of life they want.

“Some days are long, other days are short,” says Akansha Rukhaiyar, adding that, “largely, I have more control than I would have if I was in a conventional set-up.” Akansha started freelancing two months after graduating from law school. Similar to most young people, she quickly realized that freelancing is actually a “viable career” as she describes it.

Freelancing lets you travel with ease, pause when needed, and pivot when you’re bored or seeking a new challenge. Best of all, you don’t need someone else’s permission to do these things. The ability to design your career around your life, and not vice versa, is priceless.

“There’s no cap on my yearly salary — if I need or want to make more money, I just go out and get another client!” Hailey also noted how freelancing allows her to achieve financial freedom. “I can never lose my job because I work for myself, and there are endless job opportunities,” she adds.

A shift in career perspective benefits our economy

The impact of freelancing on our economic landscape is also undeniable. This path allows for a more inclusive economic development as it enables companies to hire people from wherever in the world. People from developing nations get the chance to work and learn from western-based companies and at the same time, make a living off of it.

It opens more opportunities and encourages healthy self-recognition. As Akansha puts it, “people are realizing that their value goes beyond clocking in a certain number of hours in a cubicle.” This is the kind of truth that office workers and employees have forgotten for so long. And remembering it impacts our society and economy in a way that it’s gaining more mindful and daring independents.

Hailey also makes a great point, saying, “freelancers are often niched down — they specialize in a certain industry or on a certain topic. So they have extra expertise to bring to the table that your in-house team may not.”

Be supportive of the freelance workforce

As a society, it is our responsibility to be welcoming and supportive to one another. We all know that’s not always the case. When it comes to freelancers and independents, one of the best ways to support them is to stop questioning their decision. “The biggest backlash I received was that I was wasting all the work I had put in and I believed it for a long while,” shares Akansha. She adds, “people still think I gave up the law firm environment because ‘I’m too lazy and not cut out for it.’ Maybe I am lazy. But, I have a balanced life, and I love it.”

Personally, I’ve been freelancing for over 10 years now and I still have people doubting my ability to make a living for myself. They see what I’ve achieved, they just refuse to recognize it.

It is this kind of toxicity that we need to put a full stop to if we want to be more supportive of freelancers and independents. Similar to doctors and nurses, or teachers and accountants, they too are on a serious pursuit.

Giving space for these shifts and changes is vital. Each year, more and more people are diving into the freelance world. They all have different reasons but most likely, they have pretty similar goals. As a society, it’s high time we see freelancing as the legit career goal that it is.

Tammy Danan

Tammy Danan is a storyteller who reports on environmental and social issues. She also covers productivity, creative pursuits, and the future of work. Her words have appeared in VICE, Audubon.org, ZEKE Magazine, Shutterstock, Toggl, among others. You may find her on Instagram @SlowFreelancing.