More millennials are choosing to freelance, rather than report to a traditional workplace, citing ease and mobility to set their own schedules and devote time to work that energizes them. In a recent article for Forbes, Lindsay Cross, formerly of LearnVest, an organization devoted to helping women create suitable financial plans for themselves, describes her journey from working full-time at LearnVest whilst juggling a freelance gig to her conversion to a full-time freelancer, navigating challenging financial burdens in the process.
The benefits of freelancing are obvious to millennials. As digital natives, our entire lives have been defined by adaptation to new technologies and changing environments, perhaps most significantly, weathering the Great Recession. We know that change is the only constant and look for work that acknowledges this reality.
As an aspiring writer, I’ll likely have to spend a good majority of my career freelancing as secure writing gigs go the way of floppy drives and cathode ray tube monitors. Yet, to me, the way of freelance writer inspires equal parts awed mystique and fear. Between their insane time management skills and focus on writing the articles I’d like to one day pen, and their ability to finagle their quarterly taxes, I’m left wondering one important question: How do they do it?
1. Learn how to negotiate payments and contracts.
Being an advocate for yourself can often be the most fraught part of being a freelancer. As Cross notes, women often aren’t taught how to negotiate in business settings. Luckily, the Freelancers’ Union website is chock-full of resources to aid freelancers with contract negotiation.
It’s also important for freelancers to be knowledgeable of rates within their industry so they can negotiate competitive rates. For writers, the Who Pays Writers Tumblr collates both what freelancers can expect to be paid so they can more easily negotiate reasonable rates and how reliable publications are with paying their freelancers while guaranteeing journalist anonymity. Freelancers can honestly report unreliability with publications they’ve pitched to before whilst contributing to the vitality of the Tumblr as a resource. And on that note…
2. Save money so you have something to fall back on in case of nonpayment.
In the beginning of your career, you’ll most likely have a day job and do your writing on the side. Whether you’re supporting yourself or lucky enough to have outside financial support, establish what a minimum amount would be for you to remain afloat.
In Cross’s case, she acknowledges she was largely able to freelance full-time because her husband would be able to offer financial support in her shortfall periods. But for freelancers who are unmarried or don’t have outside support, taking on another job may help close gaps in the interim period.
One advantage of having a day job? It offers a set structure around which you can do your freelancing, which can be vital for those of us that are procrastinators.
3. Be political.
Our generation has to be political by necessity of the cultural moment we find ourselves in, one defined by transition. Moving forward, freelancers must advocate for a less convoluted tax code so they can see more of their income, and for benefits to carry over outside the confines of the traditional work place, which no longer offer them. Because traditional models don’t take freelancers into account, they often risk their financial security.
While freelancing presents many challenges, both personal and systemic, its rewards suit our generation’s need to pursue multifaceted projects in ways traditional workplaces can be more restrictive of. Millennials’ ingenuity will certainly prove vital in helping to address the present challenges freelancers face.