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This article was published on May 12, 2013

Freelancing after graduation? Here’s what to expect

Freelancing after graduation? Here’s what to expect
Amber Leigh Turner
Story by

Amber Leigh Turner

Owner and Creative Director of January Creative

Owner and Creative Director of January Creative in Nashville, Tennessee, Amber has been a self-employed graphic and web designer for over ei Owner and Creative Director of January Creative in Nashville, Tennessee, Amber has been a self-employed graphic and web designer for over eight years, starting early in her collegiate career. Amber has a unique passion for not only all things design, but all things business as well. Freelancing as a student gave Amber an opportunity to write a student freelancing book, appropriately named Students Freelancing 101: A Start to Finish Course to Becoming a Student Freelancing, to help other students who want to start freelancing. Follow her on Twitter. Email her at

First off, big shout out to all of the graduates who are graduating high school and college this month!

While most high school graduates will be attending college in the fall, college graduates are now about to embark on the journey to find a full-time job in their field of study. So many decisions to be made; it can almost be overwhelming weighing your options.

It is very common for fresh college graduates to look for full-time jobs and go to work for a business or organization. However, while the economy is on an upswing, some graduates are a bit nervous of the idea of “job security” when they may have seen family and friends laid off unexpectedly from their jobs.

With all of these things going on, some graduates have either decided to start freelancing while in school, or would like to pursue freelancing after graduation as either a full-time job or something to get by while looking for a job.

If you are graduating this spring and freelancing is something you have been doing for a while or is something new to you, what are some things you can expect now that classes and school work isn’t tying up most of your time? Having been in your shoes about a year ago, I will share some pointers and things to expect should you decide to continue freelancing after walking across the big stage this month.

Monetary Considerations

Let’s just talk about the elephant in the room first. The reason we have to have jobs (unless we have a rich relative who loves us dearly), is because we need money to put a roof over our head and eat something our body can digest. Thankfully, we are free to choose what type of job we want to spend our 40+ hours a week at. Thus, with any job consideration (be it full-time employment at a company or self-employment), monetary compensation is more than likely at the top of the list.


The amount of monetary compensation you need depends on your current situation. With recent grads, you are either living at home with your parents, living with a roommate, or living on your own. Those three situations can drastically change how much money you need to get from your job. Only you have the answer as to how much money you need.

Freelancing will not bring a full-time salary overnight; it is something that takes time to build. If you are living on your own and need a certain amount of money to live on, freelancing may not be able to provide that right away. If you have already been freelancing for a while in school, you have an idea of how much you can earn with the amount of time you put into it. Having more time to freelance should help increase your income if you put the time into it.

Work Commitment

Speaking of time, the time you spend freelancing will likely change due to your new found time (no classes or schoolwork). If you plan to continue freelancing, you now have roughly 50 hours a week you can spend freelancing (on average most employed individuals work a 40-hour week and spend two hours a day commuting round trip–the math equals 50 hours). Think of how many more projects you can take on and how much time you will have to market your freelancing services compared to when you were in school?

If you are thinking of freelancing for the first time after graduation, just be prepared to spend many many hours working on promoting yourself and your freelancing without getting paid for it. You could go a month, two months or even longer without your first paying gig.

…be prepared to spend many many hours working on promoting yourself and your freelancing without getting paid for it

Freelancing is definitely a labor of love. You spend most of your available time working on starting your business, and then you have to spend even more time keeping it going. Now that you are out of school, you have much more time to do so.

Future Goals

Freelancing isn’t for everyone, and depending on what you want to do in life, it may or may not fit into those goals. For most creative freelancers (writers, designers, developers, photographers), freelancing gives them the flexibility to pursue their creative goals often more effectively than working for someone else.

However, if you are looking to seek full-time employment and see freelancing as a temporary thing to get by until you find a full-time job, freelancing could actually hurt your chances. Most places like that you have experience, but depending on who hires you, freelancing could be a sign that you couldn’t find employment elsewhere. In addition, some employers don’t consider freelancing as work experience, mainly (or especially) if you have only been doing it for a short time.

Passion and Drive

It takes extreme dedication and drive to freelance. Most college grads have this passion and dedication as they dedicated four or more years of their life to obtaining a college degree. With freelancing, you have to always be on top of your game, always driven to achieve new goals, and be extremely passionate about what you do.

Freelancing can be lonely and difficult at times. Imagine when both of these things happen at once! You have to find the motivation and determination not only to find new clients, but work on client projects and finish them on time.


Freelancing is great, especially if you can make a career out of it. If it is something you are considering doing, or continuing after graduation, hopefully the tips above will help you make an informed and educated decision on what you want to post-grad. Factors such as money needs, time availability and commitment, planning for the future, and your passion and drive all are things that change after graduation. Is freelancing something that can help you in all of those factors, or should you obtain a full-time job?  That is the million-dollar question!