For most people, once their undergraduate university degree is finished, the expectation is to either go into full-time work or to go on to complete postgraduate studies.
Of which, I did neither.
Next month, it will have been an entire year since I graduated from my Bachelor’s degree. For the last year, I’ve been working in a part-time freelance role, where I get to choose my own hours and essentially work for myself, from home.
The role is loosely related to what I studied — media and communications — in that I create news-related content. Being a start-up though, I am constantly wearing different hats and trying my hand at everything from user experience, to marketing and pitching to investors.
Almost all of the friends and acquaintances I met at university who graduated around the same time as I did have gone directly into full-time so-called ‘proper’ salary-paying jobs for large organisations. It was the prescribed narrative; what we were told to do by our professors, and the organisations we interned for.
The career path of a freelancer was never presented to me, so it was never something I actively sought out to do. I happened to land in this role, and I’ve been having a go at freelancing ever since.
Having so much freedom with my work schedule and location has enabled me to pursue other passions, like hosting and producing my own podcast and putting time into all those things on my long term to-do list, like creating a website. It’s also allowed me to travel more, and work on the road.
My full-time working friends who have side hustles are constantly trying to find the time to work on their own passions, and struggle managing what little free time they do have between rest, seeing friends and dating.
Being the odd one out job-wise amongst my peers, I have received a lot of flack from family and other people with different generational mindsets about working hard now and enjoying life later, as well as championing the idea that I’m stalling in my career progression.
We millennials are known as a hedonistic generation, and being first generation Australian, I do sometimes feel guilty for being able to live the life I do, with so much free time.
However, I also know that a lot of unpaid hours go into working for yourself.
I have met a fair few creatives and freelancers, and combined with what I’ve learnt in the last year, it’s not all daytime naps and working from the beach (which in reality is just a lot of screen glare and sand in your keyboard).
You have to know your worth, which is really bloody hard when you’re starting out with little client reputation or experience. There’s also hours put into client acquisition, website or portfolio creation and maintenance, and chasing up invoices, all of which isn’t billable.
Having freedom and working for yourself also means less money by default, at least initially. You can’t charge a ridiculous amount as you are still acquiring experience in your field, and you’re likely not working full time hours as you juggle clients and pursue other interests.
There are times when I’m left out of the conversation amongst peers about work perks like catered lunches or Christmas parties. But then I remember that I don’t have to set an alarm everyday, and I relish in the fact that I get to decide what I do every day.
I’m definitely not one to complain about my current work sitch (truly, it’s a job arrangement I’ve basically dreamt up), but if there’s one thing to know about this lifestyle, it’s that as a freelancer, you’re always on.
There’s no out of office auto-reply emails, no switching off for the weekend. Oh, and there’s no superannuation, sick leave or being paid to be on a holiday.
Aside from that, working as a freelancer is a viable career path out of university that needs to be held in higher regard, or at least suggested to students as another path they can take after uni.
The company may not be paying you to undertake skills courses, but you’re learning things you will never learn working for someone else, like time management and personal branding.
Having all that extra time has also allowed me to spend time looking after myself, both mentally and physically. I have time to reflect and be introspective; I’m not burnt out by Friday and #livingfortheweekend.
Whilst some may see me as “behind” my peers in terms of work connections and career progression, I’m taking the time now to figure out what I truly enjoy in life, and how to monetise it in order to turn it into a career that allows me work-life balance in my own conception.
I would much rather take the time now to be able to work to my own schedule and pursue other interests than have a mid-life crisis career change — when I might potentially have children to support or a mortgage to pay off, at a time when receiving a salary would be crucial.
The truth is, I don’t know if a lifelong career in media and communications is for me. Just because I graduated from this degree doesn’t mean I have to go into a full-time job in the industry. By defying the expectation of going into a career in that industry because I have a degree in it, at least I’ve got the time to figure it out.
P.S. Having chosen freelancing over full-time work has also allowed me to become the Managing Editor at ENID. If that hadn’t have happened, you wouldn’t be reading this at all!