I’ve made roughly $20,000 in the span of a year operating as a freelance writer. That being said, this is only my first year freelancing and, if my calculated projections are correct, I expect to make double that amount off of my freelancing work in the coming year. That would put me at an annual income rate of roughly $40,000.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I only have an associate’s degree.
And it isn’t even in marketing.
I began freelancing as a side hustle and never expected to make the amount that I do off of my work. Now, I’m earning almost a full-time income off of part-time work. And again, I have an associate’s degree in a non-related field of work.
This got me thinking… just how important is a college degree in the age of freelancing?
Throughout our lives, we’ve always been told that the key to success was a college degree. We have been reminded time and time again that without a degree from a prestigious university, we can never earn a liveable income, let alone one that allows us to live a comfortable lifestyle.
As the results of my first year of freelancing show, this isn’t always the case. So how important is a college degree in an age where an estimated 35 percent of U.S. workers are now freelancing?
Let’s talk about that.
According to the Freelancing in America 2018 survey, 93 percent of freelancers with four-year college degrees report that job skills training was useful while only 79 percent of those report that their college education was useful to the work that they do now.
While it is certain that the majority of the 20 million students that started college this past fall will rack up serious debt in pursuit of their college degrees, what is less certain is whether or not their degrees will actually pay off when it comes time to join the workforce.
When I attended college, I chose my area of study based not on what I reasonably wanted to do with my life, but rather, what I felt like could give me job security. I had no interest in Medical Office Administration. It just felt like a degree that offered a reasonable amount of job security and, set back by my own insecurities, seemed like a less competitive field. It seemed certain that I could find a job in my chosen area of study fairly easily.
I was right.
After earning my associate’s degree and receiving certification as a Medical Office Administrator, it took less than a month for me to land my first full-time job out of college. That being said, I was absolutely miserable in my field. I hated the hours, the office environment, and the pressure of overseeing hundreds upon hundreds of patient charts. I was drained by the amount of time I spent on the phone with insurance companies. Put simply, I felt overworked, underpaid, and unfulfilled.
That’s when I first began considering a career as a freelance writer. I knew I had a talent for writing and wondered if I could ever hope to make a full-time income as a writer. Although I was terrified to take the dive, I knew that I could only truly fail by remaining in my current field out of fear to give something I loved a try.
I’m glad I did.
Now, I’m earning a full-time income off of something I don’t have a college degree in. The job skills I’ve learned working hands-on as a freelance writer has been a hundred times more beneficial to my career pursuits than anything I ever learned in college or even while working in my previous field. So what’s really more important in the age of freelancing- job skills or college degrees?
Let’s consider this: according to the World Economic Forum, 65 percent of children entering primary school will end up in jobs that don’t even exist yet. That being said, it seems unrealistic to assume that the college degrees currently in place will prove helpful to the 65 percent of students that will end up in careers that don’t exist yet. After all, how can you reasonably prepare a new generation for the workforce through education when you don’t even know what those careers will entail as of yet?
College degrees are, to this day, presented to students as the only road they can take to ensure professional competency and longevity. But while this is being preached to the next generation, the cost of education is now so high that it far exceeds the future earnings potential of the jobs those degrees are supposed to guarantee. Students are working hard to earn college degrees that put them into debt, only to earn jobs that don’t pay enough to help them pay off their education. This seems to be a huge reason that so many are starting to take on freelance work.
It seems obvious that the future of work in the United States, and even globally, will be determined by job skills- not college degrees. At an increasing rate, what seems to be the most important to employers is not the little slip of paper stating that you have earned a college degree but, rather, the technical job skills that few fields of study really seem to focus on. As the fastest-growing segment of our nation’s workforce, freelancers know that what sets them apart from their competition is the job skills that they bring to the table and college degrees are becoming a less frequent topic of conversation.
In working with my clients, I have never once been asked whether or not I have a college degree in my area of expertise. Instead, my clients ask to see my portfolio, want to know where my work has been published, and what job skills I bring to the table. They simply don’t care if I have a college degree; instead, they want to know that I can provide the real results that they’re looking for. That’s what my job skills guarantee. Further, those job skills are nothing I learned during my time in college. They were learned through working.
I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I’m not saying that college is a waste of time or money- for everyone at least. After all, there are still plenty of college students who earn their degree, win a job opportunity soon after graduation, and set forth down the path of their future career confidently and see real success. What I’m implying, however, is that the future of the workforce will be less about a diploma and more about the skills that you can bring to the table. Oftentimes, these skills are nothing you learned in college. Many times, they are skills that are innate and not taught in schools.
If you have found yourself in a career that doesn’t make you feel fulfilled or satisfied, you may want to consider freelancing. If you are still working to pay off college debt and are barely chipping away at what you owe through the pay you receive at your current job, you might want to think about freelancing.
Think about what you’re good at and what innate skills you possess. Chances are, you’re good at something that someone out there is willing to pay you for. If you can learn how to really promote yourself as a freelancer (through hands-on experience), you could soon be earning thousands of dollars off of something you never spent a day learning in a classroom. I, along with thousands of other freelancers out there, am proof that that is possible.
The world of work is changing and it’s important that you know how to adapt. Soon, college degrees will become less important and that’s because as technology evolves and expands, employers will be looking for workers with proven job skills experience. The time is now to start sharpening those skills and that has nothing to do with the college degree you may or may not have.
There is a reason that so many freelancers market themselves based on their skills and not on college degrees. Now that you know what that reason is, you have an advantage that so many have yet to realize. If freelance work has been calling your name, there’s no better time than now to get started!