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13/01/2020
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Why You Should Consider Self-Employment as a Post-Grad

And why you might consider sticking to a traditional job

At the end of 2018 — a mere two years after I graduated with a degree in computer science and a healthy dose of naivety about the workforce — I found myself feeling lost, confused, tired, and burnt out.

You might argue that I was just feeling lazy, but for me, it came down to a deeper lack of fulfillment and dissatisfaction with my current impact on the world.

I quit my well-paying job in San Francisco with the intention of living off of savings and traveling for as long as possible. Until I remembered that I get unbearably bored without work, that is.

I tossed and turned, literally and metaphorically, over what to do next and how to reconcile my dread for returning to the monotonous grind of employment with my desire to make an impact.

And then I realized: I could employ myself.

Flash forward a year later, and I can say that I am a successfully self-employed 26-year-old post-grad. The entire year has been one long learning process filled with acts of pure fake-it-til-you-make-it-ism. I started off in a field I had no experience in, built up a little know-how, and capitalized off of each new learning as much as I could to catapult myself into the next.

After reflecting on my year as a self-employed new grad, I would recommend selfemployment to other young twenty-something-year-olds — with some heavy qualifications.

Here are some pros and cons of self-employment that you should consider as a post-grad looking for that perfect balance between ambition and freedom.

The Cons

I like to get the bad news out of the way first. Here’s what really sucks about being self-employed at a young age.

You won’t be served work by your manager on a silver platter like you would when you’re employed by someone else.

Acquiring work (and money) means doing research on potential clients, pitching those clients, constantly networking in the hopes of finding new opportunities, proving your skills, capabilities, and worth — i.e. generally fighting for your work and money a lot harder than normal.

To make matters worse, you’ll have a relatively small amount of career inertia working for you as you attempt to win new over clients.

With only a handful of years of experience out of college, it’s harder to get people to trust in your ability. Even with a network of solid contacts who are willing to vouch for you, it can be tough to sell your services with such limited experience. Many times, especially at the beginning, work is won out of sheer luck — and sometimes that luck runs dry.

While all my friends are being treated like the future saviors of the world, self-employed twenty-something-year-olds like me are often seen as the lazy, avoidant type.

A lot of people will write you off as a lost, confused youth with a lack of ambition and a desire to make easy money without committing to a full-time job. They often won’t understand what you do and won’t take the time to figure it out.

When you take into account taxes, double taxes, healthcare, retirement savings, and dry-spell funds, your take-home pay is significantly less than those who are employed at an equivalent salary.

On top of that, there’s the fact that contract work is less stable than a full-time job, and you might find yourself out of work on any given day regardless of your performance. A lot of self-employed people up-charge to take all this into account, but that’s a tough thing to sell when you’re relatively junior.

The Pros

Now, this measly list of two might put you off, but I personally think that these two things make up for all the downsides of being self-employed at a young age.

I have an illness that affects how my body modulates my energy-level. Having the freedom to get myself outside or take a nap when my energy is dipping is incredibly valuable to me. In the end, it makes me a more productive, functional person.

The rumors are true. As a self-employed individual, I wake up when I want, take three-hour breaks in the middle of the day, and some weekdays, I don’t even work at all.

You are your own manager — your client doesn’t have time to manage you, and they get nothing out of your professional development — so as long as you get your work done on time, you can usually decide what your hours are.

For me, this time-freedom means that I can do what I have to do to focus on my health. I have an illness that affects how my body modulates my energy-level. Having the freedom to get myself outside or take a nap when my energy is dipping is incredibly valuable to me. In the end, it makes me a more productive, functional person.

The freedom to choose exactly what I work on is the most important thing to me as a self-employed 26-year-old still trying to figure out what interests me and what value I can bring to the table.

This is the kicker. As a self-employed twenty-something-year-old, you can cherry-pick work that interests you, challenges you, and allows you to truly add value.

This not only keeps your engagement at a certain level, but it can also be invaluable in helping you find your way post-college.

My work consists of a blend of project management, product management, data analytics, sourcing, recruiting, writing (both functional writing and more creative writing), research, and marketing.

Each contract brings something new to the table, and I can often define the bounds of my work when negotiating the contract in the first place. Work doesn’t interest me? I say no. Work kind of interests me but is getting a little boring? I propose a new way I can add value.

The freedom to choose exactly what I work on is the most important thing to me as a self-employed 26-year-old still trying to figure out what interests me and what value I can bring to the table.


Self-employment isn’t for everyone — especially when you’re fresh out of college and looking to build up a career. Consider these pros and cons before taking the leap. It’s always better to know what you’re getting into.

Source: Medium.com

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