What Do I Tell My Millennial About Freelancing?

Girl reading book

When my daughter recited the text of one of her picture books from memory at age 3 1/2, I knew this kid was going places.

I’m not talking about some pedestrian preschool writing like Seuss’s Hop on Pop; this was a book recommended for first through fourth graders.  The kind with full paragraphs per page.  I was so proud.

It wasn’t long after that my little girl was actually looking at the words and relating them to what her mind had stored.  She has been an avid reader ever since.

Not to mention she’s been a spelling and grammar fanatic since day one of formal education.  In fact, she had the nerve to repeatedly correct her first grade teacher who insisted that the word “gnat” started with “n”.  (Repeated apologies to Mrs. Zimmerman were offered for my daughter’s attitude, though I reveled in standing my ground that my daughter was indeed right.)

All throughout grammar school, junior high and high school, she never lost her passion for the written word.  She used free-time after school to write stories and read as many books as she could, with 19th century Brit Lit being her favorite.

Child sitting on books

As time went on, she wrote for and edited her high school newspaper.  She competed at the state journalism competition in the News Writing category.  She went away to college to pursue a degree in English, which was then revised to Journalism and changed once again to Professional Writing. She has written for her college newspaper and was a section editor. She’s honed the kind of writing that she likes and is proficient in, and has been published in small magazines so far.

Now What?

Now that my daughter is entering her fourth year of college, my panic has set in.  As a freelance writer/editor myself, I’m suddenly concerned that she doesn’t have a large enough portfolio.  “What do you mean Megan has a freelance contract this summer and Connor is working on getting his book published?”  Sweat breaks out as I wonder if the time she spent working her on-campus job to pay for her tuition would have been better spent vying for freelance gigs that may or may not have panned out.

So this summer she is pulling together the writings that she does have and is building her online portfolio.  She will be adding to it from her summer practicum of technical writing and marketing communications, as well as some piecemeal projects for companies.  However, my secret hope is that people will read her blog and see that she is an incredibly clever, funny and engaging writer in the same vein as a Nora Ephron, A.J. Jacobs or even Tina Fey.

Freelancing is a Great Life for a Millennial, Right?

Do I recommend that my daughter pursue full-time freelancing right out of the chute after graduation from college?

I imagine restarting my career at 21 as a freelancer, at a time when I had little cares, responsibilities or major expenses.  In the late ’80s, jobs were much easier to get and I assumed that you were a nobody if you didn’t have solid, steady, full-time employment after college.  After all, I graduated with honors from a challenging program, so of course I should be working 9 to 5 for a Fortune 500 company.

But I soon learned that I hated the corporate world.  The aggravation really started to fester when my daughter was born and I carted her off to daycare at 3 months of age.  The pressure to be present for my daughter grew and grew until one day I went to pick her up from daycare shortly after the change to daylight savings time in the fall.  She thought that since it was dark out, I had forgotten to pick her up and she was scared and crying.  That was it for me.

I finally decided to leave a full-time marketing communications job to freelance so I could be home for her.  At the time, I was 37 years old.  It was the best gig because the flexibility was unmatched and the opportunity so vast.  Never again would I miss seeing her after 3:00 p.m. and during the summer and holidays.  Little did my daughter know, and much to her chagrin later, I volunteered for absolutely everything related to school or sports from first through twelfth grade.  It was the most fun I’ve had in my life.

Coffee and notepad

So in my mind, freelancing is the best of both worlds.  If you do it right, you can have a steady income and still have a life.  I’ve told my daughter that for years.  So that’s what she has been looking forward to once she is done with the last of her classes.

Her father, on the other hand, has worked in the same industry in full-time employment for most of his post-college life.  Therefore, he has a completely different opinion of what she needs to do.  He believes that she needs to gain full-time employment after college to have a steady income for absolutely as long as possible.  We are definitely true to our personality profiles:  he the Determined Realist and me the Spontaneous Idealist.

My daughter is a Dreamy Idealist, so we know where her millennial heart is bent:  towards creating things, enjoying time freedom, making a difference in the world, living frugally, taking care of her health and having flexibility in the work that she does.

What would you say to your soon-to-be college graduate?  If I could go back 30 years, I know what I would do, and I’ve told her that.  It’s her decision, so we will see where she is five years from now.  Hopefully writing her third book on a world tour to serve the poor.