Elance Blog

Why Colleges Should Require Courses In Freelancing

Given the eye-opening results of the recently released 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce survey, it only makes sense to hear from a millennial. Here are thoughts from Elancer Jarek Ostrowski.


When I graduated from college in 2010, I really wasn’t prepared to enter the real world.

I had all the education I needed, and all the knowledge and expertise in the degree I chose to pursue. But in the grand scheme I had no idea what my options were, other than to get a traditional job.

Sure, my college offered career services to help students. But the help was more focused on resume building, interview do’s and don'ts, and how to write a proper cover letter. Pretty much useless garbage I could have looked up myself on the Internet. There was really no other option. You left school, you made a resume and cover letter, and you applied for jobs.

But what is a new graduate supposed to do when they start applying for jobs that require at least a year of experience? How’s a student able to get that year of experience if they’re right out of school?

Like many new graduates, I struggled to gain even the slightest of traction in developing a stable career for myself. Granted I was a Health Science major, which was a questionable choice in the first place, but I’d focused a lot on technical writing and never once considered that I could potentially make it as a freelance writer. I ended up starting a t-shirt company instead, which I’ll be sure to cover in another post. But I probably should have tried writing. Who knows, I could have done pretty well for myself.

I wasn’t prepared, and neither are most millennials and especially college graduates who leave the blissful ideology of campus life and enter the workforce for the first time. I was so focused on what my professors were telling me and so focused on not letting my $100,000 of student debt go to waste, that I was blind and naive to think there were no other options. 

There are colleges who offer freelancing courses, but most are coupled with your typical freelance careers like journalism and graphic design. Every college has the responsibility to offer their students a second option when it comes to their chosen major, and that second option should be freelancing. Think of it as sort of like a backup if things don't go as planned (and most of the time they don't).

Colleges insist on being proud and assuming they provide the best foundation for their students when they're there. Yet when the person leaves, the student realizes it was just a facade and figure out the foundation was actually compacted dust painted to look like industrial grade concrete.

If colleges required a freelancing course, like many require public speaking courses, students would at least become familiar with a second option. They could spend a semester helping students establish a reputation on a freelancing site, offering a service of the student’s choice. By doing this, students may even find they finally make up their mind on what they want to do for a major. I started as a psych major, another flavorless choice. It was more like a placeholder and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do until I was a junior. Even then I still wasn't sure.

Requiring a freelancing course and allowing the students to pick a freelancing genre based on their own interest, may help them find what they were looking for in a major after all. You never know. The sure thing though, is the valuable real world skills one would learn when freelancing in school.

Students could learn valuable skills, like how to sell yourself, how to develop a solid portfolio, and how to handle clients – all of which are important in any line of work.

Maybe because colleges are more focused on collecting tuition than actually building a structurally sound foundation for their students, they may not consider freelancing courses. But they should. Everybody wins, really. The student now has a second option if things initially don't work out, plus they learn valuable people skills when working with clients. They earn money, develop a couple years of experience, and the college looks good for offering such courses.

If you’re in college right now, you need to start freelancing. Period. You need a backup plan, and freelancing is a backup plan that's not only viable, but it's something that could potentially turn into your plan A. Choose whatever field you want, learn about it, do it, and make money.

I wish I’d read an article like this when I was in school. Maybe I wouldn’t have been forced to work at that car wash or struggle to find a job out of the gate. It’s hard to think about anything other than parties and homework when you’re in school, I know. But on a lazy Sunday morning before the game, at least check it out. See if you can make it work, and maybe you’ll earn a little bit of money to get your career and life off to a great start.

About the Author:

Jarek Ostrowski is a fulltime freelance graphic designer and loyal Elancer. He runs a blog at www.thefreelanceeffect.com, which is where freelancers share stories, network with one another, and offer advice through real world experiences. Jarek is also authoring The Freelance Effect, a book that discusses the rise of the freelancer over a 20-year span, featuring stories from freelancers on how they got started and why they'll never go back to the 9 to 5.  Follow Jarek on twitter @freelanceeffect for more of his posts and updates from his blog.

Photo courtesy of opensource.com


Some colleges offer this option but the names of the courses that focus on this varies. I took a course on freelancing along with a course that focused on the world copyrights. The course was fun and I learned a lot. I didn't really get into freelancing till some years later when I got my own computer.

It would be cool if there were a series of courses that focused on the aspects of freelancing ranging from what to charge to need-to-know paper work. Things are looking up at the moment and are a far cry from completing surveys for funds. Thanks for sharing this article.

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