Parents often ask me what their kids should be studying in college. The answer, however, is never as straightforward as they’d like because college is not always a good solution.
If a parent’s primary objective is for their kids to find a job, they should drop out today. Colleges aren’t about getting jobs, well, at least not directly. There are many ways to learn job skills but traditional college is usually the slowest and most expensive way to land a job.
In fact, many of the highest paying jobs in fields like computer programming, commercial pilots, cyber security, real-estate brokers, cloud architects, crime scene detectives, and web developers typically don’t require a degree at all.
Virtually any bright student can learn a marketable skill in less than 6 months. This means they could have several years of work experience by the time their counterparts graduate from college.
Once a person has a marketable skill, they can begin to take control their own destiny, and start themselves down the path to becoming a freelancer.
Yes, there’s a big difference between a newbie freelancer and one who’s a total rockstar, but it all begins with taking that first bold step, and that’s where life’s journey starts making sense.
Freelancer college, as I’m envisioning it, will be an intensive one-week course, where students begin this life-altering experience in a room filled with other wannabe freelancers.
As the gig economy grows, every free agent will need to surround themselves with a network of like-minded solopreneurs and the initial classroom training is a great place to start forming these networks.
The first thing that you, as a student, will learn is to take control of your life. As the owner/manager of “you incorporated,” every decision becomes a business decision. Being “in charge” changes how you talk about yourself, who your friends are, buying decisions, and what things become priorities.
The course will guide you through a roadmap of tools, systems, and techniques needed to forge an effective business model. But this is no ordinary roadmap. In so many ways it will become the mother of all roadmaps as it morphs, shifts, and changes with you for the rest of your life.
This should not be thought of as a restrictive pathway to trailblazing a future. Instead, freelancer college will likely become one of the most fertile approaches to continually build your opportunity landscape.
You don’t need to be an expert
Freelancers come in all shapes and sizes, and few young people will have the critical skills to command a high salary. But that’s okay.
Easy entry points are always day labor positions like offering a home laundry service, moving furniture, mowing lawns, walking dogs, or personal concierge.
- Home laundry services can easily grow into a variety of household management services where 3-5 households become a full-time business.
- Moving furniture can quickly transition from you doing the physical work, to you managing the process, offering additional staging and relocation services to expand the offering.
- Mowing lawns is a great way to begin a career as a freelance arborist, botanist, or professional groundskeeper.
- Walking dogs will often set the stage for a variety of freelance pet services like dog grooming, vet runs, and doggy spas and vacations.
- Personal concierge is a perfect door opener for offering personal protection services, publicist, reputation manager, or life coach.
In each of these situations, a handful of good clients can launch a productive freelance career.
Freelancer college learning modules
As with every multi-discipline form of training there are a variety of topics to focus on. Here are a few critical skills that most people will need early on.
- Fan club management – Every person has a fan club, a circle of friends who cheer them along life’s journey. Developing a productive “friends network,” and learning how to grow, manage, and interact with it, becomes an enormously important piece of the freelancer equation.
- How to create a website – Every freelancer will need a website along with good copy and at least one video. An effective website will leave many impressions highlighting unique characteristics, but most will need a crystal clear explanation of what you’re selling, great testimonials, past client list, and some form of “buy now” button.
- Marketing & lead generation 101 – Who are your ideal clients? Where do they live? What magazines do they read, what TV shows do they watch, what income do they make, and where is the best place to randomly bump in to them? There are many “leads groups” to help introduce you to the people you need to know.
- How to produce low cost videos – Posting a video or series of videos on Facebook, YouTube, and your website is an essential part of getting started.
- How to price your services – While you may think you’re offering a valuable service, clients will often have a different opinion. What’s the best way to “sell” them on you as well as the service you’re offering?
- Creating a business proposal – Who is in charge of the deal? If you submit a proposal, you have the advantage of controlling the terms of the deal.
- Contract negotiation – Having a boilerplate, fill-in-the-blanks contract is an easy way to start, but it also needs to give the impression that you know what you’re doing.
- Understanding legal entities – Should your business be set up as a sole proprietorship, partnership, C Corp, S Corp, LLP, or LLC? Should it be a for-profit or non-profit business, and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
- Networking tips and tricks – Your first client is only one networking event away. Learning to meet and greet prospective clients is indeed an art form.
- Social media management – Social media is not only a business tool but also a service you can offer to prospective clients.
- Overview of back office technology – How to purchase and manage your business tech. The right configuration of tools and gear can save you huge amounts of time.
- How to build a referral network – Even a half dozen people who regularly refer clients to you can be worth their weight in gold. But referrals go both ways so be prepared to give more than you get.
- Accounting 101 – What’s the best way to create invoices and track expenses? If you’re not good at managing your own books, find someone who is.
- How to manage the emotional side of business – Rejection is never easy, and getting criticism and bad reviews on Yelp, Google, and Facebook is often hard to take. Finding a support group to keep your head strait is critical. Virtually every good entrepreneur has someone they can lean on for advice, solve problems, and answer critical questions.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking colleges know what’s best for you. After all, they’ve been educating tens of thousand of people for hundreds of years, so they must be doing something right.
Sadly, colleges don’t know what’s best for you, only you do.
That’s what sets Freelancer College apart because it’s all about you and turning your talents into marketable business opportunities.
Millions of people around the globe are opting for greater independence in their work lives. As a result, they are joining the gig economy. Advances in technology have made it easier to launch, grow, and manage these types of businesses than ever before.
Here are a few stats about the growing gig economy:
- Researchers project that over half of the working U.S. population will be part of the gig economy within the next five years.
- One-third of U.S. office workers have a second job and more than half (56%) predict they will have multiple jobs in the future.
- More than one-third of Millennials are already independent workers.
- By 2025, over 75% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials.
- 80% of freelancers use social media as a means of finding work.
- Researchers have concluded that nearly all of the net job growth in the economy since 2005 has been in freelance and alternative work arrangements.
- The European Union saw a 45% increase in the number of independent workers from 2012 to 2013.
- India’s independent workforce, the second largest in the world, currently has about 40% of the world’s freelance jobs.
The best learning always occurs when you have a project where you can instantly apply the things you learn.
Writing a book, receiving a patent, or starting a business are all noteworthy symbols of achievement in today’s world. But being the author of a book that sells 50,000 copies, or inventing a product that a million people buy, or building a business that grosses over $10 million in annual sales are all significant accomplishments far more meaningful than their academic equivalents.
Most of what happens in today’s universities is based on “symbols of achievement,” not actual accomplishments.
Academic competitions pit students against each other to produce results that best match their teacher’s expectations. Only rarely will they produce anything noteworthy.
Completing a class is nothing more than a symbol of achievement. Similarly, completing many classes and receiving a diploma is noteworthy, but still only a vague representation of a real accomplishment.
No, this doesn’t mean that classroom training has no value. But, what we achieve in a classroom is at least one level of abstraction removed from a real-world accomplishment.
In the business world, it’s only an accomplishment if someone is willing to pay for it.
The global marketplace is not looking for people who have learned how to be great students. It wants results.
Criteria for graduation
Those who complete Freelancer College will get a certificate. But to receive a “Master Freelancer Certification,” students will need to demonstrate a definable market niche that closely aligns with their own personal expertise, and demonstrate certain criteria such as:
- Working with at least five clients per month
- Generating at minimum $10,000 every month for 12 months straight.
Ironically, those who manage to do this won’t really care about receiving the “Master Freelancer Certification.” That type of achievement will pale in comparison to their own real-world accomplishments.
Using other freelancers to help
Being a freelancer doesn’t mean you’re flying solo all the time.
The Internet is a very sophisticated communications tool that enables us to align the needs of business with the talent of individuals in far more precise ways than ever before. So rather than employ a full time person, companies will “hire” someone for 2 months, 2 weeks, 2 days, or even 2 hours.
While our tools for working with this level of precision are not quite as efficient as they should be, it’s only a matter of time.
It will also be a short time before we’ll have services that pair freelancers with other freelancers. We only have so many hours in a day, so leveraging the talent of others will become a routine part of every free agent’s toolbox.
Companies are also losing the restrictive notions of “place.” For many, the need for a physical location is either dwindling or disappearing. Business is becoming very fluid in how it operates, and the driving force behind this liquefaction is a digital marketplace that connects buyers with sellers faster and more efficiently than ever in the past.
I often think about the Ritz Carlton motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”
People who hire a freelancer have respect for your abilities. At the same time, with any good relationship, you’ll have respect for the work they’re trying to accomplish.
Over time you’ll be able to influence the nature of projects, as well as the path to accomplishment, and take pride in your achievements.
Rather than settling for whoever wanted to hire you, you have the ability to migrate to the top quickly, avoiding all the infighting and office politics involved in climbing the corporate ladder, sway people’s thinking, and make a meaningful difference along the way.
No, being a freelancer doesn’t come with health insurance, vacation time, or a 401k plan. But what it does offer is far greater.
You’re in control so you get to decide who you want as a client, when you’re available for work, and most often, how much you’ll get paid. Yes, sometimes you’ll get fired from a project, but you can also fire your client.
Freelancing done right will give you a far higher salary, a far more influential circle of friends, and most importantly, the ability to make a difference.