Graduate freelancers doing it for themselves

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The rise of the graduate freelancer

The rise of the graduate freelancer saying ‘see you never’ to corporate life.

“I’m working on my side-hustle”

“I left the corporate world in search of more flexibility”

“I’m making more now as a freelancer than I ever did in my corporate career”

When you chat with a freelancer, these are the types of comments you’ll typically hear. 

According to our latest research, the majority of freelancers are aged around 25 to 44 – enough time to get established in their industry and begin pursuing a career that marries their passion and skills with their lifestyle. 

But there is a new freelancer on the rise, and she’s saying ‘see you never’ to corporate life.

Meet the graduate freelancer

More graduates are turning to freelancing straight out of university, boldly leaning on their creative talents and effort over age or experience. One such freelancer is Sarah, who at 21 is only just completing her final year of studies and has already been freelancing for years. 

“After interning in a marketing agency at the beginning of my degree, I discovered what I loved doing (and what I didn’t). 

That’s where I uncovered my passion for copywriting. I’d always been a writer, and after receiving good feedback on my work at the agency, I was inspired to pursue it as a side hustle while studying because to me, it’s more about creative talent and effort rather than age or experience.

Plus, I didn’t want to wait until I graduated to give it a go!”

The rise of the graduate freelancer

Sarah is one of many young graduate freelancers skipping the corporate world and proving that freelancing isn’t just for those trying to escape the 9-to-5 grind. These women have decided there is no time to waste in building a flexible career that offers them the freedom they’ll inevitably need later in their lives. 

“While I’m young and have less responsibility I want to try my hand at everything – learn as much as I can and see where my career takes me. I know growing my freelancing business can afford me those opportunities, as well as more freedom and income than a traditional job.  

I also see myself travelling and building a family in future, so having that inherent flexibility, as opposed to a more structured full-time position, is a big reason to continue down this path.

Freelancing can take me anywhere. I can pick it up and work from my desk, my bed, a cafe or a whole other country without compromising quality or income.”

Universities playing their part

Universities have played their part in encouraging this new wave of graduate freelancers, with many, including Torrens University, now offering degrees and courses in entrepreneurship.

SPARK Deakin is an entrepreneurship program powered by Deakin University. Founded by Svetha Venkatesh, an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow, Alfred Deakin Professor, the program offers a number of opportunities to support their students, staff, and alumni on their entrepreneurial journey. 

One such opportunity is the Women in Digital Work Program, a fully subsidised training program for migrant and culturally diverse women who are interested in freelancing or owning a digital business. 

The Program exists to provide a safe online space to explore the process of starting a digital business, help students to transfer existing skills into a new way to earn money, and connect with a community of supporters, mentors and other like-minded women.  

Room for improvement

Not all universities are keeping up with the future of work though. Sarah says her chosen trade as a copywriter is not even taught in her degree, and most certainly does not discuss opportunities in freelancing or starting a business. 

“There is an entrepreneur hub at my university that has a strong focus on tech startups, so much of their initiatives don’t apply to my work. 

Additionally, in my degree (business and communication), we are taught of the traditional trajectory into agency or in-house full-time corporate work. 

Freelancing and running your own business is often not discussed, nor is my trade of copywriting taught in any of my units. It was outside the classroom, via work experience, that I gained these skills. 

I think there is a lot of space for universities to discuss alternative routes after graduation, and encourage students (especially women) to consider doing it for themselves!”

The future is freelance and these Gen Z ladies know it. The universities that already recognise this and champion these young women by providing the learning opportunities they’re looking for will benefit. 

Are you a graduate freelancer saying never to the 9-to-5? A great place to start is to join a community of women already championing their worth and connecting to grow and bloom in the gig economy. Become a Gem today!


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