Many things have changed since I finished high school. Some for good. Some for bad. Some for… it’s hard to tell yet. For example, my parents used to tell me that if I wanted to be successful, I had to finish high school, then graduate, and if I really wanted to become the best I would have to go for a DR. title.
Well… that didn’t happen. I finished high school with mediocre grades. I started to study Chinese and East Asian Arts but dropped out after a few months. Then I went for a vocational education program in banking and after 2 years of suffering through it, I decided that a bank was too boring and went back to studies again. It turned out that I got real talent for the Korean language, and so I got a bachelors degree in Korean studies in record time and with excellent grades, but that was as far as my aspirations had taken me. Then I started to work in hotels in Asia… and I got stuck with it.
It was not a bad career. After 8 years of hard work, out of which 6 years were with a 6-days-work-week and shifts of 12 hours a day, I became a General Manager in a hotel at the still young age of 37. Now I am looking for my next assignment and there seems to be a glance of opportunity ahead to become an Area GM (in charge of several hotels) with a long-term prospect of even moving up to the rank of a Vice President at some point. Yes, I could do worse.
But I didn’t need a Dr. title for that. I didn’t need a masters degree. My bachelor degree did open some doors and it’s hard to tell if I would have gotten where I am without it, but I can frankly say that I am using hardly more than 5-10 % of what I learned during my studies for my job routine.
I also know that I am not alone with this experience.
It is no secret that most college students hardly use anything of what they learned during studies in their regular jobs. If you ask me, that is also not the point of visiting a university or college. The main point is rather to broaden our horizons and to bring some methodology into our brains to understand critical thinking, decision making, research and techniques to evaluate whatever problem we are confronted with. We learn how to handle ourselves and how to develop further knowledge. It is not really meant to prepare us for a specific job. Well. There are a few exceptions. For doctors or lawyers for example. But I think my observation is pretty accurate for many fields of studies out there. Not all, but many.
People adjust as work environments create new patterns
So basically we know by now that what our parents were telling us was a bunch of crap. It’s not their fault, they grew up in a different world. A world without the internet, a world where working conditions were miserable but still better than what the 1st and 2nd World War left over for them. They were willing to work 7-days a week to help rebuild their country and to make sure their family has food on the table when they came back home.
Millennials don’t know any of that. While the parents of my generation were worried about an electric outage for their house or condo, Gen Y and Z are worried about empty phone batteries.
With the ever-increasing demand for Fussball-tables, free coffees and bean bags in office, with the rise of social welfare benefits, 5-day-workweeks (or even less) and countless other ways how the lives of employees need to be improved, companies have found a new method to strike back. Freelancing. And people are embracing it in the masses.
Freedom – not more and not less
Whether it’s driving for Uber or doing a quick translation job on Fiverr or Upwork. Freelancers are now everywhere. Some do it as a side-gig. Others turn to do it full-time. There are countless jobs available online that can be taken on by anybody who got the right skills at the right time. Rather than a diploma, the only thing you really need to take off is references. The more jobs you get done, the stronger your profile gets and the easier the earning becomes.
You are free to choose your place of work (as long as there is some wi-fi around), you can negotiate your salary. Nobody cares who you actually are, as long as you can get the job done. It’s a great opportunity for anyone with a certain skill-set to get into the market and simply start working.
But freedom obviously has its price. There is no security. If you get sick, you got no income. If your equipment brakes, you have to get a new one on your own. Retirement? Nope. Medical insurance? Dental? Nope to that too. Vacations? Paid Holidays? Don’t even dream about it.
Freelancing is not as free as we want to believe.
When you decide to become a freelancer, you need to bear this in mind. While with certain skills you are able to actually make a good living, you need to think about all those eventualities and how you can protect yourself in case of misfortune.
Also, believe it or not, even you might enjoy what you are doing as a freelancer at this very moment. But things can turn around and there is a high chance that you will start to hate your freelance job at some point. You will find out, that while you are free to set your terms, you are still not out of the rat race – because you still need to trade your time for money, to work relentlessly to ensure you can bring food to your table!
Protecting yourself through investments
Therefore, freelancers are actually even more exposed to financial dependence as they age compared with regular employees, and they should start investing very early on and learn all there is to learn about passive income.
Working for yourself on your own terms is a great and amazing opportunity. Make sure it doesn’t become a nightmare once you’re out of luck, when times turn tough, or simply when you get old – by building up streams of passive income. As my readers know well, investing in stocks is, in my opinion, a great way to do just that.