Embracing the side-hustle: freelancing and the gig economy

Photo by Casey Gomez

When I started college, I put my camera in the bottom drawer of my rickety freshman desk in Hefner and decided it would be easier to take photos with my phone. I decided that no one needed professional photography, not even I, and shoved my side-hustle under the rug.

Why did I do that? Because I was a newly-minted high school graduate who felt like she needed to focus all of her time on her new job as a full-time
college student.

We’ve heard it all before. You’re a musician. You’re a photographer. You’re an artist. You want to chase your dreams and become a full-time musician but your parents tell you — and you tell yourself — to find that 9-5 job to keep you stable, and then you can pick up that guitar “on the side.”

As the weeks went on to months and my camera collected enough dust particles to turn a sort of grayish color, I realized what a stupid decision I had made. I was going crazy.

Call me a naive dream-chaser, but I just could not go another day without pulling out my camera, waking up at dawn to take photos at sunrise, then rushing to upload the photos to my computer so I could edit my work. I did that once during my freshman year, and now I get to do that every day.

In my two years of building my brand as a freelance photographer in Atlanta, I have learned an immense amount of information on the technical and artistic sides of photography, and the client-facing and financial side of the craft as well. The work isn’t consistent, though — sometimes I’ll have five photoshoots during one week, and sometimes a month will go by without a single client request.

But it is called a “side-hustle” for a reason. I find myself hustling at three in the morning, finishing up client edits for delivery the next day, but I think that’s what makes it exciting.

Nothing better complements a structured-student or full-time job lifestyle quite like freelancing. From what I have learned, this is a comfortable situation to be in if you have a separate full-time job, and if you don’t, then you have more time to commit to your freelance gigs.

To put it simply, you get out of it what you put into it.

If you choose to commit to the freelancer lifestyle, you will not be the only one. The gig economy, freelancing, entrepreneurship and side hustling all tell us that pushing our interests to the side and working a cubicle job of 40 hours per week is no longer the norm.

We now have websites that connect wedding photographers with couples, countless entries on programming forums that begin with, “So I’m making my own app … ” and dozens of workshops that encourage the entrepreneurship career path.

The idea of being your own boss is attractive, and freelancing provides you with a more flexible schedule.

Free-lancers make up about a third of the workforce in the United States, and that number is expected to rise to 50 percent by 2020.

Hiring free-lancers saves businesses and organizations money by allowing them to hire on a need-basis, without having to worry about screening candidates for full-time employment or providing benefits or physical office space for their consulting hirees. Outsourcing work can also help a business become more efficient in completing its projects and is a great way to create business relationships and networking circles.

The gig economy is booming, and it’s open to everyone. Even if you don’t have a passion project, a lonely guitar waiting to be played or a family member who needs a website built for their own side hustle, find a way to get involved in the gig economy and ditch relying on just the
traditional 9-5.

Turn your full-time software consulting job into your own software consulting business.

Combine your engineering experience and your eye for design and create beautiful, functional products and open up your own Etsy shop.

Or keep your full-time job and make time to cultivate your interests and personal projects, especially if your full-time job is being a student at Tech.

We are the generation of go-getters that will move the gig economy forward.