College students have a unique challenge in the changing labor market. A COVID-19 recession could impact their future earnings for years to come. With record high unemployment, a pandemic limiting work prospects, and the gig economy booming, the traditional post-graduation career paths are no longer viable or appealing options. Companies may not be hiring, but contractors in every industry are finding work. That’s why now is the perfect time to start your own freelance business. I spoke with studio art majors and sisters, Kelly and Krystal Majid, about their plans to start selling their artwork and building their business during this uncertain time. Here’s what I learned.
When determining in what direction they wanted to take their business, the twins leaned into their college studies and thought about how they might like to use this opportunity as a bridge to their future career goals. “I go to college for studio art with a specialization in drawing, so I’m planning to create an online shop through Etsy to make some money on the side. I plan on selling drawings and paintings of all sizes and mediums (pencil, pen, charcoal, acrylic and oil paint) but ideally mostly portraits,” Kelly Majid said. “I think starting small and selling this way can help get my name out there and maybe even help bring opportunities to me so that I can have a successful career in art.” There is no risk to building your brand and seeing what opportunities may come.
Expanding your customer base gives you more freedom to create.
The artists have sold their work before, but have generally relied on social media and word of mouth to attract interested buyers. “To get clients I would try to advertise my business on social media like Instagram and Snapchat, and on the multiple accounts I’ve made to maximize my reach. I’d probably also tell my immediate family and extended family, and hopefully they can promote my business on their social media too, or they can even help me get clients by telling the people they know about my business.” Social media is a great tool for defining and expanding your brand, but the sisters are on the right track with tapping into their personal network first.
Now that they’ve found some traction with their friends and family, the artists are motivated to start a business to grow their customer base. They’ve found that a business with a larger audience gives them more agency to determine what and when to produce. When asked why it was important for them to have freedom over their work, Kelly said, “I can do everything on my own terms and accommodate my workload into my schedule in a way that’s most efficient for me. I can do the thing I love in a way that makes me the most comfortable and productive so I can produce my best work. Being an artist is all about having freedom in every aspect while you create your work.” Krystal chimed in, “Working on my own time could be more beneficial to my mental health and my creativity, as working on a schedule might decrease my motivation to produce good art and would give me less satisfaction, as I wouldn’t feel like I’m making the works to my own standards. Not only do I get the reward of making art in a space that I would be more comfortable in, but I would definitely be more productive without the pressures that come with a work environment. In addition, being able to set my own prices for my products allows me to feel like I’m getting the pay I deserve for the art I make.” To these sisters, having their own business means more than just creating what they want, it ensures that what they create stays wholly theirs. It means that they can set the terms for their creative process and for the distribution of their art.
The administrative tasks are the hardest part of freelancing.
Starting their own business gives these artists the creative freedom they need to be successful, however the task of organizing such an endeavor is daunting. “Honestly, I wouldn’t know how to get health insurance or be incorporated if I was working from home or through a website like Etsy. I don’t know the benefits and logistics of something like that,” Kelly said. SoleVenture is an all-in-one freelance management platform that enables freelancers to incorporate, access benefits like health insurance, bill and invoicing, and manage their tax payments and cashflow. “I think SoleVenture would be a helpful tool to help organize and better inform me on the steps that I should take to maintain my personal business.” Krystal said.
Many college students might think that they lack the experience or knowledge to start their own business, but with tools like SoleVenture, Kelly doesn’t think that should discourage them. “I feel like now is the best time for college students to create their own business, especially since unemployment rates are at an all-time high and it would be hard to find a job that would cater to everyone’s needs and accommodate their worries at a time like this.” Many college students are between places to live and aren’t sure whether they will be returning to campus next semester. We’re all looking for some stability. “You can have peace of mind knowing that you have your own business as a constant.”