3 Gen Zers on deciding to become full-time freelancers: ‘I wouldn’t go back’ to a corporate job

Daily News
6 Min Read

Generation Z is making its way into the workforce, and many members are rethinking the traditional nine-to-five. A majority, 70% of Gen Zers consider freelancing to be as viable a career option as a typical office job, according to a February 2023 Fiverr survey of 7,121 Gen Zers from around the world.

Freelancing “serves as a major draw for a generation eager to pursue their passions, hone their skills and have more control over their earnings and career trajectory,” says Gali Arnon, CMO of Fiverr, in the report.

Freelancers already make up a significant portion of the labor market. More than a third, 39% of Americans freelance, according to work marketplace Upwork’s 2022 Freelance Forward survey of 3,000 professionals. That’s up three percentage points from 2021.

And some in Gen Z aren’t waiting long to get started.

Gigi Robinson, 24, influencer

Gigi Robinson, 24, had long struggled with chronic illnesses like Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and endometriosis. While getting her BFA at the University of Southern California, she started sharing her struggles on platforms like TikTok and began to amass a following. That’s when companies started reaching out with brand ambassador opportunities.

Robinson had done internships at companies like Paramount Pictures and planned on going into corporate entertainment, “but I think going to school in Los Angeles, which is kind of like the mecca for influencer culture, it became almost integrated into my workflow,” she says.

In her final semester at school in the fall of 2020, she decided to take those brands up on their offers and realized there was money to be made as a freelancer.

Two-plus years after graduating, she’s founded It’s Gigi, a company that encompasses her various income streams. They include a recent children’s book, public speaking, career coaching and continued brand partnerships. Robinson brought in more than $170,000 last year altogether.

At this point, “I wouldn’t go back to the corporate setting,” she says.

Mark Santos, 23, video editor

Mark Santos, 23, started his personal YouTube channel at age 11 in his hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil, documenting his life as a young teen. When he moved to Boca Raton, Florida, at 15, he started making videos about what it was like for a Brazilian to live in the U.S. And those gained some traction.

“I had like 100,000 subscribers when I was 16 years old,” he says. But though he’d hoped YouTube would become his full-time gig, the channel wasn’t making much.

Fiverrr freelancer Mark Santos.

Courtesy Mark Santos

While studying at the University of South Florida, Santos remembered that he’d previously seen “someone on YouTube talking about how they were doing well on Fiverr,” he says, and decided to start a profile on the site offering video editing services. Within a week, he’d booked his first client.

By the time Santos graduated in May 2022, he’d expanded his offerings to thumbnail and banner design, among others, and was working “at least 12 hours a day,” he says. He’d also started hiring freelancers to take on some of the work from his clients. It was clear this would ultimately be his job.

Today, he books between 100 and 200 projects per month, charging as much as $900 per project. “I never really wanted to work a corporate job,” he says. “I always knew that I was going to do something different.”

Nathaniel DeSantis, 26, podcast producer

Nathaniel DeSantis, 26, graduated from Furman University in 2019 and “applied to around 100 jobs,” he says, eventually landing one manufacturing parts for military equipment.

While there, the Greenville, South Carolina native started a movie review podcast with a friend and realized he loved the format. He dove into learning everything he possibly could about audio engineering and growing a podcast and quit the manufacturing job after a year. “I call that period of life getting my masters,” he says.

Nathaniel DeSantis.

Courtesy Nathaniel DeSantis

In late 2021, a friend put him in touch with a local nonprofit that needed help creating a podcast, and the Podcast Studio X was born. “We’re up to 11 clients,” he says, many of whom found him through word of mouth. “Our average contract is around $3,000 a month,” he says.

For DeSantis, it was simply about knowing what’s possible.

“It’s very easy to look around, especially with social media, and see all these products and businesses and services that make so much money that just don’t look like they’re that good,” he says. “If they can do it, you could do it.”

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