Facing a Lukewarm Job Market and Still-Recovering Economy, Millennials Discover Alternative to Traditional 9 to 5 Jobs

Millennials are increasingly looking to freelance opportunities, especially in copywriting, as a viable primary source of income in these tough times.

It's a side effect of the global economic meltdown and ongoing recovery that hasn't made the headlines much. Young people these days, whether they're just out of college or have been in the workforce for a few years, are finding it hard to make their mark – and decent wages.

The sputtering economy, the gutting of retirement plans, and other factors have kept older workers in the workforce longer. A recent report from the Conference Board, a business research organization, found that the number of Americans between 45 and 60 planning to delay retirement jumped from 42% to 62%.

And that means less room for the new generation, even in entry-level positions. But Millennials (those aged between 21 and 31) are not taking it lying down. They've embraced becoming “free agents.” Working part-time for several employers or taking on several projects at a time, they're been able to replace or exceed a traditional full-time income. A recent survey from Elance found that half of Millennials identified themselves as this type of “independent professional.”

Copywriting is a freelance opportunity with one of the lowest barriers to entry. It is essentially advertising writing, and it comes in all forms, from online sales pages to brochures you read at your doctor's office to emails you receive from your favorite online retailer to infomercials you see on TV. Copywriting skills can be learned quickly. And it's not uncommon for new copywriters to make a great living just a few months into their careers because their services are in such high demand.

It's estimated that the direct marketing industry, one of the largest employers of copywriters, is worth $2 trillion a year. And e-commerce, another niche in dire need of copywriters to help generate sales, generated $1.2 trillion in worldwide sales in 2012, according to industry watcher eMarketer. The U.S. alone accounted for $343 billion and is on track to grow 12 percent in 2013.

American Writers & Artists Institute Member Rae Robinson, 23, like many of this new generation of freelancers, took her love of writing and created a career all her own in this niche.

“I promised myself I would never have a job I didn't love. Some people see that as selfish, like I was trying to avoid 'paying my dues.' But who says young people have to pay dues? I mean, really – who says?” says Rae.

She has the freedom and flexibility of working from home. But she's on her way to making six-figures – and she's just out of college.

“There are so many tangible and intangible benefits of this amazing career we’ve discovered. The tangible is, of course, the great income,” says Rae. “For a fresh college graduate to be on track to making six figures my first real year of working is unheard of.”

She started copywriting in her early 20’s, squeezing in projects and education in between part-time jobs and college classes. And since graduation her career has really taken off. She currently writes mostly for natural health publishers, including Newsmax Health and Mira Herbals, and Christian businesses.

She enjoys the income copywriting brings. But there are other perks.

“The more abstract benefit is the freedom. I take every Tuesday morning off to play cards with my mom and my 'adopted' grandmother,” says Rae. “ I can do my work at Barnes and Noble … in my bed … or out next to the pool if I want. I can work at noon or at midnight.”

Rae is not alone.

Fellow American Writers & Artists Inst. Member Christina Gillick, 26, took up freelancing after a few years in a regular job, working as a copywriter for personal development and business opportunity companies.

Christina enjoys the freedom of the freelance life.

“I love waking up without an alarm, taking off early without having to ask permission, skipping rush hour traffic, eating healthy meals, and all the other benefits of working at home,” says Christina. “It's also great to have a 'job' that flexes with my needs. I can take on more clients when I need more income or accept fewer jobs if I want more free time.”

To hear more about Millennial freelancers, read Rae's story here and Christina's here.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: February 14, 2013