Media Perspective: Freelancing is great, but try to get in while you are still young

This is my last piece about freelancing. When you read this, I'll be in my first week of proper employment and all this free-lancing wisdom will be swept from my head by colleagues, meetings and regular income.

And that's the first thing I wanted to discuss today - income - because I've spent the past few years earning about a quarter of what I earned when last employed and that's worth thinking about.

Unless you're very lucky, freelancing is not a way to get rich. It's a way to be flexible, to learn a lot, to see all the school plays you want to, but it's not a way to be wealthy. Which is why I always urge people to consider it earlier in their career than I did.

Of course, some people are forced to freelance through lack of alternatives and that is an uncertain and fragile predicament not to be wished on anyone. But if you're fortunate and plucky enough to choose freelancing, the best time to do it might be when you're still young and used to earning less.

Do it before mortgages and commitments are nagging at you all the time. Start your business when living like a student won't seem such a culture shock.

It normally doesn't work like that - we normally wait until we have a body of experience to be sold to the world.But in this industry and this economy, nobody knows anything anyway, so your experience is as valid as mine. That way, you can afford to be choosy about the jobs you take and can dedicate yourself to work that can help you learn and stretch.

Because that, for me, has been the greatest joy of the freelance life - all the variety of the agency world but squared. More things, more difference, more challenges, more time to learn.

And you don't just discover new categories and industries: you learn how to manage your own life. You're forced to master cash-flow and tax, you work out how to get people to pay you, how to get your printer working and when you can get the cheapest train ticket to Manchester. And you learn whether there's VAT on train travel (anyone?).

These are good things to know. They will make you more resilient and employable. You will be able to resist the infantilising habits large corporations can instil, which will make you better at your job.

And, most importantly, you will come to learn to have proper respect for those people who do this sort of stuff all the time.

So, on my last Sunday night as a non-employee, polishing my slide-rule and pumping up my bike tyres before the first day at the office, I'd like to offer a big shout out to Accounts, Travel and IT. Respect to you all.

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