BYU students find experience in freelance work

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(Bonnie Santiago)

BYU students in the finance and accounting industry had trouble finding jobs when the recession hit in 2007-2008, according to BYU professor Liz Dixon. She said a trend called the gig economy started as a result of the recession, and students turned to freelance work to make money.

“People were taking their talents and they were setting up ‘gigs’ for themselves,” Dixon said. “They would use their talents and leverage those to make extra money.”

Dixon is a professor in the department of organizational leadership and strategy and has done freelance editing, consulting and training. She said her freelance experience has helped her advance in her career.

“I think it just gives me more credibility among my peers and it gives me more experience,” Dixon said.

Dixon said now the trend has shifted back to students seeking jobs at corporations. She currently advises her undergraduate students to seek an internship or a job at a corporation before starting freelance work.

“With an internship, you’re aligned with mentors and leaders in a particular field,” Dixon said. “Undergraduate students really still need the mentoring, guidance and leadership of those who already have experience.”

But that doesn’t mean students haven’t found success in freelance work, even if they may have not had Dixon as a professor.

Derek Steele films a JamestheMormon concert to stream it live on Facebook. (Derek Steele)

BYU mechanical engineering sophomore Derek Steele has had several freelance jobs in videography. He was a part of a freelance crew that helped JamestheMormon film concerts and music videos last summer.

“I saw an offer that they had posted on their social media, to come and work for (James) as an intern,” Steele said. “I applied for it, really not thinking much that I’d get it. I got a call back and they asked me to tag along with their team.”

Steele said he has done freelance work to gain confidence in his abilities as a videographer.

“I’ve found that I have a skill that other people find valuable,” Steele said.

BYU illustration junior Bonnie Santiago has done freelance work in illustration. Santiago said she became interested in freelance work when she first started college.

“Art has always been a huge part of my life, and finding out a way to make money doing something I love sounded ideal to me,” Santiago said.

Bonnie Santiago painting a room decoration for a client. (Bonnie Santiago)

Santiago has done wall illustrations for bedrooms, decorative prints and customized event pieces.

Christian Santiago is Bonnie’s husband and a BYU junior majoring in graphic design. Christian said his professor at Knox College, a liberal arts college in Illinois, inspired him to start freelance work. His professor had worked in freelance in Los Angeles and New York.

“It opened my eyes to the possibility of art in the commercial world,” Christian said.

Christian has done freelance work for BYU with several start-up clothing companies, local restaurants and coding boot camps.

Steele, Bonnie and Christian feel freelance work can benefit other students with certain majors such as fine arts, communications and humanities.

Steele said college is a great time for people to look for freelance work, because it’s easy to make connections and find work.

“This is probably one of the times in your life where you’re going to be networking with such a great diversity of people,” Steele said.

Christian suggested students interested in freelance should begin offering free service. He said this has helped him in networking.

“By doing that, you’ll attract the larger clients that are willing to pay higher amounts,” Christian said.

The Santiagos plan on continue doing freelance work as students, but acknowledged it might not be right for every student. They also want to do freelance work in a career they’re passionate about.

“I want my work to inspire people and provide the opportunities necessary to live where I want and do what I love,” Bonnie said.

Dixon believes choosing freelance work depends on the person.

“Do you want the stability of working for a large corporation … or do you want to go work for yourself, because (you) like to be (your) own boss?” Dixon said. “There’s not one way for students to do it.”