If you’re a successful freelancer, you already know the gig economy is here to stay. According to a 2016 report from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 42 percent of kids in Generation Z already want to start their own businesses, and more often than not, those entrepreneurial endeavors will look a lot like today’s freelance model.
As more youngsters see Mom and Dad open their laptops and work autonomously to pay the bills, the more possibilities they will see for themselves. They witness firsthand the benefits of running a company — the freedom, the flexibility, the family time and, of course, the pay.
Just 10 years ago, the predominant question facing high school grads was, “Where will you go to college?” Today, the question isn’t where, it’s whether or not a traditional college education is even the way to go. I know, I know, it’s blasphemous. Putting college on hold is a risky move. Or is it?
Here’s the difference: While our peers are saving for their kids’ colleges, we’re also setting aside an amount each month for our children, but it won’t go to a university — it will go toward a first business loan.
Benefits of Having a Company vs. a Degree
Someday, yes, it would be great for all young adults to have both formal educations and years of experience operating their own businesses. In your early 20s, however, most people can only have one of these. Which would you choose if you could? Would you want the education or a figurative crash course in business from the school of hard knocks? Book knowledge or a few years of real-life experience? Let’s look at the benefits of having a company early on in adulthood:
- Responsibility. Sure, most college grads are more responsible after emerging from their last finals week than they were before they enrolled in university four years prior. But compare those grads with a young business owner whose company has faltered or taken off based on every little move, and you’ll see a stark contrast. While responsibility is heavy, it is also handy. Responsibility creates a strong, unflappable character, ready for whatever lies ahead. And, unfortunately, that cannot be taught in a lecture (no matter how much tuition you’re paying).
- Flexibility. Finals week is brutal for college students who have less passion for coursework and more interest in real-world experience. Meanwhile, the young adult business owner spends his days lunching prospects, attending networking events or golfing with colleagues. Yes, operating a business can be difficult at times, but often, the business owner has the ability to plan around the more enjoyable tasks.
- Risk management. In college, you might risk switching majors partway through your time there, but for the most part, you’ll be fine. In business, managing risk is what keeps you up at night with both concern and excitement. If a risky move goes well, you can double, triple or quadruple your business at the stroke of a pen. The skill learned here is something no class can teach.
- Resourcefulness. When you have to make something work, you find a way. Business owners learn this early on. College creates an environment where you’re supplied with what you need to perform. While convenient, the supplies and support can inadvertently handicap students who need resourcefulness for post-graduation.
- Philanthropy. Community support organized by fraternity houses will always be appreciated, but imagine how empowered a 20-year-old would feel if he could employ a few people and donate a portion of his goods and services — consistently — to local underprivileged kids or the neighborhood nursing home. It’s the result of his abundant, growing and well-oiled operation.
There’s No One Right Path After Graduation
A young business owner will acquire accounting abilities, persuasive skills, marketing chops and legal knowledge, while his peers are applying themselves to their courses. Ultimately, what the next generation is seeing is that there isn’t one straight path to success like there used to be. Degree or not, passion and hard work can get you where you need to go now that the gig economy and self-starter cultures have saturated the market.
These are the skills I want my kids to have over a mounted and framed college degree. I believe in my radical idea so passionately that I’m prepared for each child’s first commercial venture to fail, because I know that even a bungled attempt at business ownership will teach a young adult more than a textbook and series of quizzes. The gig economy is the future, according to U.S. News and World Report, and it will only grow in popularity with the younger generations.
To ensure my kids get a head start in business (as opposed to a good position at a “good company”), I’m planning to pay their way through a less cushy education: the school of life.