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Why I Turned Down $30k and Refused to Get a Job in College

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When I decided to go to college and get a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in digital design, I think my parents were a little skeptical.

And rightfully so – how much money can you really earn as a designer?

They didn’t want me falling into the “starving artist” category.

There were two times I distinctly remember my parents wondering if this was a viable career path. One was when I got my first job offer after graduation. The other was when I refused to get a job on campus.

Here’s what happened:

When I started freshman year, I was offered a work-study program.

The college would pay me $30k over 4 years if I just got an on-campus job. (That’s about $250/week if you’re keeping track.)

My dad thought I was nuts for doing freelancing work instead (with zero experience). How could I turn down guaranteed income with no plan to make money?

I graduated in 2012. 🎓

In 2014, I bought my dad a car for Christmas using my freelance income.

In 2015, I quit that $70k design job my parents were hoping I’d get.

In 2016, I more than doubled that old salary.

Here’s the thing…

Parents often have the best intentions, but don’t operate with a complete perspective or understanding.

It’s likely been 30+ years since they got their first job. That means their career advice isn’t always the best for you.

This is especially true in Indian and Asian cultures where parents more heavily influence their children’s decisions and career path.

If that’s you, watch this video.

I decided to spend my 4 years of college hustling to make $10k instead of working at the library or food court to make $30k.

I would have learned nothing working at the library.

By freelancing on nights and weekends for 4 years with no risk, I learned how to be self-employed and run a business.

That $20k “loss” put me 4 years ahead of my peers and ultimately on the path to self-employment.

Sometimes you have to forge your own path and follow your own instincts even when the people around you don’t fully understand or support your decision at the time.

You can let that hold you back and use it as an excuse, or you can let it push you forward and use it as motivation.


Last updated on April 10th, 2020

About Matt Olpinski
Matt runs his own web design and development company Matthew’s Design Co. and teaches thousands of freelancers how to succeed through his personal blog, newsletter, and community for freelancers — The Freelance Institute.
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