5 Best Freelance Careers For High School & College Dropouts

Don’t listen to anyone who mocks you or laughs at you for not finishing high school or college.

Despite what your parents and friends are saying, you can find jobs without a degree. You don’t need those fancy 4-year college degrees to land a profitable job and make a comfortable living.

During a podcast, Neil Degrasse Tyson once said that you should not listen to your parents’ advice on which career path you should take. Because the times are now different and the careers that they deemed successful are now long gone or replaced by robots.

Your parents have no idea about what kind of careers are trending right now or which of them might make you successful in the future. So it’s up to you to choose your career path and your high school diploma or certificate plays no role in most of the best careers available today.

There are plenty of ways you can find a career without a degree. In fact, I’ll show you how I’ve managed to create my own career without any school qualifications.

In this post, I will also tell you about 5 of the best careers for college dropouts and high school dropouts that you can pursue online and in the comfort of your home.

Are you up for the challenge? Good! Then let’s get started.

From High School Dropout To $5K A Month Freelancer


I know exactly how you feel because I was in your position not so long ago.

Right now your parents are probably yelling at you for being stupid and not being able to finish college. Your friends are laughing at you for failing to finish high school. You are constantly questioned by your relatives on why you dropped out and what you’re going to do next. Am I right?

When I dropped out of high school (actually I was pretty much kicked out of high school) I was terrified. Because, in our country, having a solid education is a must to stay alive and earn a living.

Failing exams and not having a proper education is a path toward homelessness. At least that’s what my parents and friends made me believe. Thankfully, I managed to prove them wrong.

After going through several demeaning jobs, I managed to create my own profitable career online as a freelance writer making $5,000 a month from home. That’s like 10X the average salary of a government employee in Sri Lanka.

Looking back, I’m thankful that I dropped out of high school. Because if I stayed in school and finished college, I’d probably be working at a boring desk job in an office somewhere earning a cheap salary.

Can You Build A Career As A Freelancer?

is freelancing a career

Freelancing and working online is still a strange field for most people who grow up in traditional social environments.

For most people, finishing school, getting a stable job, getting married, and having kids is the ideal life. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But, if you’re not happy with that traditional path, you should be able to pursue something you enjoy doing.

My point is, you can still build a career doing something you love, like designing logos for brands or writing articles for a magazine. As long as you grow your skills and progress in your field, you are building a career.

The very definition of the word “career” is “a job or profession that someone does for a long time”.

You can start out as a logo designer and work your way to joining a big brand as a visual storyteller. Or write articles for a blog and join a magazine as an editor. That’s a career!

So, to answer the question, Yes, you can build a career as a freelancer.

3 Steps To Find A Career Without A Degree

career path

Think of your dropping out of college or high school as an opportunity to reboot your life and plan a new career. Because now you’re in control of your career and your future.

You don’t have to rely on your exam scores to find a suitable career path. Now you get to decide which path you take.

Of course, this also means that you have many challenges ahead of you. Since you don’t have a complete education, you need to learn skills by yourself so that you can create services around those skills and earn money.

For example, if you learn to use Illustrator you can then learn to design infographics, which is actually a great skill to offer as a service to clients.

So, before you start looking for jobs and planning careers, you need to educate yourself. There are 3 steps you must follow.

Step 1: Learn New Skills


A school will give you education but it never teaches any skills or prepare you for a job. Even after graduating, you’ll be on your own to find a job and learn the skills that are required for that particular job.

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t finished college because even the folks who graduate with a degree will be put in the same situation as you are when they go looking for a job.

Having dropped out, you now have more time to focus on learning real skills that are marketable in the real world.

For example, I took a lot of online courses on writing, marketing, and design to prepare myself for the market that I wanted to target as a freelancer. Right now I’m taking a MicroMasters program on edX. Because I don’t plan on being just a freelance writer forever.

I have a career planned and the next step in that plan is to become a content strategist. I’m following more online courses and programs to help me reach that next step.

Go take some online courses. Learn new skills that you know you’ll be good at, whether it’s writing, web design, graphic design, drawing, just experiment with your abilities and learn from others.

edX is a great place you can find online courses from universities around the world. And you can audit those courses for free.

Skillshare is another great platform you can use to learn any skill you want. It’s very affordable and has thousands of classes that you can access for a single price. I’m still using it to learn new skills.

Don’t hesitate to spend a few dollars on your education. This will reward you for more than 1000X in the future.

Step 2: Practice Your Craft


Before starting my freelance career online, I started a blog. This blog didn’t make a ton of money but it did help me with one important thing. That is to practice my craft and improve my writing skills.

Thanks to my blog, I learned how to write for online audiences. I actually wrote up to 20 posts per day for the blog managing everything by myself. English wasn’t even my first language but after 4 years of writing for my blog, I managed to write just as well as a native English speaker.

Learning new skills isn’t enough. You should also practice them.

If you’re learning about graphic design, force yourself to do one design per day and upload it to your portfolio on Behance. If you’re learning to code, find projects on GitHub and contribute to the ones you can.

Practice. Practice. And then practice some more.

Step 3: Build Your Portfolio


Another great benefit of having my blog was that I was able to use it as my portfolio. Whenever I pitch a job on a freelance marketplace, I would link to my blog and say “I made this”. It was enough to convince 3 out of 5 clients to hire me for the job.

While you’re practicing your craft, also work on your portfolio. Have your own portfolio website or use platforms like Behance, Dribbble, GitHub, and Medium to showcase your best work. It will come in handy when you’re ready to apply for work.

This whole process may take some time. Well, I hate to break it to you. There are no shortcuts to making money. The good news is that you no longer have to sit through boring maths classes and biology classes that you never understood.

Now, you get to choose the subjects that you love to learn and turn that education into something that’s actually useful and profitable.

Best Freelance Career Paths For Dropouts


So how do you know which career to follow? Well, that’s something you need to figure out. It doesn’t have to be a passion or come from a gut feeling. If you’re interested in something, go experiment with it. See if it leads to something.

You can actually use those skills you’ve learned to create a career out of your freelance services. Here’s how it works.

1. Freelance Writer

Freelance writing is not the most profitable career you can pursue, but it’s a career with many different paths to choose from.

For example, there are many different types of freelance writers, like copywriters who write copy for websites and product descriptions. Freelance bloggers who write for blogs. Freelance editors who manage other writers and edit content. Technical writers. Non-fiction writers. Social media writers. And many more.

Depending on your interests and skills, you can choose whichever niche you’re most comfortable with and still earn a good living.

And it doesn’t end there either. You can then follow steps to climb up in your selected career path as a writer as well.

For example, I’m working full-time as a freelance writer and mostly write for blogs. But, my career plan is to next become a content strategist to take a team of writers under my wings. Or hopefully, join a startup as a digital marketing strategist.

2. Freelance Programmer / Coder

Programming is without a doubt the most profitable career you can pursue. It will pay you $100 an hour minimum if you have what it takes to prove your skills.

Coding also has impressive career paths as well. For example, you can join a startup as a founder by providing your coding skills in exchange for equity in the company. You can use sites like AngelList to find these opportunities. This site is filled with jobs posted by new startups that also accept co-founders and give out equity.

3. Freelance Designer

Even though it’s easy to learn to use Photoshop, it takes a lot more work to become a designer. You need to learn to use colors, typography, vectors, templates, user experience design, user interaction design, and more.

As a freelance designer, you can follow different career paths to step up your career in many ways. You can become a lead designer to take a team of designers under your wings, or become a user experience designer and join a startup, or become a project leader and join a company.

4. Freelance Marketer

Freelance marketing is very closely related to writing. I’m also interested in following a path in this category as well. That way I get more points when applying for a better job since I have both writing and marketing skills.

I’ve been learning email marketing, content marketing, SEO, Inbound marketing, and several other areas to improve my skills.

One of the most sought-after careers in this niche is growth hacking. Growth hackers are innovative marketers who find new ways to promote and sell products. If you learn marketing and use creative ideas, growth hacking is a highly profitable career to pursue right now.

5. Freelance Artist

When talking about artists and illustrators, people often imagine them as a bunch of poor and sad folks who can barely afford rent and drink a lot. Well, the Internet changed all that for good.

In fact, I’ve been encouraging my sister to also pursue a career in art as well. She can draw pretty well and she’s been sharing her art on Instagram. She recently got a client through Instagram who offered a contract to draw art for a children’s book.

My sis is very young but she has high hopes. She’s dreaming about getting into the comic book industry to join the team at a publishing company, which is a really hot industry right now with the hype of superheroes and comics. She also likes to draw concept art and scenes for video games and movies.

There are many different career paths you can take as a freelance artist. Even if you couldn’t land a job as an artist at a company, there are still many other ways to make money drawing, like selling posters, illustrations, and templates online.

In Conclusion

I admit all of this work can be very challenging. That’s why most people fail to survive as freelancers because they give up halfway through the process.

Make no mistake, there will be times when you feel like giving up. And, of course, learning skills and choosing a career path is only the beginning. Next, you have to find jobs and clients. Believe it or not, that’s actually the easy part. So, keep learning and pushing forward.

You can start by checking out my free guide How to Start Freelancing and then you can explore more through my book, Freelance Like A Pro.


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