I just realized this week that webdesign/graphic design is not really a great area to go into. Well maybe it is but I just recently felt that I would like to do something different out of colledge. I mean webdesign is my obsession now days but I think i want to go into engineering or something. A lot of freelancers that are my age and older say they want to do this and that jobs that have nothing to do with freelancing. So I ask you "what job do you want?"
Your post kind of took two different directions by the end so I'm going to answer the freelance question
I'd say the freelance market is still a very good place to make money. I found that as long as you don't budge on your pricing (don't get suckered into fighting for clients based on price) you'll be fine. Within a couple years a had a very loyal group of clients all having no problems paying $30.00 USD per hour.
When I first started out, I tried to fight for jobs on elance, etc but it's just not possible. With people willing to do an entire website for $200, your only choice is going for those quality clients. I do have to admit I was somewhat lucky as almost all of my clients branched out from my first.
Anyways, I'm now done with the freelance thing. The money was good but I just can't handle dealing with design clients anymore. No time... and no patience