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Freelancing Tips for College Students

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Freelancing is an exciting way to earn money on your own terms, particularly when you’re in college. If you’re in need of a little extra cash, the ability to work as an independent contractor opens up the doors to earning some income.

There are few areas in life where this adaptable, flexible schedule is more helpful than in college. With living and education costs through the roof and wonky class schedules driving you from one thing to the next, it’s nearly impossible to find a part-time job, let alone a full-time one, that can fit into your busy lifestyle.

If you’re thinking of trying freelancing as a way to earn some much-needed cash while you’re in school, here are a few tips to help you get started.

Find the Right Freelancing Option for You

The first step is to find a freelancing option that you’re good at. There are many forms of freelance work, including things like:

  • Various kinds of writing
  • Photography
  • Rideshare driving
  • Art directing
  • Web development
  • Graphic design
  • Personal shopping

There are many, many other options out there. The internet has made it incredibly easy to access both clients and the work they need. Consider what skills you have and what areas of the freelance world are particularly suited to them. 

The good news is, this isn’t necessarily a career choice. If you enjoy being artistic, try freelance graphic design for a bit with no long-term commitment required. The same goes for photography, web development, and, really, anything else.

The important thing is that, for the time being, you find something that works for you. While there’s no long-term commitment, do your best to stick to it. Once you get some momentum, it will be more difficult to change directions. 

Instead, pick a good option that will work while you’re in college. Then focus on building up a client base and maximizing the financial side of things in that area for the next few years.

Learn to Set Priorities

One of the best things about freelancing is the ability to “turn on the faucet” and make as much money as you need once you get some momentum. However, that can also be a bit of a two-edged sword. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re operating as a rideshare driver, writing marketing content, or anything in between. Once you get that income rolling in, it can become a bit addictive. With a student workload to manage, it’s important that you maintain your priorities as you go along.

Set SMART goals for your freelancing that you can reasonably achieve without impacting your academic pursuits. That way you can focus on being polished and professional while you’re working. Then, when the time runs out or you reach a financial goal, you can stop and refocus on other areas.

Set Reasonable Expectations

Along with creating priorities and setting goals, it’s wise to consider what you’re trying to get out of the freelancing lifestyle. Are you going into freelancing because it’s a way to generate a little extra cash or do you think it’s going to be a huge moneymaker?

If you’re thinking the latter, your expectations may be a bit high. Remember, as a new freelancer with little-to-no experience in your field, you’re going to be starting from the bottom of the pyramid. 

This can often feel frustrating and even make you want to quit. For instance, if a freelance writer wants to find their first job, they may need to settle for something as low as $.02 or $.03 per word.

This can mean hours of hard work only to make thirty or forty bucks — and that’s okay. By doing the low-paying jobs, you create a portfolio that opens you up to jobs that pay $.06, $.08, and at times even $.15 cents or more. 

In other words, freelancing can be very lucrative, but that takes time. Don’t read one of those misleading articles that claim you can make six figures freelancing “just like I did” and fall for the idea that you can go out and do the same right from the get-go. Instead, prepare yourself to put in the hard work as you create a freelance foundation to build on.

Address Time-Management

Time management is already a crucial skill for college. You need to balance classes, homework, a social life, trips home, and many other activities. Adding work into the mix is always challenging.

The good news is that, as a freelancer, you’ll likely have a decent level of flexibility built into your new job. Even so, you’re still going to want to practice time management in whatever way you can. For example, you can:

  • Use productivity apps and tools, like the Pomodoro technique, to help you focus in the moment.
  • Use schedules and routines to help you stay organized and structured with your various responsibilities.
  • Look for online classes that can cut down on commute time and free up your schedule.

Each of these comes with its own challenges, especially as routines are notoriously difficult to maintain while you’re in school. Learning from home can only wreak further havoc on your schedules if you don’t build a certain degree of change and flexibility into things.

Even so, finding ways to effectively manage your time is essential. If you want to come through for your teachers and clients alike, you need to be productive and efficient no matter what you’re doing at any given moment.

Set the Stage Beforehand

If you decide that freelancing is the way you want to go, it’s worth setting the stage beforehand. By organizing yourself and getting the right tools and infrastructure in place, you can set the stage for a successful freelancing career that won’t fizzle under the pressure of the demands of school. A few areas to prep beforehand include:

  • Finances: From setting up a business bank account to paying your quarterly taxes, you need to make sure you’re ready to manage your finances once you start getting paid for gigs.
  • Work funnels: There are lots of ways to get freelance work, from identifying your ideal clients, to building an online presence, to crafting cold emails to identifying freelance sites you can use for networking. Do some research to figure out where you can go for work before you get too far into your freelancing efforts.
  • Organization: It’s also important to create clearly separate areas of your life for your school and professional activities to operate. This includes setting up emails and cloud-based storage spaces where you can keep all of your freelance work safe, sound, and organized.

By doing your homework and lining up resources ahead of time, you set the stage for successful freelancing that, administratively, can often run itself while you’re focused on school.

Double Dip When You Can

As a final tip, always keep an eye out for ways to get greater value from your freelancing efforts. There are many ways to do this, such as:

  • Building your future professional network through your freelancing work
  • Developing your skillset for your future career through the freelancing gigs that you choose
  • Adding to your portfolio as you go along to showcase professional experience along with your academic achievements
  • Using your freelance experiences to enhance your resume for future applications

By double-dipping, you can get paid for your freelance work today and leverage additional value into your future career, as well.

Finding Freelance Success in College

Freelancing is a great way to help you cover your bills while you’re in college. It’s also a nice way to get some professional experience and build your network while your career is incubating in academia.

However, if you want your freelance work to succeed, it’s important to approach it thoughtfully. Use the tips above to create a sound strategy that you can implement while you’re in school. That way, you can get the most out of every ounce of your freelance work as you go along.