Freelancing can be a great way for students to supplement their income while still having time to focus on their studies. With the right strategy and approach, freelancing as a student can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
In this article, I’ll share my own experiences as a student freelancer along with some tips for getting started in your own freelance journey.
How I Started Freelancing As A Student
When I was studying chemistry at university, I worked in a local shop part-time, so I was making some money on the side already. But I wanted two things:
- More money (obviously)
- To make that money on my own terms
Initially, I started by doing small writing jobs on Fiverr, and slowly my workload became more consistent. Eventually, I was able to quit my part-time job and focus solely on freelancing (and my studies of course!).
As I gained more experience and confidence, I was able to move on to writing for clients off of the Fiverr platform. This allowed me to work on higher-paying projects and build up a solid portfolio of work.
Even through the difficult times brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, I was able to continue freelancing and earning a steady income. I also didn’t let my studies suffer too much—I graduated with a first-class honours degree in chemistry (I’m from the UK). Today, I am still a freelancer, enjoying the freedom and flexibility that the lifestyle provides!
So, how can you do the same?
How You Can Start Freelancing As A Student
First, you need to make sure that freelancing is something you really want to do. It can be difficult and time-consuming, so make sure it is something that you are willing to commit yourself to.
Ask yourself the following questions before you start:
- Do I have the time and dedication to commit to freelance work?
- Does my coursework leave me with the mental capacity for freelancing?
- Am I willing to put in extra hours when necessary?
- What skills do I have that could be beneficial for freelancing?
- How can I best market my services as a student freelancer?
- What type of projects or clients am I most interested in working with?
- Are you legally able to freelance? (Important if you want to freelance as a teenager)
Choose Your Niche Carefully
Decide what type of work you would like to specialize in and how much time and effort you can dedicate to it. This will help ensure that the projects you do take on are ones that align with your interests and skillset.
When choosing a niche as a student freelancer, it’s important to consider your interests, skills, and availability. By selecting a niche that aligns with your strengths and passion, you will be more likely to enjoy your work and produce high-quality results. Below are some tips for finding your niche.
Note: Looking for more information about what freelancing involves? Check out our full guide to what freelancing is.
Consider Your Academic Background
As a student, you may have expertise in a particular academic field, such as science, technology, or writing. You can leverage this knowledge and experience to offer services related to your expertise. For example, if you’re a computer science student, you could offer web development or programming services.
It doesn’t have to be related to your degree – I started by providing writing and editing services and I did a chemistry degree!
Identify Areas Of Interest
Also think about what you enjoy doing in your free time.
Are you a skilled photographer? Then freelance photography could be the ideal career for you.
Do you enjoy graphic design or social media marketing? There are lots of creative freelancing opportunities out there for you.
By identifying your hobbies and interests, you can find freelance work that aligns with your passions.
Research The Market
Look for industries and markets that are currently experiencing a lot of demand. By finding a niche that is in high demand, you can increase your chances of finding regular work. However, you might also want to consider niches with less competition.
Consider Your Competition
Before settling on a niche, it’s important to research the competition. Look at other freelancers who offer similar services to assess the level of competition in your niche. If the market is oversaturated, you may want to consider a different niche or find a unique angle to differentiate yourself from the pack.
Evaluate Your Availability
As a student, your schedule may be hectic during certain times of the year. Consider your availability when choosing a niche and offering services. For example, if you know that you will have limited availability during exam periods, you may want to focus on projects that have longer deadlines.
Physical Or Digital Freelancing?
When deciding whether to pursue physical or digital freelancing, consider the type of work you are interested in and the amount of time you have available. Physical freelancing requires more face-to-face interaction with clients, which can be beneficial for networking and building relationships but may also require more time commitment, usually something that’s tough to accommodate as a student.
Digital freelancing typically involves working remotely, so it can be a good option if you don’t want to commute or spend too much time away from your studies. I imagine most people reading this article are looking for digital rather than physical freelancing jobs.
So, where can you find freelance jobs when you’re a student?
How To Find Freelance Clients As A Student
Building A Portfolio
Firstly, having a portfolio is essential for any freelancer, especially students looking to gain experience in the industry. It provides potential clients with an opportunity to see your work and get an idea of what you are capable of doing.
But building a portfolio as a student can be challenging if you have limited experience. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to create one that will help showcase your skills and abilities.
First, if you do have experience or past projects you can point to, gather them together in a portfolio builder or create your own website. The latter can be daunting, but there are lots of website building platforms out there that make it very easy. And having your own website offers lots of customization potential and it’ll look super professional too.
If you don’t have any samples yet (understandable if you’re a beginner freelancer), you can create your own. Design mock logos, write on platforms like Medium, or offer to work for reduced fees in order to get some pieces together for your portfolio.
Use Freelance Marketplaces
Freelance marketplaces are some of the easiest places to find jobs as a beginner freelancer. I started out on Fiverr, and while the platform has changed a lot over the years, it’s still a viable way to make it as a freelancer. But there are lots of other options (including job boards as well).
Some of the best places to find freelance jobs as a student include:
In the next section, I’ll discuss one of the most important aspects of freelancing as a student: managing your time effectively.
How To Manage Your Time As A Freelancing Student
Establishing clear goals upfront will help ensure that you don’t get sidetracked or overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks you may have on the go at one time. Identify your short-term and long-term objectives and then prioritize them accordingly. Also include your study goals in here, as you will need to manage them alongside your freelancing efforts.
Create A Schedule
Once you know what you need to do, create a schedule that works best for you. Estimate how long each task will take and plan accordingly. Having a designated timeframe for tasks helps ensure that everything gets done on time.
It’s important to take regular breaks to stay focused and productive throughout the day. This can range from taking a quick walk around the block or having lunch with friends.
Automating tedious or repetitive tasks such as invoicing, email follow-ups and scheduling can help save you time and energy by eliminating these small yet important elements of freelancing. There are lots of apps out there that can help with these tasks.
Track Your Progress
Last but not least, track your progress to stay on top of goals and objectives. This will also enable you to adjust your workflow as needed in order to maximize your efficiency. When you find tasks that are taking up disproportionate amounts of your time, eliminate them if possible or find a more efficient way to get them done.
Should You Freelance While At College Or University?
Freelancing while in college or university can be a great way to build experience, gain new skills, and earn money on the side. Freelancing gives you an opportunity to take on projects that align with your interests and passions, allowing you to gain valuable work experience before graduating.
However, it’s important to consider whether freelancing is right for you. As a student, your studies should always come first, and if you find yourself struggling to manage the workload of both school and freelance work, it may be best to focus solely on your studies.
Also make sure that any potential clients understand that your studies are your priority. Not only is this fair on you, but it’s also fair on them. If they’re expecting someone to be able to crank out 40 hours a week, and you clearly can’t do that, be transparent from the start.
People who probably shouldn’t freelance while at college or university include:
- People who have difficulty managing their time or struggle to prioritize tasks
- Those who lack the skills and confidence necessary to succeed in a freelance environment
- Those undertaking intense subjects like medicine or law that don’t leave much time or mental energy for tasks outside of studying
If you think freelancing is the right choice for you alongside your studies, check out my guide to everything you need to know about freelancing.