Tips for Students Interested in Freelancing

Whether you’re in high school, college, grad school, or a certificate program, freelancing might seem like an obvious choice. It would be a way to pay for those tuition/materials expenses, while at the same time give you some schedule flexibility. However, in order to really find a good balance between freelancing and your academic life, it’s important to take several things into consideration first.

1. Freelancing needs to be treated as a job, not a hobby. Otherwise, you’re not going to really get anywhere in terms of earnings or experience. Lots of students have part-time jobs in addition to their studies and extracurricular activities, jobs at set hourly wages on certain days. In freelancing, pay is often by the project, not the hour. No work? No pay. So, it only makes sense that freelancing, done properly, requires a considerable amount of self-discipline.

2. Respect deadlines by knowing what you can reasonably (and satisfactorily) complete. It might seem like a great idea to take a bunch of work if it’s available – after all, the more work, the better the earnings, right? Wrong, particularly if you find yourself being rushed because you have other homework/projects/papers to finish. Even if you do complete all the work by the deadline, there’s the quality of your work to take into consideration. It’s all too easy to notice when work has been rushed. Redoing work, or even having work rejected, will result in no earnings and a loss of time that could have been spent productively elsewhere. Small amounts of work done well can make all the difference for your professional future. Which brings me to the next tip…

3. Carefully curate your freelancing reputation. This one goes along with respecting deadlines. It’s one thing to miss a deadline because of an emergency, it’s another when it’s because of poor time management. The more deadlines you miss, the worse your reputation as a freelancer can become. Beyond that, it is, of course, important to present yourself as efficient/professional at all times. How do you do that? Create an excellent LinkedIn profile (Instagram and YouTube are even better if you’re a freelance photographer/videographer), build contacts in your niche there, ask for recommendations/testimonials, and have a .com website to display a portfolio. Speaking of portfolios…

4. Understand that sometimes, freelancing means anonymity. This one can apply to all freelancing niches, though mostly for freelance writing. It can be incredibly frustrating because on the one hand, you might really need the money, but on the other, you’re putting a lot of effort into work that you can never claim as your own. Also, bylined work often pays less than ghostwritten work.

5. Always prioritize your studies. If you’re finding success in your freelancing, that’s great, but remember that you still have that diploma, degree, or certificate to earn – don’t sacrifice one for the other. At this point, think of freelancing as a way for you to not only build your portfolio, but also your character.

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