Freelancing while Studying? Here’s Why You Should Start Now

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Freelancing is a rapidly growing way of work, and is especially appealing to younger people. That’s because the younger generation is no longer into the mindset that 9 to 5 is the only way to do it. Are you a university student looking at going freelance?

While studying you have limited time to take on a part-time job, but as a freelancer, you will be able to manage your time to complete freelance projects.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the most important reasons why starting a freelance career is a great idea while still in college or university.

Furthermore, we’ll look at how to really utilize those advantages – because the potential is great, but realizing that potential is what you want in the end. 

Why You Should Start Freelancing While Studying

1. You get the freedom to try things out

Apart from getting a diversion from lectures and seminars, working as a freelancer while studying gives you a degree of freedom that you’re not likely to experience in any other situation. You can let freelancing be a secondary goal, knowing that studying is the main thing you’re doing. And that gives you so much room to experiment and vary things up – the freelancing market is your oyster. And what an oyster it is! The variety of ways to work, skills and people you get to experience as a freelancer in different fields is some of the best things that can happen to you business-wise.

1. You get the freedom to try things out

Apart from getting diversion from lectures and seminars, working as a freelancer while studying gives you a degree of freedom that you’re not likely to experience in any other situation.

You can let freelancing be a secondary goal, knowing that studying is the main thing you’re doing. And that gives you so much room to experiment and vary things up – the freelancing market is your oyster. And what an oyster it is.

The variety in ways of working, skills, and people you get to experience as a freelancer in different fields is some of the best things that can happen to you business-wise.

2. Getting work experience

Practically speaking, freelancing is also one of the best things to put on your resumé.

People with work experience are way more valuable to any business – so when you get out of university, that will increase your chances to get a job immensely. And even if you’re sure you’ll get a job, having freelanced will mean that you don’t necessarily need to start at an entry-level position.

Best case scenario – your on-the-side job was so successful that you can turn it into a profitable full-time business as soon as you’re finished with your studies.

3. Establishing a network

You know how the old saying goes – it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. That doesn’t mean freelancing is about nepotism or that people are going to push you into a higher position just because they’ve heard your name.

No, it means that freelancing and working with a variety of clients proves you’re a reliable person who ideally does quality work and delivers it on time.

Having a network of people that count on you (and you can count on) is a phenomenal boost to your career.

Freelancing while studying - why freelance while in college can jumpstart your career

How to Make Freelancing and Studying Work

1. Don’t get complacent

In the first part, we talked about getting the freedom to try things out. Well, this is just the potential – you’ll have to utilize it.

Many freelancers, students or not, get used to a certain way of working with a client that gets increasingly easier with time. They get a routine, mostly stay on the same pay, and are happy. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it won’t help you grow a successful business.

Especially as a student, you should always be looking towards the ways how you can improve yourself.

If you get stuck with a certain client, think about switching something up. Take more responsibility, ask for more money, start doing more work for other people, etc.

Worth reading: How to manage multiple clients at the same time

Use the freedom you have – this is the time where you have unlimited lives, can take second chances and risk it all. The older you get and the more people depend on you, the harder that will get.

2. Use the work to learn

As a student, you shouldn’t necessarily think of your freelancing business as something that should be getting you a lot of money.

It is supposed to serve as a foundation for your future business efforts.

This isn’t to say that earning a few extra bucks is out of the question – but if you have to choose between getting a hundred dollars and learning your new skill (e.g. a new programming language), take the latter.

In the long run, that will be way more valuable than money.

3. Build lasting relationships

Last but not least, networking isn’t something that just happens naturally.

You won’t just be able to add people to your list because you were sitting in an office together or emailed each other a couple of times.

Networking, in regard to your clients, will mean that you have to do exceptional work and also nurture that relationship. Stay in touch with former clients, do small contracts now and then, wish them happy holidays. Also, be nice and professional.

The same thing goes for networking with your colleagues and fellow freelancers. Who knows, those people might be the co-founders for your future business.

Portfolio Dragos Muntean

5 Ways Freelancing as a Student Jumpstarted My Engineering Career

Connor Rowland, a Web Engineer located in New York City, shared with us how freelancing as a college student jumpstarted my career in engineering.

1) It Allowed Me to Diversify My Experience

If I were to list my favorite aspects of a freelancing career in tech, I would have to say that the opportunity to diversify your work experience would be at the top of that list.

Diversified work experience ameliorated some of my anxiety around decisions regarding what I wanted to do once I graduated, as it gave me the chance to explore many possible options.

I then used these experiences to better inform my career decisions I had difficulty determining, which provided me with a great sense of confidence in knowing the choice I made was a good one.

2) I Learned the Importance of Networking

Networking has always been in the back of my mind as something I needed to do more of as time went on and I became more involved in my career.

But it never felt as vital to me then as it did once I began freelancing, and that was because it hadn’t proved its ability to me yet. Since then, I’ve gotten most of my freelance work from networking and talking to people.

Whether it’s meeting new people at tech events or making new friends, just talking about the type of work I’m doing (or the work I’d like to do) can lead to some type of introduction. These introductions could be to new people or opportunities that can enable me to grow my freelancing business.

3) My People Skills Became Stronger

The networking aspect of freelancing is part of a larger element within it that holds a strong influence over all of my work—people skills.

People skills have become an increasingly important piece of my freelancing career, as they’ve bolstered the success of various projects and relationships—both easy and difficult. 

Freelance jobs so often require the freelancer to address needs and mitigate difficult situations in a positive way, so I truly do not know how I’d successfully accomplish these jobs without gaining better people skills.

These are skills that I’m thankful to have acquired as a student, as they’ve provided me means of understanding how to work with a variety of different people and situations that I can use in the future.

4) I Saw How a Business Operates

The school I go to isn’t a typical one for an engineering/tech-related position. I’m enrolled in a business school studying Computer Information Systems, so there’s a lot of tech involved in that, but I still have to take Accounting in order to take classes like Database Management Systems.

So for a while, I struggled with the question of “when will I need to know this.” What freelancing did for me is answer that question, because as a freelancer you have to operate your own iteration of a small business.

Dealing with clients, processing bills and payments, or making sure you allocate correct tax funds for the end of the year are all pieces of an effective freelancing business.

So going to a business school actually worked out in my favor, as it enabled me to see how taking a class like Managerial Accounting could help me in the day to day operations of my freelancing business. Consequently, I felt encouraged to become more involved in classes I was less interested in, making my time in college more enjoyable, and me a better student.

5) Making Good Experiences Out of Bad Ones

Sometimes negative experiences are out of a freelancer’s control. Maybe the client decides he or she no longer wants the work requested, or there’s a misunderstanding in the terms of the project agreement, both leading to a negative client experience.

It may seem like this is an entirely bad thing, but these negative experiences—and what I’ve learned from them—are lessons that continue to guide me through future projects.

I had a client once frequently request additional (free) services after the project we worked on was complete, making the situation a bit awkward for both parties involved.

Clearly, there was some type of miscommunication between us, and it was my job to figure out what it was and how I could fix it. My first line of aid in this situation was the contract we both signed at the beginning of the project that outlined exactly what I was to do for him—and also what I wasn’t.

So when work was being requested that was outside of the scope of our agreement, I was able to easily clear up that miscommunication, and leave off on a good note with my client. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without a contract, and I probably wouldn’t have requested to sign a contract in the first place had I not before had a negative experience from not having one.

💡 Tips to deal with client revisions requests as a freelancer

Freelancing has provided me with a number of incredible opportunities that have shaped both the way that I work and the direction I’ll take my career. Along the way, I’ve been able to build up a solid, diverse portfolio that I’m proud of, and can use to market myself for work I want to take part in.

Most importantly, though, freelancing guided me through the process of finding my own career track during a time where I felt my career was something I couldn’t quite figure out, and for that, I will always be thankful.

Did you work as a freelancer while studying? How was it? Comments and feedback in the section below are greatly appreciated!

Viktor Marinov

Viktor is the voice behind the freelancermap blog. Every week he comes up with helpful hints, checklists, and guides for freelancers and independent workers. If you would like to know how to find remote jobs online or how to niche yourself as a freelancer, don't miss his freelancer tips!

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