When I started my first college program back in 2013 I knew I wanted to start getting as much experience as possible while still in school. Unfortunately I didn’t know much about freelancing, or business, and thought the best way to get experience was either through volunteer work or an internship (most of which are unpaid).
Still, I submitted an application to the blog The Young Mommy Life for a blog contributor position while I was still in my very first term and to my surprise, I got the gig. After that I started to feel a little more confident in my skills, but it wasn’t until my last term at j-school that I applied for another freelance writing gig, and got that one, too.
Now I’m in a new program and I still freelance. There are a lot of reasons why I started freelancing in college (like, it was my dream), but it wasn’t until recently that I began to notice how beneficial it is. I honestly think that there are a lot of incredibly talented students out there who would also benefit from freelancing while in school and here’s why
1. Profit off your skills
No matter what you study in school, chances are there’s a way to make money at it as a freelancer. Graphic design, writing, illustration, bookkeeping, photography, tutoring or even babysitting – the possibilities are endless!
2. Learn more and faster
If you’re picking up freelance work that relates to your major, you’re going to learn the course material a lot faster because you will be applying it to your job right away. A lot of the time students will do a project and forget a lot of what they learned shortly afterwards. This is because they don’t have to keep doing it any time soon, if ever, so they forget how to, but because you’ll be doing it again for freelance gigs, you’re more likely to retain that information.
As a student your time is usually divided between your class schedule, study time, friends, extra-curricular activities and work. College life is a hectic and exciting time, making most students incredibly busy! That can make it difficult for students to find the time to get regular work hours in, forcing them to work evenings and weekends. But if you work as a freelancer, you make your own hours. You can work on freelance projects between classes, on the bus or the gym, even while catching up on your favourite shows!
No more travelling to and from and work, or ditching classes to get a couple extra hours in at a job!
4. More money
Most students end up getting part-time jobs, typically in the service industry, that only pays minimum wage (currently $11/hour in Canada). That’s not very much money when you calculate how much time you have to take getting to work and back and the length of your shift. I the end a four hour shift (which is a typical part-time shift) only makes you $44 before taxes. If you work as a freelancer, you have the opportunity to make a lot more money than minimum wage.
For example, I often write blog posts for $40. As a smart freelancer I put 30 per cent of that aside for taxes, leaving me with $32. That’s not a lot, but writing it, editing and revising a blog post for someone else might take me anywhere between 1-2 hours, making me $32-$16 an hour, more than minimum wage. And sometimes, I make $100 off a blog post that only takes me half an hour to write.
By freelancing you’re in a lot more control over how much money you make, which is awesome.
If you decide you don’t want to be a freelancer forever, at least you will have created a portfolio for when you’re done college to show to prospective employers. Even by doing this blog for free, I was able to show people my work outside of school and it really did help. Now that I have paid work to show in my portfolio it will only help more.
Networking is crucial for a successful career and you really should be networking while still in school.
It’s been my experience that most jobs are obtained through someone you know within the company, over someone who doesn’t know anyone. When you work as a freelancer, you’ll be networking with companies and individuals all the time. So when the time comes that you want to apply for a job after graduation, you can connect with those people either by shooting them an email, giving them a call or reaching out on social media, to see if they know of any good job openings.
This seriously does work, too. When I was nearing graduation people I had worked with were sending me job postings all the time!
7. Test the waters
Learning something at college and actually doing it for a career are completely different things. A lot of people who go to school end up doing something completely different after they graduate, or going back to study something else. Like me, for example. Sure, I’m still freelance writing on the side, but after I graduated from j-school I realized I was more into social media and blogging, and connecting with people through public relations. So here I am, back in school. But hey, at least I got to test the waters to see what it was really like working as a journalist while I was in school!
8. Profit off your passion
So yeah, you get to test the waters, and sometimes you actually fall in love with that work! And is there anything better than making a living off of something you’re passionate about?!
9. Build a successful business
Of course, you might just love working for yourself and graduate college with an already successful business! Then you can skip the job hunt and keep working as a freelancer, and wouldn’t that just be awesome?
There are a lot of reasons to work as a freelancer while still in college, as you can see, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If it was, everyone would freelance but most people don’t. As a freelancer you have to be your own boss, there’s no one to push you or mentor you, unless you find someone to. You have to learn a lot about business and working with people, and you have to constantly be looking for the next gig.
For some students, a mindless part-time job seems a whole lot better, but for those of us who don’t mind the life of a freelancer, it can be a very rewarding experience.
Would you try freelancing while still in school? Why or why not?