Articles - 18th October 2018

Ten Tips for University Students That Want to Freelance

Words by Lucy Banks
Illustration by Will Francis

Working as a student can be hard. This can be a way to make it easier. 

Freelancing is a great way to make money while studying, and if you’re good at it, you’ll end up earning far more than if you work in a shop or the local pub. However, as with any job, there are some common pitfalls that are useful to know about, not to mention some sneaky short-cuts to achieving success in double-quick time.

With that in mind, here are our Top Tips for Freelancing While Studying:

  1. Know your skillset: Before you launch into action, think about what you can realistically offer your customers. What are you really good at? This might be something that relates to your degree – for example, if you’re studying computer science, you might be a dab-hand at designing websites. However, it doesn’t have to correlate with your studies. Perhaps you speak fluent Mandarin or Spanish; in which case, your skills as a translator are likely to be highly sought after.
  2. Familiarise yourself with the market: Find out what other freelancers are charging for their services. You’ll probably find that there’s a lot of variation here; with some quoting hundreds, and others asking for peanuts. Although it might be a big range, it’ll give you some idea of what you can realistically charge your clients. Check out freelance platforms to get an idea of what people are charging. Beware – overcharging means you’ll struggle to attract custom; undercharging devalues your talent. It’s a delicate balancing act.
  3. Choose your site: Many freelancers find work via the popular online portals, such as Upwork or Fiverr. There are other options out there, though. Browse the job-search sites, and you’re likely to find businesses that are looking for freelancers they can hire remotely. Agencies often take on freelance talent too, so there are plenty of options on offer. However, don’t commit to anything too time-consuming; your studies need to come first.
  4. Create a winning profile: When you’re getting started, you’ll need to stand out from the crowd, and that means creating an impressive profile; both on the freelancing sites and on LinkedIn (trust us, clients will look!). Think about:
    • Your photo: This should be a professional shot, minus any background distractions. Using a holiday snap with your mates isn’t a good idea.
    • Your ‘about me’ section: This needs to convince the client that you’re the person for the job. List any achievements, plus the degree that you’re studying. If you’ve got any testimonials from other clients, add them too.
    • Your portfolio: If relevant to your industry, a portfolio is a great way to showcase your work. This is particularly the case if you’re planning to offer design services.
  5. Register as a sole trader: If you’re earning money (over £1,000 a year) you’ll need to register as a sole trader. This is a legal requirement, so it’s important to do so. You can register online, and each year, you’ll need to complete your self-assessed tax returns. Don’t worry, this isn’t too difficult – but please note, it’s vital that you keep records of all money earned (and spent, if it relates to your freelancing).
  6. Set your hours: If you get successful as a freelancer, you’re likely to be in hot demand. That’s great, but not if it impacts your studies. Work out what hours you’ll be working per week (roughly) and what you expect to earn from this. Then stick to it as best as possible, for the sake of your sanity.
  7. Learn how to handle clients: Most customers will be great to work with, but some can be tricky. Make life easier for yourself by sticking to the following:
    • Manage their expectations: Ascertain exactly what they’re looking for and whether it’s achievable within their budget.
    • Pick up on the warning signs: Generally, you can detect a tricky customer a mile off. They’ll be the ones making over-the-top demands or being vague about what they really want. Don’t feel obliged to take them on if you don’t feel comfortable with the situation.
    • Clarify exactly what they’ll be getting: Before you get started, it’s a good idea to run through precisely what they’ll be getting from you. This helps avoid misunderstandings further down the line.Treasure your testimonials: Always encourage your clients to leave you feedback. Some freelance sites actively ask customers to give feedback after the job is complete, but others don’t, so you’ll need to adopt a proactive approach. Wherever possible, gather these positive comments and display them somewhere prominent. Your LinkedIn profile is a good place to do this.
  8. Spread the word: Don’t worry, you don’t need to do a full-on marketing campaign. However, it’s a shrewd move to let people know that you’re freelancing, as often business comes from referrals. It’s amazing how many relatives or ‘friends of friends’ suddenly announce that they need a logo design or a new website– and now they’ve heard of you, they realise you’re the perfect person to get the job done for them.
  9. Respect yourself: Remember, you have a right to be treated with respect. If a client starts making unreasonable demands (e.g. endless Skype calls, getting in touch at two in the morning), you should make it clear that it’s not appropriate. Establish working conditions that are acceptable to you, and don’t be bullied into doing anything you’re not happy with.

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If this sounds like you, head over to our Virtual Office and send us your best work via an UnderPinned Portfolio. We want to hear from you!

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