You may be interested in freelancing because your friends suggested it, or you’re curious as to how you can make a few extra bucks. However, freelancing only makes an impact when you do it successfully. This is why we have shortlisted proven and effective tips for students to become a successful freelancer.
Before we get into the details, here’s a reality check:
Freelancing For a Full-Time Student
It’s not all flowers and roses. As a full-time student, you need to be realistic about your situation. If you are considering working as a freelancer, prepare yourself for:
- Constantly looking for work and fighting tooth and nail to hold and retain a client.
- An exhaustive, consuming and busy work plan
- Irregular income. Sometimes you will get paid way more than the median salary of your skill, and sometimes, less than that.
You may be wondering: if there are so many red flags to it, why freelance at all?
While it seems to have a lot of issues, they are all easily manageable. This is why freelancing appeals to 57.3 million people in the world, mostly students. Here’s why:
- It helps you get to make a few extra dollars. If done right, it can even become a steady source of extra income.
- It hones students’ existing skills and expands their professional exposure.
- It gives practical experience in the professional world.
- You are your own boss; you get to set your own working hours and pay rates.
- Frees you from the worry of commuting to and from your workplace.
All these factors are particularly attractive for a student.
Freelancing is not only beneficial for the freelancer but also for the corporate world as it helps in cost efficiency and right-sizing. It already contributes $1.4 trillion in the American economy and is predicted to dominate the workforce by 2027.
When you think about it, it does make sense why 47% of Millennials are freelancing. It is becoming an attractive opportunity that only a few can afford to miss. And the sooner you start, the better. That’s why, in this article, you will find 12 tips for students to become a successful freelancer.
12 Tips for Students to Become a Successful Freelancer
1) Priority #1: Your studies
While the benefits of freelancing for a student are undeniable, you must also acknowledge that you are, in fact, a full-time student. That means having to complete assignments, projects, tests, and exams.
Just because you are starting a freelancing career and you want it to be a successful one, doesn’t mean you have a reason to slack off in your studies. Plan your work schedule in a way that doesn’t interfere with your projects, assignments, and tests.
You need to understand that your studies are more of an asset to you than anything else is, which is why you can’t neglect your studies. Your studies should always be your first priority.
The more you focus on your studies, the more you broaden your knowledge. Consequently, you’ll have higher chances of attaining success.
2) Time Management
As a student, you need to master the art of time management. As a part-time freelancer and full-time student, you need to live by a strict time and action plan. We cannot stress the importance of this enough, because if you don’t, you won’t be able to get anything done effectively.
Improper time management skills can cost you your physical as well as mental health. So how can you avoid this?
Here are a couple of things you can do to stay ahead of the clock:
- Set aside time for your studies and stick by it.
- Just like your studies, set your working hours.
- Rely on a daily working plan
- Limit and minimize your distraction as much as you can.
- Pre-decide your lunch, break and “stop working” time.
Welcome to the world of discipline!
3) Set A Place Aside for Your “Office”
Being a freelancer means you will be working from home, which means distractions.
Most student freelancers fail to commit to the jobs they take on because of distractions or lack of seriousness. We recommend setting a place up in your home for yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s one chair and a table, this is your work area, i.e., your office.
The more non-destructive your work area is, the more productive you are going to be. Another tip to boost your productivity is to dress up. When you dress up early in the morning, you are conditioning your mind to have a purpose and be more productive for the rest of the day.
4) Get Your Finances in Order
Freelancing can help students overcome their financial issues but only if it’s done the right way.
Figure out your niche. This will make it easy for you to see your target market as well as the nominal pay rate for that niche. The market rate of the service you are offering will help you set your own pricing model. As a part-time freelancer, you can work at cheaper rates but we do not recommend working for free.
If you are debating between having a fixed rate to an hourly pay rate, we recommend conducting market research with your particular reality in mind. Each option works differently for every person. Only you can decide for yourself which payment method suits you the best.
You can also try making basing your pricing model on the 70-30 percentage formula, i.e. The formula instructs on keeping 70% of the earned revenue to yourself and setting aside 30% for taxes. This can help you drive out your target revue as well as your break-even.
Lastly, make sure you have a sound payment system. When you get a job, discuss the cost upfront and agree to a payment in writing. Have a proper invoice and payment receiving system. If you are chasing a late payment, which we highly recommend you do, be assertive, polite, and professional.
5) Don’t Be Afraid To Say, “No.”
If you have worked out your financial plan and your work plan, then saying “no” to certain projects becomes a necessity. We want you to know that it’s completely ok to sometimes disagree with the payment being offered or if you simply don’t have the time for it.
However, just like with chasing late payments, be polite and assertive when you do turn down a job. Your client is sure to understand and appreciate clear communication. After all, good communication wins your repeat clients.
6) Narrow Down Your Niche
We mentioned figuring out your niche before, but here we’ll tell you how you can do that.
Start with taking an inventory of your skills. Everything you have learned and everything you are naturally good at, are your skills. Narrow down the list by evaluating which skills are your best; this will be your niche.
Another way to decide on your niche is to choose a skill from your list that people would be more willing to pay for.
Once you know your niche, focus on the relevant target market, as this will help you polish your skills.
Perfecting your niche will take you all the way to expertise and being an industry leader.
7) Start With a Good Platform
When you start right, you bypass many obstacles and make an early start to your success. The same holds true for freelancing too.
Research the different freelancing platforms available to you, their policies, pros, and cons. Weigh these factors against the platform’s success rate as well as your needs and wants. Some well known general platforms are Upwork, freelancer, Guru, iFreelance, People per Hour, and Fiverr. Besides these general freelance markets, the platforms get more specific in accordance with your niche.
Here we will advise you not to create a profile on every platform you come across. Instead, weigh the factors mentioned above and decide for yourself which suits you better.
8) Be Proactive
While getting started on a platform will definitely make things like getting your first client easier, it is not the only way to a successful freelancing career.
If you want to become successful in freelancing, don’t just rely on these platforms. Instead, be proactive in finding work for yourself.
Work on building a personal brand. Market your services through all the means available to you. Engage in as much physical marketing as you do with your social media marketing. If you don’t do either, it’s high time you do. Asking your friends and family to spread the word about your freelancing career can also be a powerful tool to market yourself.
9) Make Sure All Your Tools Are In Order
Similar to how we urged you to pick a freelancing platform that works best for you, we also encourage you to make sure all the tools of the trade are readily available to you.
Depending on your niche, your tools can get specific — for example, a special camera for freelancing photography, graphic tablet or even a simple laptop. However, there are general tools that you should be aware of, like the Microsoft suite, as well as Google apps like Docs, Drive, and Sheet.
Aside from these standard tools, there are paid versions and paid tools available that can help you take your career to the next level. However, we recommend exercising caution before making the investment. Make sure all your expenses are covered in your financing models.
10) Develop, Develop, and Develop
Freelancing part-time while studying is the perfect time for you to develop and groom your skills and personality. Through freelancing, you will be exposing yourself to things you have probably never done before. This isn’t limited to the technical work you will be doing, but your soft skills as well.
To be a successful freelancer, you need to develop your time management, negotiation, selling, marketing, communication, and interpersonal skills. This is why we advise you never to stop learning, even after you graduate. The more you learn, the more you develop, and the closer to success you get.
11) Stay Updated
It’s absolutely essential for you to stay updated with the latest happenings of your niche, your platform, your industry, and your target audience.
Freelancing is a highly competitive industry. The moment you lose touch with what’s current, you risk your survival, let alone your success. A good way to stay connected is to pay close attention to your competitors. You can even find a good mentor for yourself who can help you along the way.
12) Be Kind; You Are Human
This is perhaps the most important point of all. As you are hustling to the bone to maintain your studies and have a sound stream of income though freelancing, it becomes easy to forget that you are human too.
Being human means making mistakes, failing, and having meltdowns. Be kind to yourself. If you are failing and learning from experiences, you are still on the right track to success.
Maintaining a work/study/life balance can easily get you stressed and vulnerable to health risks, that’s why setting aside “me” time for yourself is absolutely necessary. Make sure you are taking all the necessary steps to prevent burning out. Remind yourself to take occasional stress-free breaks to unwind and relax.
These tips cover all the aspects of a student freelancer’s life, which makes this the perfect place for you to start. Seriously read the article and make notes of everything you are going to do to implement each tip practically.
We do recommend not focus solely on making money but on delivering a quality outcome. The feedback and testimonials from these clients can help you a long way. After all, the life of a freelancer is all about developing a strong relationship with your clients.