It’s hard to keep yourself afloat as a self-supported college student. Books are expensive, classes are costly, and you need to eat.
Not to mention, it’s difficult to juggle a job alongside an education — especially if you’re trying to balance life as a PhD student. Many students have started turning to freelancing as a way to make ends meet, seeing it as a way to earn money off of skills they’re already honing in school.
If you’re ready to succeed as a college student freelance writer, check out these 7 practical tips to get started.
1. Determine What You Know
Anyone can wake up one morning and decide to call themselves a freelance writer. The difference between successful freelance writers and mediocre freelance writers is a solid body of knowledge. Every niche with a web presence needs writers to create content. If you really want to flourish, stick to what you know. Pick a few areas of specialty, and concentrate your efforts on filling positions in those niches.
2. Consider How Much Time You Have
You’re probably investigating freelancing as an alternative to a scheduled job, because it’s difficult to work fixed hours into your schedules. When will you have time to write? For how many hours a week can you consider yourself available for work? Think about how long it takes you to research and write a college paper, and use that to gauge how many hours it will take you to complete a freelance writing job. This is the easiest way to determine your availability.
3. Take on a Few Starter Jobs
You won’t be able to command big bucks at first. In order to gain feedback and reviews, you’ll need to start with low-paying jobs to establish your credibility as a freelancer. These aren’t fun, and you’ll be doing a lot of work for little pay. The good news is that you’ll only need to do a few of these jobs to lay the necessary groundwork. You’ll need work samples to show potential clients, and this is the easiest way to generate a few.
4. Create a Portfolio
Once you have your work samples, you’ll need to put together a portfolio. Clients will decide whether or not you’re a good fit for their project based on what they see in your portfolio, so it’s crucial to feature your best work. You might even choose to include a few excerpts you’ve written for college assignments, particularly if those assignments received an outstanding grade.
5. Seek Out Long-Term Contracts
The easiest way to manage a job as a freelance writer is to get your work down to a predictable schedule. Pick a few people to work with and understand their requirements, as well as how much work they intend to assign you on a weekly basis. Find one long-term contract and get it down to a science. Once you’re comfortable enough, fill up any empty spaces with another. This will make your income predictable, and your scheduling logistics easier.
6. Adjust Your Rates
As you gain experience and add to your impressive portfolio of work, you can command a higher rate. After you establish yourself, you may be able to charge clients more for your expertise. More experience means you’ll be able to work faster, and once you reach this point, the profits you make from freelancing will become similar to those you would make at a traditional job.
7. Push Your Career Forward, or Make the Switch
When you graduate, you may consider entering the traditional workforce. After all, that’s the reason why you selected your major. If you intend to stop freelancing and start a different career, you’ll need to slowly taper off once you’ve obtained a permanent position. If you want to keep freelancing, it may be worth creating a website specifically for your freelancing services and pursue writing as a serious career.
Freelancing is a great way to earn a living for self-starters and people who need flexibility in their schedule. Some people wind up loving their jobs as freelance writers, and will continue them indefinitely. Even if you don’t choose to continue down the path, you’ll still be able to make ends meet until you graduate.
With a background in business administration and management, Tess Pajaron currently works at Open Colleges, Australia’s leading online educator. She likes to cover stories in careers and marketing.