How To Freelance As A College Student

Doing freelance work in college can give you invaluable experience, but it can be difficult to get started. Don’t let that scare you, though. Knowing a few tricks will let you jump and begin your freelance career while in school.

Know the value of freelancing

Taking on more work will inevitably take up more of your time. Before you start spending more time on freelance work, it’s a good idea to know how valuable the work is to your later career. We wrote a whole post on the value of freelancing in college a couple of weeks ago. Here are some bullet points from that post:

  • Freelancing gives you a taste of real design work, so you can figure out whether designing is something you want to pursue as a career after college or if you should focus on something else. This experience also gives you an extra step ahead as you start your career after college.
  • Freelancing allows you to build your portfolio into something of quality. In the end, employers care more about the fact that you can do good work more than the fact that you can make good grades in school.
  • Freelancing gives you an option to make money, which is usually something stereotypically broke college students always need.

If you know just how valuable spending the time to freelance is, there’s less of a chance that you’ll get burned out by it and more of a chance that you’ll see it as a great opportunity that you don’t want to miss out on.

Schedule time to do freelance work

Time management is something many college students struggle with. I still struggle with having time management skills (though I don’t have the excuse of being a college student anymore). When you start freelancing, you’ll be adding something else in your schedule to juggle, which isn't always easy.

The best way to deal with this is to set aside consistent time each week or each day to work on freelance projects. This keeps you up-to-date on your current projects while ensuring you don’t over-commit to more work than you have time to do. Freelancing should help with your college experience, not overwhelm you.

Don’t be afraid to do some work for free as you start

One very necessary part of freelancing is having clients. If you don’t have any previous work to show, it can be difficult to land your first clients. In some cases, the best way to build a client base is to do a couple of projects for free.

While I was in college, there was almost always someone I knew who needed some type of design work done. I did a logo for a family friend’s recreation league baseball team, marketing materials for a nonprofit that my dad is involved in and some materials for my sister’s wedding, among a few other projects.

I didn’t spend much time on any of these projects, but they all gave me good experience and helped out family and friends, all while I built my portfolio.

Look for clients on campus

Another good way to get your first clients is to look for projects around your school or university. Depending on the size of your school, there can be a lot of opportunities for design work around campus. And the best part is that the people behind these projects are usually specifically looking for students to hire.

At the University of South Carolina, where I went to college, there opportunities in departments of the school (theater, science, etc.), student media, the campus dining service and the event-organizing group, among others. Chances are, there are similar jobs at many schools for students.

Austin Price

Austin is the lead designer at Krit. He writes about everything from design critiques to sitting on the toilet. You can give him feedback on Twitter or inflate his ego on Dribbble.