Freelancing is lit.
I start freelancing at the age of 16. I lived in a tiny village outside Barcelona, couldn’t find a job and wanted to earn my own money. So I turned to the internet and found some cheap gigs. I was ghostwriting, doing research, assistant work, a lot of Spanish/English translation and even some Spanish Skype classes. And boy did I learn.
Freelancing is a great job for students looking to make some money, learn some actual useful skills and do something scalable. It’s a win win win. Plus we do have much more free time in university than later on – so might as well make use of it! BUT there is one thing that freelancing does require quite a lot of: hustle. That means being willing to put in the hours and try your hardest in order to see some returns.
But freelancing is definitely worth it, friends. I listed some benefits here below just for you:
First of all, what do I mean by freelancing? Really it means being self-employed and doing projects for different clients, whether they’re an individual or a company. This could be as simple as translating a text from one language to another, to design or programming work. It all depends on you: the freelancer.
So even if you have never tried freelancing before or believe you may not have many skills to offer, there are still some benefits to starting:
The $$ comes now
You probably won’t earn much money at the beginning, but what you’ll be earning you’ll get it now. No more waiting till the end of the month (unless you want to) or putting 6 months into a business to actually see anything happening. Freelancing is quick and easy to get into. Great for nous les students.
You learn some sweet skillz
Not only does freelancing teach you how to hustle and get clients, but it also helps you improve your skill. If you’re freelance writing, the better you’ll get at writing. If you’re freelance designing, you’re improving your designing skills. And if it’s a skill that is useful with your degree… well my friend you’re achieving a very big WIN (money) WIN (skills) WIN (degree).
Becoming a professional
Managing clients is not easy. Some are mean, some will underpay you and some might not even pay you. Starting nice and soon with freelancing means you learn how to manage that and stay away from difficult cases. And with practice you learn how to answer the most difficult question of all time: ‘How much should I charge?’.
Not only that, but freelancing teaches you **discipline and **money management – you have to meet deadlines, decide what to do with your extra income (invest!) and make sure your clients are satisfied. That’s why I’m saying: you need the hustle.
Once you’ve done quite a bit of freelancing, you’ll start having a pretty sweet portfolio. And you can do A LOT with that. A good portfolio means you can start charging clients more (scalable!) and even start a business and have employees (scalable!), and it also means you’ve got something very interesting to add on your CV (scalable!). Employers love someone who can hustle and has a good portfolio to show it off. Another WIN: freelancing can be used in the future
How to get started
Wow ok yes Araminta it sounds amazing. How do I start? I have no skills whatsoever and have no idea where to even look for clients.
I hear you. Here are some steps to make the process much simpler!
1. Determine what you’re good at
In a perfect world you want to be doing something you’re good at and that could help with your degree. This could be designing, programming, writing, teaching, etc. If you’ve found something that could complement your degree but you’re not good at it, no worries: you’ll get better with practice (remember the WINs).
If you really have no idea what you could do, go onto Fiverr.com and see what others are doing. Some people are selling stuff such as ‘pretending to be your online boyfriend’ or even ‘write your message on my belly and take a photo’. Although this kind of freelancing might not give you the skills an employer or other clients might be interested in, it can always be a way to earn some quick money. But if you’re looking for something scalable!, then try and work on a more useful skill.
So pick something you’re good at or want to be good at. That’s what you’ll be freelancing with.
2. Start simple
Whether you have something you can showcase or not, it’s important to start simple. ‘How do I get my first clients without having anything to show them?’ You say. Well, the trick here is this pretty cool website called Upwork. Known for finding cheap and quick work/freelancers, Upwork is a great place to get started.
Pop on to Upwork, set up a professional looking profile and start searching for gigs. They already have contracts and such set up. Look for something quick and easy, all you want now is to be building a portfolio for future big clients.
My best freelance skill is writing, so I would get onto Upwork and find some gigs such as these. The ‘Article writing for Tech blog’ sounds interesting as I’d just have to write one article and already have something on my portfolio. Not bad.
Do some experimenting, try and get as many as possible. It won’t be easy at the beginning because there is fierce competition for quick and cheap gigs. But if you keep it consistent and keep trying you’ll definitely land one.
3. Focus on the network
As you get more gigs and more clients, you want to be working on connections so you can get better gigs with better clients. This means keeping the testimonials of your first clients and asking them to spread the word. Start building your network by telling them to refer you to their friends, or to other work.
Those connections are what will make your freelancing business scalable, so you want to be focusing on them from day one. Keep healthy relationships with your clients, over deliver on the first ones and ask them to leave good reviews on Upwork. Who knows what opportunities are round the corner.
4. Build yourself up
Keep consistent. Keep applying for gigs. Keep getting better. The hustle mentality will get you very far.
Once you have a good portfolio on Upwork, it’s time to move away. Upwork is great, but it underpays and you do lose a bit of control when deciding how much to charge and when to get your money. The next step is being in true control: you set the rates and you make the contract.
If you want to get real serious, buy a domain name and set up a website. This makes you look much more professional and you can easily send it to potential clients: ‘Yo here’s my website check me out’. On this website you’ll have your portfolio, your rates, testimonials and ways for people to contact you. Here’s a guide to setting up your freelance website.
Keep your network and encourage clients to refer you to others. You’ll be surprised how quickly more and more requests come in and soon you’re the one deciding who to work with.
And then another difficult question comes up: how much work can I take? The thing about freelancing is that you’re deciding who to work with and when. This can be great, but it also means you may work more than you can take, and that ain’t healthy, especially if you should be focusing on your studies. For this reason, I recommend working as a freelancer part time – don’t go over 25/30 hours a week, or you’ll get burnt out (been there done that).
Currently I use the blog you’re reading as my portfolio. I’m freelancing part-time, and I convince people to hire me by showing them this website. It’s worked pretty well so far and the great thing is that I’m learning a lot since the work they give me is nearly always related to digital marketing.
So yes, freelancing does require hustle at the beginning, but the amazing WIN WIN WINs you get by starting in university make it worth it and a huge asset in the future.
And here’s an awesome infographic to summarise it all up (Pin it!!!!):
Have any questions? Want some advice on where to start? Drop me an email and we’ll get chatting 😉
Oh and I have a pretty sweet subreddit you can join!