When I was a student at the University of Manchester for four years, my parents sent me money for living costs till the end of third year, then I told them to stop. Two events changed my financial life. The first was an internship I got between third and fourth year. This gave me enough money to survive in those three months. The second was freelancing. I started in September and did that for a year and half. This paid for the entire living costs of my fourth year and also for Emma.
Having the ability to use your own money is the most exciting thing after getting into Uni. It gives you freedom, control and responsibility. That’s why you should definitely look for summer internships, but also learn how to make money while you are studying. Freelancing is an amazing option you should consider.
Freelance when you can, not when others want
This is the first and most important aspect of freelancing. You don’t have a 9 to 5 and you are not even working part time at Starbucks. This means you can choose when to work and also where. From a social point of view, it’s a killer; choosing the times that fit you also means being alone. However, while you are a student, it’s great, because you are always surrounded by people anyway.
If you have exams, you don’t have to pick work and you can try to postpone it afterwards. On the other hand, if there isn’t much to do at Uni, you can pickup more freelance jobs.
You make more money
This is the beauty of it. If you freelance in IT, you probably make ten times more than your friend that works at Starbucks. It’s that crazy and for a student, this can be a gold mine. A friend of mine, who was freelancing in dutch translations to english, was making the same amount of money as me.
Freelancers usually get paid in two different ways: fixed or per hour. The former is more useful to the person who is paying, because a fixed priced means better budgeting. While the second is better for you, in general. However, there are some upsides and downsides, if you are really good and know what you are doing, fixed could be even better. This means if you can get done the work in 5 hours, but charge a fixed of 20, you are making a huge profit.
You learn business
I have never liked the word “business”, but the point is you learn how to negotiate, deal, interact, talk with other people. These are not things you can learn in a coffee shop or a retailer. Why? Because you are dealing with your own money and salary. The way you are treating the guy who’s asking for an espresso doesn’t influence your income.
You can work with different people all over the world
By the end of my fourth year, my routine was taking a call in the morning for Hong Kong, speak at lunch with Paris and then talk with San Francisco in the evening. I was working with people in three different continents. This can be quite an interesting experience, because you learn how to deal with different people. It also gives more opportunities to put your name out there.
You don’t need a CV anymore
CVs are a set of words, formatted nicely, that should help you getting a job. In this field, if you are good, you will have job offers before even finishing University or writing a CV. It doesn’t matter what you write down, but the work you do. By the time I had finished Uni, I could say I had developed 8 apps, in a super really cool technology that everyone wanted to use, and I was 22. I still get Linkedin recruiters chasing me, just for that.
You know how much you are worth
This is the first problem people face when getting their first job. They get out of Uni, without having never worked, receive a salary offer and don’t know what to do. The general thinking is “just accept it, since it’s your first job”. However if you have any idea of how much you are actually worth, you can make a counter offer.
Freelancing gives you that opportunity. It’s not any different from having a 9 to 5 job.
Should you freelance after Uni?
It depends what you want and if you really like it. In my case, I wanted to start a company, hence why I am here writing for Emma. Further, I didn’t like the isolation that freelancing came with. You are always alone and you need to be really good at managing your own time.
In terms of money, unless you are amazing, salary wise there isn’t much difference from a job. However, there are still some cases where people say they are making 3x of what they would make with a job. The main difference between a freelancer and an employed person is that the freelancer can be in Thailand drinking coconut milk while working.
Where do I start?
I started freelancing for the company I worked for over the summer. It’s really important to build a portfolio of work you have already done; so you can show it to the next clients. If you don’t have one, you can even start by doing things for your own. The better the portfolio is the more you can charge.
If you don’t know a company that is looking for a freelancer, you can start by looking online. There are dozens of websites out there, such as UpWork or PeoplePerHour, which are in constant need of people like you. The downside of these sites is the competition.
As I have said before, you can freelance from anywhere in the world. For this reason, you might end up competing with people who charge £4 per hour. That’s why my advice would be to go on those websites to get some early work, but then find ways of reaching people, even offline.