How to make it work: Freelancing as a student

Late nights, early starts, and a lot of coffee. Students and freelancers actually have a lot in common when you think about it – and there is a lot to be gained from the experience of freelancing as a student.

I started freelancing while studying for my degree, which meant I graduated with some experience under my belt and a nice new point on my CV.

Here are my top tips to make it work:

1. Utilise the resources available to you

Universities frequently offer placements or internships, either in the university or with their partners. These can be invaluable opportunities to gain experience in the workplace or a first step in the door of the industry you want to work in.

There may even be a department at your university that will help you set up as a freelancer. Check if your university has an entrepreneurship department or employability officer, and don’t be scared to get in touch. They can help with the finer details of setting up and establishing your business.

2. Have an online presence

Both a strong social media presence for your business and an online portfolio are crucial to establishing yourself as a freelancer. Set up a profile on a freelance platform to showcase your work and produce an online portfolio if this suits your business. If you are a photographer, Instagram could be a great way to showcase your work. If you are a journalist, look at platforms such as for your portfolio.

Freelance Corner also gives you the opportunity to put your portfolio on your profile for free, so this is a great starting point.

As you are starting out, it is important to be active on social media. Set up a LinkedIn profile, with a good (sober) photo of yourself and attach links to any of your work that has been published, or your online portfolio. On the same topic, if your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are full of drunken photos of you in compromising situations – feel free to adjust your privacy settings.

A top tip when writing your bios on social media is to not say you are ‘aspiring’ in your career. It’s a trap many young freelancers fall into. Call yourself a freelancer because that is what you are.

3. Attend events

Events can be a great way to network and meet potential clients. Prepare a two-minute elevator pitch about what you offer. That way, when people ask what you do, you have an answer lined up.

4. Find some work

Once you have set yourself up as a freelancer, why not approach some departments at your university and see if they need any help.

If not, speak to your lecturers. They will have many contacts in the field that you want to work in, and, given you haven’t missed too many 9am lectures, they can even help you to find your first client.

Reach out to fellow students, friends, and family and tell them what you are doing. You may be surprised at how lucrative your personal connections can be. 

Work experience can also be a fantastic option, although be aware that this is often unpaid. Free work is absolutely a privilege that you should only pursue if you’re 100% comfortable in doing so. For some students, a week of work experience can be a great asset in applying for future freelance roles in that organisation, but do not work for a significant amount of time without pay.

5. Focus on your studies

You are at university to study and have fun, so whilst freelancing can be a great way to build up your CV, make sure you do not take on too much extra work. You can freelance at any age, but there comes a time when getting drunk every weeknight is no longer encouraged – savour it while it lasts.