University taught me how to write and that skill is already helping me to make an income. I have been freelance travel writing for nearly a year, alongside my full time university courses. Although it certainly does not provide me with a living wage, freelance travel writing as a university student has equipped me with important skills and taught me so much about freelance work. In this article, I’ve included my best tips and some of the hard lessons I’ve learned to help beginner freelancers start writing for clients.
Why I Started Freelance Writing as a University Student
I never went into freelancing thinking I was going to make it big or become rich. I had heard stories of people earning massive amounts during their first year but I knew that I didn’t have the time to devote to making that possible in my freelance career. Like many other freelancers, I write as a side hustle on top of a part time and full time university work. My favorite thing about freelancing is that I can completely control how much work I have. If I don’t send out pitches, I won’t get jobs. For me, it’s a simple way to make extra income that nicely fits into my busy schedule.
As a university student, it’s always important for me to be financially conscious. These university years are where we are supposed to create our lives, while at the same time having virtually no income to create out lives with. I moved out when I was seventeen and quickly realized how much items I used daily – coffees,make up, and practical things like printing fees were really adding up in my expenses. I knew I had to figure out a way to make money while I was a student, in order to supplement these costs and not fall into debt.
Beyond the lack of stability, the other risk to freelancing is that with the growth of digital media, anyone can be a creator. A lot of freelancers are willing to work for free or for very cheap. Because of this increase in supply, clients can offer jobs that don’t pay enough. For example, I’ve completed a job that asked me to do a road trip review for 15$. I happily obliged, thinking a review would be brief. After receiving the full job description, I quickly realized the client wanted around 2500 words, multiple pictures, and maps detailing every part of our road trip. Although I felt obliged to complete the work and I needed it to grow my portfolio, I know now that that job was paying me far too less. Before anyone begins freelancing, they should educate themselves on how much to charge for their time and skills. Unlike traditional jobs, there is no one dictating how much or how little freelancers should make on any job. Unfortunately, this often leads to freelancers being paid very low rates.
By far the best thing about freelancing is the flexibility it offers. I feel like I’m constantly on the move between my hometown, my university city, and my travel destinations. Keeping a stable traditional job would be pretty impossible for me at this stage in my life because I spend 4 months in a city before temporarily moving away again.
I do have a job but I prefer to keep freelancing on the side so I can at least have some additional income at any given time during the year. I can freelance from anywhere, I don’t have to go into an office, and I can make up my own schedule. So if I have three papers due and a few freelance articles on the go (this is my actual to-do list right now), I can prioritize and time manage easily.
How to Start Freelancing as a University Student
I started freelancing because I was bored, poor, and unemployed. After looking at sites like writers.agency, I decided to start freelance travel writing and sent out ten pitches to potential clients. I got three responses and started writing in my local coffee shop. Between the hours it took me to write the articles, the coffee I drank, and the low rate of pay, I was getting paid far less than minimum wage. Unfortunately, this is the reality for people starting out as freelancers and it’s only once freelancers get more established that clients are willing to pay more.
This is where I think a lot of people quit freelancing, it’s the start and it’s discouraging. Even though I’ve been freelancing on the side for nearly a year, I still consider myself a novice. My pitches don’t often get responses and I’m constantly learning how to be better at my job. I think this is the mindset you have to have as a beginner freelancer – I recognize I may not make a lot of money, I constantly look for opportunities to learn how to write and market my writing better, and I accept that there is no stability to my work stream.
So you want to start? Go for it! I think the scariest thing is sending the first few pitches and submitting your first few articles to an editor.
My advice for university students that want to begin freelance writing
> Send pitches for jobs you don’t think you’ll get
As a beginner freelancer and a young freelancer, you’ll naturally feel less confident. This is especially true for women, we tend to underestimate ourselves and our skills. Although it’s still good to be realistic, I would say that it never hurts to pitch clients that seem a bit out of your experience level.
> Have writing samples that you’re proud of
If you have writing samples ready for clients that you’re proud of, you’ll impress easier and you’ll be prepared for any job when it does come. I recommend starting a portfolio very early on. Even if it’s not filled with experience, it will give clients a better idea of the work you are capable of writing.
> Write often
If you want to be a writer, you need to write consistently. When my work stream runs out, I never stop writing. I have my blog as an outlet for my writing and I use this, in part, to practice my writing.
> You can’t be a jack of all trades
You simply cannot be a master web developer, copy editor, lifestyle writer, and logo designer. As a freelancer, it’s important to know what you’re good at. I’m a good writer but I can also web develop. Although I’ve accepted web development jobs, I never market myself as a web developer. By marketing myself as a travel writer and only a travel writer, it allows me to sharpen that one skill and to develop a niche network of clients.
>Know the basics of the freelance process
I didn’t know what an invoice was until a client asked me for one. I had to learn it all on the go but it was honestly relatively simple. There are heaps of resources out there on sites like this that allow you to learn the basic skills needed to become a freelancer. I’m always learning how to pitch better, how to interact with clients more professionally, and of course how to write. You do not have to learn everything all at once but start off by learning how to pitch and invoice clients.
Freelance writing has improved my writing skills which, in turn, has made my university grades go up. I’ve had some freelance jobs that have been incredibly interesting and some jobs that have been lengthy and poorly paid. I’m so thankful for all these experiences and I really do think that freelance writing as a university student is something anyone can do to supplement their income. If there’s one piece of advice I can offer to you, beginner freelancer, it’s this – do not be afraid of rejection and be constantly eager to learn how to improve.