Freelancing in College: Your Guide to Your First Paid Invoice

We all want to make a little cash on the side. More so college students. What would $100 extra do for you? Maybe splurging on high-end groceries? Give you a night out? A start to a weekend trip?

Too often our cashflow isn’t where we want it to be. Unexpected expenses arise all the time. A popped tire, a trip to the doctor, or friends want to go in on an expense.

Freelancing gives you the freedom to earn cash on your own — to make a name for yourself. Contract work allows you to be your own boss and to set your own schedule. Why wouldn’t everyone freelance?

Hey, I’m Seth. I’m a freelancer with 7+ years of experience in digital marketing. I help you earn more and work less. Check out some helpful guides to assist with your workflow.

Do you need a website SEO audit? I can do a complete overview for you and help increase impressions, engagement, and conversions.

Want some 1-on-1 freelance coaching? Schedule a free call. Don’t forget to follow on Instagram: @SethTheFreelancer.

Why freelancing in college is a good thing

You get to build your portfolio and services early. You’ll carve out a niche for yourself. You’ll know exactly who your audience is by the time you graduate. Here are a few other benefits to freelancing in college:

  1. Income: Let’s face it, college can be expensive, and freelancing can help you earn some extra income to cover your expenses. Plus, if you’re able to build up a solid client base and charge competitive rates, you can potentially earn a good amount of money while you search for the job — or maybe freelancing will be your long-term solution.
  2. Flexibility: Freelancing allows you to work on your own schedule and from anywhere you choose. This means you can work around your class schedule and other commitments, giving you more control over your time. Need to complete a class assignment and a client project? Do it at the same time and place!
  3. Skill development: Freelancing can help you develop valuable skills, such as time management, communication, and project management. You’ll also have the opportunity to hone your technical skills in your chosen field, which can make you a more competitive job candidate after graduation.
  4. Networking: As a freelancer, you’ll have the opportunity to work with a variety of clients and build your professional network. This can lead to future job opportunities and referrals, both of which can be invaluable as you start your career after college.
  5. Independence: Freelancing requires a certain level of independence and self-motivation, which can be a valuable trait to develop in college. By freelancing, you’ll learn how to manage your own time and be accountable for your own work, which can set you up for success in any career.

A 19-Point Checklist When Starting Remote Freelancing

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Some cons to freelancing in college

Working for yourself is amazing, even in college. But there are some drawbacks to consider before landing your first client. Here are some downside to freelancing while getting a higher education:

  1. Time management: Freelancing requires a lot of time and effort, which can be challenging to balance with a full course load and other commitments. It’s essential to have strong time management skills to ensure you can meet your deadlines and stay on top of your workload. My tip is to block out time for studying and time for client work — and set timers for both to keep you focused.
  2. Income uncertainty: While freelancing can be a great way to earn extra income, there is also some uncertainty in terms of how much you’ll earn each month. You may experience fluctuations in your income, which can be challenging to manage, especially if you rely on freelancing as your sole source of income.
  3. Lack of experience: This may not be you, but most college students don’t have the experience to land a client. (No fear! I break down below how to do this.)
  4. Finding clients: Finding and retaining clients can be challenging, especially when you’re just starting out. You’ll need to spend time and effort on marketing and networking to build up a solid client base, which can be a barrier to entry for some freelancing in college.
  5. Isolation: More work means less friend time. Freelancing can be a lonely experience, especially if you’re working from home or in a remote setting. This can lead to feelings of isolation and lack of motivation.
  6. No benefits: Unlike traditional employment, freelancers don’t typically receive benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, or retirement contributions. This means you’ll need to factor in these costs and plan accordingly.

What freelance services college students should offer

Your best bet is to freelance services that are quick and easy because let’s face it, you have enough to worry about. You don’t need extra stress on top of your education.

Here are a few recommendations for what you can do as a freelancer while in college:

  • Content Writing
  • Editing
  • Graphic Design
  • Website Creation
  • Social Media Management
  • Tutoring and Academic Services
  • Photography
  • Videography
  • Virtual Assistant

Be what you want to attract

This is important. Emulate the kind of client you want to attract. If you want to be a content writer for pet services, be knowledgeable about pets. If you want to do graphic design for new businesses, be a networker. You’ll soon realize you’ll start attracting the client you want.

How to find clients

Ok, it’s time to get into the details of what it takes to land your first client while in college. Once you decide what you want to freelance, it’s time to get paid.

As an aside, I wrote a long article about how to land freelance content writing jobs in another article, but the below is still helpful for college students.

Check around with family members and friends to see if they have freelance job opportunities.

Check in with local businesses by emailing and calling. If they look at your portfolio and like what you offer, they may haute you for a projects (or multiple!) Here an email template you can use:

“I found [insert potential client], and I like your digital marketing services. Do you need website content for your new pages? I’m a professional SEO writer in the US with 100+ published pages on the web. I partner with agencies and take the headache out of researching and writing. Let me know, and I will send info and samples.”

Use social media to your advantage. Create social channels to showcase your work, and to provide tips in your industry. Link to your portfolio in your bio.

Craigslist can be a good source of freelance jobs. But watch out for scammers!

I outline 35 ways to land clients in a guide. Check it out:

35 Unique Ways to Land Clients as a Freelancer (Not Upwork!)

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Share your portfolio

An online portfolio allows freelancers to share their work with prospective clients. Showcase your best work at the front. (You can see my portfolio here.) Include graphics, descriptions, and outbound links (if applicable). This proves your expertise.

What if you don’t have work to showcase? Here are a few ways to add to your portfolio:

  • Do work for free (but not too much!)
  • Showcase your own website and social media channels
  • Add to your blog
  • Ask other freelancers if you can guest blog on their site

Create a contract

Write up a simple contract once you find your first client. This includes outlining the services that will be completed by you, when, and at what cost. There may be other details included, but this is the gist.

I give you a Google Doc starting template you can copy and use with your logo:

A Contract & Scope Template for Freelancers (Copiable Google Doc!)

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Complete the services (early)

Freelancing isn’t like writing a paper and turning it in at 11:59pm. Clients want to be WOWED by your services. One way to do this is to give it to them early. And hey, the earlier you give it, the quicker you get paid!

Give it a minute

Often payment doesn’t come right way like we wish it would. But keep an eye on the bank account because if your client is trustworthy, money will soon come your way.

Get paid!

Ahhhh what we’ve been waiting for! Good work. You deserve it!

Now that you’ve experienced the rush of payment, keep going! What else can you accomplish?

Build your freelance business

Keep building the portfolio and collecting email addresses to share industry tips and to stay top of mind.

Check out some guides to help you in your freelancing. Need some 1-on-1 coaching? Schedule a free call and let me help you build your freelancing business.