How to Start a Freelance Business While Studying

How to Start a Freelance Business While Studying

With many universities within the UK now charging tuition fees in excess of £25,000 for a three year period of undergraduate study, it is clear to see that today’s students are a lot worse off than those of previous generations. Throw in the ever-increasing cost of living, and the debilitating effect austerity is having on most parents’ capability to help offset these costs and you can see why so many more would-be students nowadays have to think long and hard – very long and hard indeed - about whether or not they should even bother going to uni in the first place.

If you’re reading this then you may well be one of them.

If you’re not particularly well off yet decide going to uni is definitely something you want to do, then you need to be realistic from the outset and admit that you will more than likely need to generate a revenue stream of some kind during your three years of study. There are of course a myriad number of ways to achieve this: you can do ‘traditional’ part-time endeavours like working a few shifts at the SU bar, flipping burgers at a local fast-food outlet, or try your hand at far more contemporary offerings, such as taking part in online poker tournaments or even working as an escort (it happens more than you would think).

However, if you are creatively minded and/or have a certain amount of entrepreneurial flair, then you may well find working as a freelancer to be a far more rewarding – and lucrative – avenue to explore.

Here’s how to make it happen.. 

Step 1: Become a freelancer

Of course, the prospect of running some kind of freelance business, i.e. working from home on a computer, is likely to seem like the dream ticket for most students. For sure, the idea of being able to stay in bed all day and work from a laptop while watching Jeremy Kyle on TV sounds far more appealing than sweating over a hot grill or serving drunken idiots playing ‘pub golf’. The truth is though, working as a freelancer can only work if you have a talent and/or idea which you will enable you to generate (and maintain) an income without having any kind of adverse effect on your studies.

So what kind of things are we talking about here?

Step 2: Identify freelance business opportunities

It is true to say that there has never been a better time for students (or indeed, anyone) to earn an income from freelancing. Freelance business opportunities abound, especially online where individual clients and companies from across the board crying out for capable and flexible remote workers to do everything from copywriting and coding to website design and administration work, to name but a few.

Of course, you can’t just opt for something just because you like the idea of it; you’ll need to focus your endeavours on something you have a skill for and can genuinely excel in. Remember, there will be thousands of other ‘service providers’ out there in cyberspace competing with you so you it really is vital to strike out in territory that is thoroughly conducive to your talents.

Naturally, if you can combine your fledgling freelancing with your field of study then so much the better. Without a doubt, being able to name drop a relevant degree into your bio will give you a big advantage, and the contacts you make could prove to be very valuable later in your career.

Step 3. Generate freelance work

So what is the best way to actually generate freelance work? Well, it is fair to say most students generally opt for one (or indeed several) of the following options:


Around university

It may not seem obvious but the fact of the matter is you, being in a place of higher education, are actually surrounded by thousands of potential ‘clients’. The people studying at your uni will have needs which are every bit as diverse as the subjects they are there to learn about. This means you can be fairly confident that, regardless of the skills/services you are offering, you are bound to find some people who will be keen to take advantage of them. Naturally, services like freelance proofreading and editing will have a ready-made market, as will private tuition and exam preparation. However, you should also bear in mind that less obvious endeavours like musical tuition (e.g. one-on-one guitar lessons) and even event organising (think Van Wilder) can also help to bring in the reddies. Remember though, most students aren’t able to pay top dollar so don’t price yourself out of the market.

Online freelancer marketplaces

If you’re a skilled writer, coder, designer or administrator then online freelancer marketplaces like oDesk, Elance and PeoplePerHour can be great places to find freelance work. These marketplaces are essentially huge exchanges where people who want a task done come to find people who will do it for them for the right price. Once you’ve done a few projects and gained some positive feedback, it is actually quite easy to make a genuinely decent and reliable income from these sites. Of course, getting to that point can take longer for some people than it can for others. Stick with it though, and it will pay dividends eventually.

Via your own website

Setting up your own website is a doddle these days, especially when there are decent (and free) platforms like WordPress around. Having your own website is kind of like having your own high street shop; in that it allows you to show off all that you have to anyone who happens to be browsing in your area. Naturally, a shop can only be successful if it is able to attract plenty of potential customers, so you’ll need to make every effort to promote it. Advertising your site on social media, backlinking with other sites in relevant fields and maintaining an SEO-friendly blog are all beneficial strategies in this respect as they will help you to raise your site’s profile and (eventually) propel it toward the top end of Google’s page rankings.

Are you a student who is managing to successfully juggle your studies with a freelance business? Or, are you a recent graduate who has ‘been there and done it’ already? Either way, we’d love to hear from you so please feel free to share your tips in the comments box below...