Published On: Sun, Jul 6th, 2014

Want to earn more money? Here’s how to freelance as a student

If you freelance while you study you can build up a body of work and earn money. It can be tough, but it is also flexible, rewarding, and a great way to get your work out there.

That’s exactly what 21-year-old Lucy Brisbane did. A third-year student at Goldsmiths College, London, Brisbane freelances mostly for the London Evening Standard while studying for a degree in sociology and politics.

She says: “I always enjoy doing freelance journalism because I love writing, researching, and talking to people.”

But it isn’t only journalism students who freelance. Maxine Boateng, a 22-year-old public relations student at the University of the Arts, London, says: “I’ve been freelancing for 11 months and I really enjoy it.”

“My timetable is flexible and I currently only have three clients so I’m able to balance my studies with my freelance work. It’s just like having a part-time job.”

So if you’re looking to do some freelance work, what should you do?

Make contacts

Pitch your services to potential employers and clients. Sending speculative emails can be a useful way of gauging interest and networking at events can bring potential leads. Don’t be afraid to pitch yourself and your skills.

Make a website

Freelancing is a great way to build up an impressive portfolio, but people need to know who you are, and a website can help. Whether you’re a freelance photographer or freelance journalist, create a personal website to showcase your best pieces.

Sites such as Wordpress and provide professional platforms for your content and are usually free.

Find the time

Work out how much of your time is taken up by lectures, seminars, social activities, and sleeping. Look at the time left and assess where you can fit in some time to do your freelance work. Do you really need that extra hour in bed on a Wednesday morning? Valuable freelancing time is always up for grabs.

Learn how to prioritise

Brian Diener is a business major at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He founded College Copywriters, after realising how difficult it is to find clients for freelance work.

He says: “There have been times when it seems like every deadline is at the same time, and there’s just no way you’re going to finish your school and freelance work. In that case, you either pick one of the two or – as it often turns out – just stay up all night and get them both done.”

Use your holidays wisely

If you’re really pressed for time or can’t get into freelancing during term, then an equally good option is offering your work during the summer holidays. With roughly three months worth of time to kill, this is another good way of building up that experience and portfolio. Sipping Pimms while finishing that commission is not a bad way of spending a summer evening.

Register as self-employed

As a freelancer you’ll have to be responsible for your own tax and national insurance contributions. This is done via a self-assessed tax return, and you must register with HM Revenues and Customs as soon as you can. Tax doesn’t have to be taxing – visit the HMRC website for information on setting up as a sole trader.

Get paid (on time)

Freelancing often comes with a long-winded process of getting paid. Agree with your client beforehand when you will be paid, the method of payment, and how often you’ll receive your fee.

Invoicing is the best way to do this, but do this consistently to avoid chasing payments. There are plenty of professional looking invoice templates available online to help you get started.

Brisbane says: “It is not easy to get paid and it is not easy to get commissions, but people who really want to write should not be put off by this. Keep pitching, keep putting your neck out there and you will find paid jobs.”

Handle client expectations

Clients are understandably the most important part of freelancing, and they expect results. While completing a project is an essential part of your schedule, you also have to juggle the rest of your life. Always let clients know what deliverables are achievable – don’t over promise or you’ll risk under-delivering.


Never lose sight of why you’re at university in the first place. While freelancing alongside studies can bring in some extra cash, ultimately you’re there to get a degree. Don’t forget to actually study.