The Beginner’s Guide to Freelancing


For students, freelancing is a great way to get hands-on experience in your industry in addition to traditional avenues like internships, job shadowing, and other opportunities. Demonstrating freelance project work on your resume, in interviews, or on a digital portfolio can set you apart in the hiring process. Or, you might even find you prefer freelance work to a full-time position at an organization. The biggest attraction to freelancing for most people is flexibility. Freelancers can typically set their own hours, work from wherever they like, and choose to do the projects that interest them the most. In this article, we’ll look at how you can find freelance projects, market your expertise, and set prices for your work.

Finding Freelance Opportunities

Sometimes, freelance opportunities just seem to “happen.” Did a neighbor ask you to take their family photos? Did your roommate ask you to design their cousin’s wedding invitation? Did a family member ask you to do their taxes? You are a freelancer. These opportunities may seem like happenstance. However, these are examples of “networking” in action.

For someone to ask you to work on a project for them, they need to know your skill set and that you are available to take on projects. If you want to take on freelance opportunities, ask yourself “who needs to know I’m available?” Tell classmates, friends, family members, coworkers, and others that you are interested in taking on freelance projects. Chances are, they may share the information with someone they know who is looking for a photographer, an accountant, or an IT consultant.  

You can also search for opportunities through industry associations or freelance job sites like LinkedIn ProFinder and  Flexjobs.com. However, make sure you are working with a reputable organization.

How to Market Your Work

Another important part of marketing your skills is to create a portfolio of your work. You may wish to create a digital portfolio via a personal website or set up a social media profile so you can easily showcase examples of your work. Share the link to your portfolio on your social media platforms, in your email signature, on your resume, and on your business card. Each of these channels can help you promote work samples to potential employers and potential clients

Start Small

As you start out, it is important not to take on too many projects at once. You may underestimate the time it takes to manage a project, and you don’t want to risk burning out or missing a deadline for a client. Start by taking on one project at a time, and, when you are ready, you can increase the number of projects you work on simultaneously. It is important to be realistic about how much time it takes to complete a project. It is a good idea to track how much time you spend on different types of work to help you with future planning.

Remember the Administrative Work

As you consider how much time you can invest in a project, remember that you need to account for not only the time you will spend working on the project but also time spent communicating with your client, managing expenses, and other administrative tasks. Be sure to consider these tasks as you make your plan to complete a project. You also need to remember that the money you earn needs to be documented and claimed for income taxes. Be sure to budget for taxes and keep good records!

Set a Fair Price, and Ask for It

The work you do is valuable, so it’s okay to ask for fair payment. You need to do some research in order to set your rates. You can look at what other freelancers in your industry charge. You can also figure out a fair hourly rate based on a salary. If you are currently working full-time, you can use your current salary as a starting number. Otherwise, you can use resources like Glassdoor (you can access Glassdoor via the Career Center’s Online Resources) to find the salary range associated with the work you are doing. Once you have a salary in mind, you can find the hourly rate.

Here’s the formula: (Yearly salary/52 weeks)/40 hours = your hourly rate

Next, mark up that hourly rate by 25 to 50 percent. This will help you cover the cost of business expenses, taxes, savings, and health insurance. You can adjust the cost based on your needs and experience. Be mindful of what is fair for you and what is fair for your client. Remember, you can also decide if you want to charge an hourly rate, if you want to charge a fixed rate for a project, or charge with a mix of a fixed rate and an hourly rate. Figure out what option is best for you, and move forward!

Give It a Try

Freelancing can be a great opportunity to build experience in your field, and it is something you can do while you are in school and beyond! Why not give it a try?

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