How to start your freelance business while attending school

Freelancing while in school

Starting a freelance business at any age can be tough, and there are lots of factors to think about before getting started, though, starting a freelance business whilst at school is definitely one of the toughest things I’ve ever done.

In this post, you’ll learn exactly how to go about starting your freelance business whilst either at school, university, or any other educational institute. Even if you’re not attending school, you can still apply what I share to starting your own freelance business. So, without further ado, let’s begin!

Finding your niche

This is something I’ve always struggled at doing, as since a very young age, I’ve enjoyed making short films and videos, as well as making websites. In hindsight, I should’ve really chosen one skill to carry forward, and gone with that, right from the outset.

More recently, I have been accepting more and more web projects, and fewer video projects than before, and this has been (so far) a really great decision.

But, how do you find your niche in the first place, and more specifically, whilst at school?

  1. Think about your favourite school subjects, and why you like the ones you do. If you like art, consider becoming a graphic designer. If you like computing, consider becoming a programmer. If you like music, become a music producer. You get the idea.
  2. Consider which areas of work you spend most of your time working on outside of school, either as homework or as a member of an organisation/club.
  3. Find out which subjects you spent the most time on because you enjoy them (and not because you struggle with them). If you’re always putting in the extra effort in a certain subject, you should try and find a freelance career that would suit you.

Trying to make that all important decision can be tough, but you’ll get there eventually!

Finding the time

School life is tough, and lots of pressure is often put on my schools to ensure you get the grades you truly deserve. So, you’ll need to strike a balance between the amount of time you spend working on your school work, and the amount of time you spend freelancing.

Your parents may, at first, feel a little uncertain about you not focussing all your attention on your school work, but a couple of hours each school night, and a few more at the weekend will allow you to get started really quickly with your freelance business.

If you’re lucky enough to have lots of people who want to use your services, don’t become complacent and accept all their proposals at once – you never know what homework the school may set you that weekend, or if you’re going to have an assessment any time soon.

Remember, freelancing whilst you’re at school is a side-job, and isn’t your main priority. School work must come first, and then any extra time you have can be spent freelancing.

Looking professional is key

I accepted my first freelance project at a very young age, and at that time, I was quite naïve and didn’t come across as professional as I’d’ve liked. More recently, I’ve started spending more time working on the running of my business, and the processes I need to go through when I find a new potential client.

Here are a few tips on how you can start to look professional as a freelancer:

  1. Build an attractive website – it can be expensive to do it well, but it’s super important, as chances are, that’ll be your main source for finding clients.
  2. Right a simple freelance contract, and get your clients to sign it before you begin working on their project.
  3. Send your clients regular updates on their projects, and make sure they know what you’re currently working on for them.
  4. Sign up for a free PayPal account (with your parents’ permission), as this is the easiest method for collecting payments from clients all over the world.

Staying organised

I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay organised whilst you’re freelancing – at first, it may not seem like much of a big deal, but you should consider the bigger picture at all times.

Here are a few simple tips which will help you stay organised as a young freelancer:

  1. Keep a tidy and well-organised email inbox – using apps such as Airmail and Sparrow, there’s really no excuse to not have everything neatly placed.
  2. Use Trello to manage every stage of your clients’ projects – create a board, add some lists and cards, and get going!
  3. If you’re working with other freelancers, consider using a service like HipChat, which will allow you to chat with each other and stay on task at all times.

Get started now

Once you’ve thought about the above advice, you should simply get going, find your feet, and start finding your clients! Ask your family and friends if they know anyone who needs any work in your niche, and grab the opportunity whilst you can.

I’d be really interested to hear from other young freelancers, or any aspiring young freelancers – leave a comment below, and I’ll be more than happy to answer your questions!

  • http://ashleyidesign.com Ashley Irving

    Love that you mentioned Trello. I’m also a huge fan of HipChat but haven’t had the opportunity to use it recently. I used it at a past job to communicate with other departments, but would love to use it as a sounding board with other freelancers. Maybe Brent should set one up for people to bounce ideas off each other ;)

    • http://www.samberson.com Sam Berson

      Hey Ashley, that’s a great idea! Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

    • http://brentgalloway.me Brent Galloway

      Sam is actually the person that introduced me to Trello just before you wrote your article here, Ashley.

      I haven’t heard of HipChat before Sam shared it here. I’ve always and currently use Skype for quick communication with others. Is there a significant difference between the two applications?

      • http://www.samberson.com Sam Berson

        Yup, I’m using Trello to manage my multi-author blog. Read more: https://speakerdeck.com/samberson/managing-a-multi-author-blog

        I guess the main difference between Skype and HipChat is that HipChat is aimed more at businesses, and for group messaging, whereas Skype is more aimed at consumers.

      • http://ashleyidesign.com Ashley Irving

        HipChat is nice as you’re able to have rooms with multiple people, similar to Google Hangouts. It’s lightweight, displays video and links well and most importantly, has excellent emoticons ;)

  • http://geekybeaver.ca Braunson

    Great post, I love Trello, have used HipChat here and there. One thing that stood out to me in this post was the mail apps you suggest were entirely for iOS/Mac, don’t forget the Windows users, a great window alternative to the Mac client may be Thunderbird, it’s free too.

    • http://www.samberson.com Sam Berson

      Hey, thanks for the comment. You’re quite right – sorry about that! :)