Everyone knows how uncertain it feels to be a student—when you haven’t really decided on anything beyond dinner (if that), and still aren’t sure how anyone affords their car insurance, let alone a car. That awkward, post-pubescent transition into “the real world” called college can put a lot of strain on your shoulders as a freelance writer, but it can also fill you head-to-toe with inspiration and information. And hopefully, cold-hard cash!
I am a sophomore in college working towards an English major with a minor in marketing, and my only job is working as a freelance writer. Now, I’m not going to say that I’ve been bathing in bundles of cash since I first started advertising myself online—especially not with the abysmal cost of college tuition these days—but I have been effectively crafting my career path and covering my basics expenses.
The one and only thing that got me to this point was to PUT IN WORK—I really cannot stress that enough. As a student, your calendar is probably one big black smudge made up of assignments, tests, and social events. But! Somewhere, mired in those congested tiny squares are blank, infallible spaces. Never waste those glorious blank spaces! Every unfilled second I have is auctioned off to research, reading, practicing, or networking.
Everyone’s path into the freelancing field is different, but my first step was to make a website for myself. Squarespace is nothing but easy and affordable, and for a very low rate they offer a cover page comfy enough for a portfolio and contact information. Next came the business cards. Getting your name out there as a freelancer is extremely important! Plus, college is a breeding ground for thinkers and dreamers. Attending class alongside thousands of other students foaming at the mouth with ideas is a great place to advertise your skills. Who knows when or why someone will need your talents!
Because I am a young, poor and hopeful amateur, I have been spreading my arms like a greedy octopus in all directions looking to build a solid portfolio. For starters, I will never turn down a freelance job for some extra cash. I mainly reach out to my peers, my family, my co-workers, local businesses, the entirety of the internet (I wish I were joking), and I even post ads around campus. This alone has given me the ability to ask for testimonials, gain a steady influx of money, and do a bit of networking all from an uncomfortable plastic seat in my English Myths and Legends class. Needless to say, I don’t get a lot of sleep between homework and freelance work, but it has paid off for me in innumerable ways.
The other benefit to starting a freelance career while attending school is the information you absorb from taking applicable classes. My journalism studies have taught me an abundance of relevant tips and tidbits regarding advertising, target audiences, copy-writing and so much more. English and writing classes keep my brain trained and my fingers relentlessly typing. I now know how to organize well and work under a deadline, and in the freelance world that is literally life or death.
For me, action seems to be the pathway to success. I don’t have money to put forward in order to build my image, but I do have time and energy. I read hundreds of articles, novels, and examples of good work. I teach myself rather than wait for the information to come to me. Heck, I go out there and make a fool of myself, whether it be through ridiculous amounts of online applications or through blog posts and essays that have caused me to burn the midnight oil to a crisp. If I continue on this prolific road, within the next few years I will be paying for my car insurance twenty times over!
I suppose the main lesson that can be learned from this weary, wistful college student is to never give up no matter how discouraging and daunting the exponential freelance learning curve may be. And it is never too early to get started. Anyone can be a freelance writer if they simply work for it.
Elise Peregrin is a 19 year old college student and writing enthusiast. She is the co-owner of the travel blog The Busy Rats, and works both as a local music journalist in Southern California and a freelance writer. Her writing career has just begun but she has not hesitated to jump in head first.
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