Last Year of College? Forget the Job Hunt and Start Freelancing Instead
You have many good reasons to start your freelance career as soon as (or even before) you graduate college. Even if you’d prefer to work an office job or want to explore another type of traditional employment setting, think of how “running your own business” will look on your resume. Plus, as you trudge through the tedious process of sending out applications and racking up interviews during your job hunt, a freelance hustle can help bring in cash. You may even discover you like the freelance life so much that you decide to stay there permanently! You’ll be in good company; as Business Insider reported last year, studies predict over 40 percent of the American workforce will be freelancing by 2020. Of course, you don’t want to wait until 2020. You want your freelance career ready to go by graduation day! If your graduation date is in sight, take these seven steps to get your freelance career rolling before you walk the stage.
1. Hone in on your specialtyThis might be the hardest step of starting your freelance career. You need to decide exactly what you want to specialize in. Some of us were born to be freelance writers or photographers. For others — especially those who want to freelance to make a extra cash while looking for that dream job — it might be harder to decide which freelance route to pursue. Think about your wide range of interests and talents. You could work online as a freelance writer, graphic designer or web developer. Or you might explore offline jobs like dog sitting or home organization. You could even become a dating coach! You could work with high school seniors on their college applications. You could provide branding advice to classmates launching startups. Plenty of freelance opportunities are out there, so pick one that interests you and get started.
2. Create your website and online portfolioYour website and portfolio help you stand out from the crowd. Don’t settle for the same Wordpress template everyone else uses. Make your website look good, and make your portfolio look great. To launch your freelance career, particularly in a creative field such as writing or design, avoid drawing too much attention to your college work. Potential clients might be interested in your senior year capstone project, but an entire portfolio made up of college assignments is a turn-off. Snap a few candid and memorable photos at a wedding, submit a few articles to sites like XOJane (or check out the Brazen Careerist contributor guidelines) or design a logo for your friend — anything to get work in your portfolio that you didn’t generate in a classroom.
3. Professionalize your online imageYour social media channels are now part of your freelance brand. (Click here to tweet this quote.) Whatever brand you want to reflect, make sure it’s present on your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. This means fewer Facebook posts about “Awwww, classes are so hard” and more posts like “Tonight I made ten logo mockups for a new project.”
4. Seek out freelance assignmentsThe sooner you take your first freelance job, the sooner you start building your freelance career. Where do you find these jobs? Job boards, online freelancer sites or networking with friends, family and classmates. Avoid freelance scams and look for good work that pays fairly.
5. Build your freelance reputationWhen you’re a freelancer, you get your first few gigs based on your talent. You build your career based on your reputation. Start working now to make sure that reputation grows to be a good one. How do you build a good freelance reputation? Never miss a deadline. Always be respectful, gracious and professional with your clients. If you’re working with a difficult editor, a not-so-communicative lead designer, or even one of the infamous Clients From Hell, learn from the experience and choose your clients more wisely next time. Be pleasant to work with, and more people will want to work with you.
6. Learn about freelancer taxesThe two reasons to launch your freelance career during your senior year of college are:
- To build experience that will impress future employers and open doors
- To get paid