Freelancing for Students: How to Juggle School and Work

There are many perks of working as a freelancer while studying. It puts extra cash in your pocket, allows you to grow your client list early, and adds valuable experience to an entry-level resume. But there are also drawbacks, such as juggling the time between studies and client commitments, as well as the tendency to enjoy earning more than studying.

To help you keep your focus and your sanity in check, we have compiled our top tips for managing school and work below:

Find the Time

If you have to sacrifice time for studying, social interactions, and rest, you are doing it wrong. It doesn't matter if the work is lucrative; if you are tired, burnout, and unhappy, the quality of your work as well as your health will suffer. Before you even consider working, check if you have time left after class and schoolwork. You also need to determine when you do your best work. Are you a morning person or do you prefer working at night? Are you comfortable cutting work in small increments or do you need hours of focus?

Make a Schedule

After finalizing your schedule for school, work out how much time is taken up by lectures, social activities, homework, extracurricular activities, and the like. Compute the hours that you can allot for your freelance work. Maybe you can sacrifice that late night TV show you follow or pass on some Friday night parties. Consider moving closer if you spend so much time commuting to school and back.

Cherry-pick

Don't take any work you find just because. Cherry-picking work ensures that you'll only get the ones that you can do and can pay well. If a job requires more time than you can commit, or it's not worth the price, or it's too complicated, reject it and move on to the next one.

Muster Discipline

It takes a lot of discipline to keep freelancing despite the demands of schoolwork and the coaxing of friends to stay and hang out for a couple more hours. It takes a lot of self-control not to oversleep and put off work for the next day. Always remind yourself that you are on top of things by making a list of the tasks you need to accomplish for the day and crossing them out once done.

Set Client Expectations

Don't be afraid to speak up. You need to tell the client if the project needs a higher budget or a longer deadline. Don't commit until you have thought it through until the end. One tip when it comes to negotiating with clients is to "under promise and over deliver". For example, your estimated project timeline is a week. Tell the employer you will be able to deliver in two weeks. This way, you will have the time to catch up in case you get sick or have urgent matters to attend to. Also use this time to ensure that the work is high quality and exceeds clients' expectations.

A student freelancing career can get really busy, but the benefits are many -- leverage over fellow entry-level applicants, a name in the industry, and a good head start. But don't get lost in the frenzy and never take your eyes off the goal. Freelancing has promising results and the extra cash is sweet, but you are in school for a reason. Don’t let that diploma out of your sight. We wish you luck!

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Nikki Hernandez
Nikki Hernandez Staff

Wired and Inspired | Content Coordinator, Freelancer.com

I'm the coordinator of Freelancer's Case Study Program. I write inspirational success stories of employers and freelancers. When not busy writing, I play video games.

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