The best time to start freelancing

University is a special stage in a person’s life, and it is important to make the most of all the opportunities it presents. Today more students than ever before are using new technology to do just that. The advance of internet technology and the growth of social media has made it easy for people to network, promote themselves and reach a wide audience.

Across the UK and beyond, people are monetising their skills and talents even while they’re still at university – through blogging, photography, art, design, make-up artistry, hairdressing and a host of other routes. And, with the prevalence of agencies supplying work and the increased availability of enterprise education and support, there probably isn’t a better time to start a freelance business.

You don’t need to have a big new idea to take advantage of the opportunities out there. For some people, platforms like Freelancer.com, Upwork, PeoplePerHour and Etsy can be the best way to start out in self-employment. Something as simple as a driving licence could even allow you to work for yourself through companies like Uber, Deliveroo, Yodel or Amazon Flex.

The reality is there a lot of reasons to start freelancing while you’re at university:

Personal development – Freelancing gives you the chance to learn new skills beyond the core talent you’re monetising – skills that could be extremely valuable when you enter the job market as a graduate. You can gain practical soft skills such as networking, communication, time management and negotiation, as well as more technical ones like sales, accounting and project management.

Perfect time – Most people only go to university once in their life, and for most students, it’s a time when you have almost no responsibilities. That means you can afford to take risks you wouldn’t necessarily take normally – anything from night work to exciting creative projects.  

Flexibility – When you’re at university, it can be difficult to find a job that fits around your academic timetable – let alone any other commitments you have. Online platforms, however, are incredibly flexible. So working on them, you can set your own schedule and choose to accept or reject work opportunities as you please.

Earning potential – Being in control of your work schedule also means you can work as long as you want. The internet has made freelancing easy and a lot of online platforms have a massive consumer base and millions of visitors daily. So you don’t have to worry about marketing or sales tactics: all you need to do is put up a profile about yourself and what you do.

Employability and work experience – Crucially, you can actually present your freelancing as work experience on your CV – which will immediately make you more attractive to potential employers. This is a particular advantage in a tough job market where many recent graduates struggle to find work experience to fill their CVs.

So, if you are a student and you aspire to be self-employed, the best time is now.

Unfortunately, there still isn’t enough awareness about self-employment in universities. A 2014 IPSE survey of 1,000 freelancers found that only two per cent had known about freelancing opportunities in university. And with so many more courses leading to careers where freelancing is the norm, more needs to be done to make students aware of university opportunities.

As the largest association of freelancers and self-employed professionals in the UK, IPSE partners with universities across the country to help not only educate students about the opportunities, but also support them and help them get started. Our student membership package is designed to give students the knowledge and resources they need to run a successful freelance business.

To find out more about what we do, visit www.ipse.co.uk.

Olaitan Ajimobi is IPSE's Education and Training Officer

Finance, Training, Education

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