As a student-freelancer myself, I have gotten a chance to personally explore the ins and outs of joining the gig economy and I am happy to share what my experience has been like so far. Starting in mid-March, it became challenging to find traditional work as hiring freezes took place in companies not only nationally but globally. Like most students, I rely on having summer jobs to support myself, so this became unsettling, however, I was able to look into alternative options. I tallied up the skills that I had from previous internships, volunteer opportunities, and paid jobs and I figured that since so many people were freelancing and working in short-term gigs, even though it wouldn’t have the stability of a full-time job, it might help me offset some of the costs of living on my own.
Initially, I set out on Fiverr and Uplancer with the goal of being able to pay for my monthly groceries, and I’ve been happy to be able to meet those goals each month. I have loved being able to work on my own schedule because I haven’t had to quit any of the other passions that I enjoy spending time on to make time for work. Setting my own schedule is a huge perk, and one of the reasons why I so strongly support freelancing for students! Additionally, it goes without mentioning that the gig economy can help cope with layoffs and the decline in the job market due to COVID-19.
Where companies cannot afford to necessarily hire someone long-term, they may still be looking for help with different smaller projects. Additionally, freelancing has been a way for me to build confidence with the value of my work, expand my portfolio, and stretch outside my comfort zone to learn and build new skills. An example of this is when I recently took a gig in which I was designing graphics for a company. I had some experience, but they requested that I used new software I had no experience with. Not only was I being paid to essentially learn a new marketable skill, but it was also something I never would have thought to try had I not had that little push. Another key perk was that it showed me the scale of free software that is available for college students – be sure to take a look at what your university offers!
This is not to say that it’s always been rosy, there are some downsides to every positive opportunity. First and foremost, it takes a lot of time management to figure out a plan to be able to work in ‘extra work’ into your day. When it gets busy, it can be easy to forget about the work on the back burner and to keep track of moving deadlines and workload. Responding to messages and requests in a timely manner is important, so even though it can be easy to forget to check, make sure to schedule in time for professionally! Additionally, the freelancing doesn’t always build quickly. Sometimes, there is a lot of work available and sometimes things are not as busy – this is certainly not a way to get rich quickly or on a short-term basis. It takes a little while to build up a client base and to make those trusted connections, so be sure to prepare yourself, have faith in your skills, and dive right in!