Have you ever come across those freelance writing jobs that are “perfect for students?” Me too. I don’t necessarily appreciate ads that target moms, students or retired people because it usually indicates to me the hiring person is trying to justify extremely low pay. However, that doesn’t mean that freelance writing isn’t a good way for college students to earn money over the summer.
Who should consider freelance writing as a summer job?
We all know freelancing isn’t for everyone. If you hate to write and can’t grasp basic grammar and usage, it’s probably not something you should consider. However, if you’re a journalism, English or communications major or if you love to write and happen to be quite good at it, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give it a shot. Most students haven’t really established an area of expertise and can’t speak as authority on topics, but there are some good generalist gigs out there. Also students into technology, gaming, and music might find enough work to keep them busy.
If you’re planning a career in writing, getting your foot in the door now might help you to have steady work and clients once you graduate. Just be sure to research freelance writing and freelance writing jobs before getting started. Learn as much as you can about the business end, types of gigs, and types of pay. Potential clients are going to be leery enough of hiring a student, if you can show you know what you’re doing you’ll have a better chance of landing gigs.
To get started, read our Frequently Asked Questions About Freelance Writing Jobs.
What are the benefits of freelance writing for students?
When you think about it, freelancing is the perfect summer job. When I worked summers, I missed out on specific outings and good times because there was a clash with my hours. Freelancing is flexible, so if you want to go to the beach with your friends you can, as long as you have good habits. You can make your own hours and work as much or as little as you want. You can also work anywhere there’s WiFi – home, the coffee shop, a hotel and even some National Parks have free WiFi hotspots. Also, depending on the types of freelance writing you do, you can earn anywhere from $10 per hour on up. Mind, you, ten bucks is on the low end, but it’s comparable to many college summer opportunities. Most freelance writers earn much more.
Beware: What to look out for
Ok, so here’s the thing, there are definitely people who look to take advantage. Always make sure the ends justify the means. For example, if you spent an hour writing a blog posts and you’re only earning fifty cents in residual change for your time, there’s something wrong. Now, if you spent 45 minutes to an hour on an article and it pays $20, and $20 per hour works for you, the end justifies the means.
- You don’t have to pay for jobs. Some “clients” tell you that for a fee they’ll send work your way each month. Don’t fall for it. You wouldn’t pay an employer for a job in the real world, why would you do it as a freelancer?
- Be careful when offering freebies. We’ll get to writing samples in a few, however, sending samples of your work in order to get a gig is one thing. Being asked to produce writing assignments on spec, or for free without the promise of a job, means someone is trying to get something for nothing and looking to take advantage.
- There are arguments all over the web about the best kinds of writing and what you should and shouldn’t do. Aside from ensuring the end justifies the means, only you know what’s best for you. Don’t let other freelancers on forums, blogs and social networks bully you into making decisions. Only you know what writing works best for your situation. Read everything you can and make informed choices based on your own personal situation.
Some things to keep in mind
If you read this far, it probably means you’re still intrigued and want to learn more about this freelance writing thing. Ok, then. We’ll keep going.
You can’t just jump into freelance writing. There are a few things you should know, a few things you should research and a few things you need to take care of before you begin.
- You’re going to need writing samples: Freelance writing isn’t like a department store job. You can’t walk in, fill out an application and hope you’re called. You have to perfect a cover or query letter and have writing samples to present with your letter. You see, a client wants to know you can write and also be sure you’re a good fit for your project. Even if you’re looking for content sites as a summer job, you’re still going to need some killer writing samples. If you haven’t been published your best recourse is to create some sample articles on your own. It might not hurt to have a trusted teacher or fellow writer look them over to make sure they’re good enough to land work.
- You’re going to have to make a good first impression: Your cover letter and writing samples must be absolutely perfect. You’re being judged for your writing from the very first sentence.
- You’re going to be rejected: I’m sorry to tell you but most writers are rejected at some point in their career, many in the very beginning. Don’t take it to heart as it’s nothing personal. It doesn’t mean you’re a poor writer, it’s more likely your writing style didn’t match what the client was looking for or you weren’t a good fit for the gig.
- You’re going to meet with some fierce competition: Every time I post an ad for a blogger for my blogs I get between 200 and 500 applications. That’s a lot of competition. What can you do to stand out in a potential clients eye?
- You’re not going to have a boss looking over your shoulder: When you freelance you have to be accountable for you. That means finding time to work, turning in clean work, and meeting your deadlines. You won’t have a boss reminding you something is due and you have to practice your own good customer service. You won’t be part of a team. It’s just you and a client who is counting on you to be responsible.
- Certain types of writing are considered unethical: Term paper mills, misspelled SEO writing, article spinning and plagiarism (stealing another writer’s content) are considered unethical. Steer clear of this type of writing, especially if you wish for writing to be your career. You don’t want to have any bad marks on your record.
- There are different types of writing: Newspapers, magazines, blogs, web content, copywriting, grant writing, and technical writing are only a small portion of the writing opportunities available today. Each has different rules and formats. Do yourself a favor and learn what you can about the types of writing that interest you.
Get your freelance writing foot in the door now
It takes time to establish a freelance writing career. However, if you start now, then maybe by the time you graduate you’ll have enough clients to keep you busy while you either look for a job, or launch a full time freelance writing career. There are so many opportunities available for freelance writers of all levels. There’s no better time to do this than now!
OK, FWJ community. What is your best advice for college students wishing to become freelance writers?