Home » 5 Reasons To Start Freelancing As A Design Student


Wondering why you need to start freelancing as a design student? This article explores the main benefits of freelancing as a college student to help you start up your freelance career. Read on.

College life is hard. One minute, you think you have it all figured out, and the next, you’re drowning under the workload of multiple assignments and projects. However, you might still need to add freelancing to your daily responsibilities if you’re a college design student to have a great career start.

We know what you’re thinking now. How can a student freelance when they’re still struggling with college work?

In this guide, we’ll explore the main reasons why you should freelance as a student and how to get started on this journey. Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?

Why should you freelance as a design student?

01. To Build Your Portfolio

The real world of design is brutal. Even though you have a substantial degree in design, most agencies or clients won’t even glance through your resume if you don’t have a portfolio.

The thing is, many beginner graphic designers often have nothing to show in their portfolio apart from class assignments or group projects they may have done as students.

Unfortunately, most clients and agencies won’t consider these as an actual portfolio.

However, using the freelance model as a student helps you to build a diverse portfolio that will help you land major gigs in the future.

For instance, you could meet clients who want a simple logo design for their coffee brand, while some might request complex designs like the Starbucks logo.

At the end of your degree, you’ll have an academic qualification and an appealing, diverse portfolio at the same time.

02. To Help You Figure Out Your Career Path

According to the Ellucian Survey, about 51 percent of students are not confident in their career path when they enroll in college. As a design student, you might be having doubts about your chosen career path. While these doubts are entirely normal, freelancing can help you make an early decision on your future career.

By freelancing and getting a firsthand experience of the actual design world, you’ll be able to tell if the design is something you’re genuinely passionate about.

But that’s not all. You’ll also be able to decide the aspect of design you’re more interested in after working on several real projects.

03. To Get Experience Apart From That Given In College

Textbook knowledge (which is what you get in college) is excellent. However, it doesn’t expose you to the intricacies of dealing with a real-life project and clients.

As such, you may feel overwhelmed when you first step into the real world and discover that it’s nothing like the sheltered environment of a classroom project.

On the other hand, freelancing gives you the real experience of dealing with clients. You’ll learn how to follow a brief, present your work and vision, develop concepts based solely on the client’s feedback, and meet real deadlines.

Although you’ll have to learn all of these skills on the job and meet an irate client or two, this experience will prepare you for the real world. This way, you won’t be yet another green-eared college grad stepping into the industry.

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04. To Earn More Money

There’s this common stereotype about college students being broke. When we think of them, we usually imagine someone eating cold Ramen noodles and scraping pennies together while reading at a desk.

Although this stereotype is exaggerated, the truth is that most college students aren’t financially stable.

But as a freelancer, you’ll get to earn extra income by completing projects and satisfying clients. If you’re good at what you do, you might even get hefty bonuses from satisfied clients.

While you’ll certainly not earn as much as a full-time expert in the field, the extra income from freelance sales will undoubtedly help you settle most of your living expenses.

05. To Gain Industry Contacts and Connections

Here’s one thing most people don’t know about design: just like in any other industry, you need connections to take you to the top. While your skills will help you build an excellent reputation and clientele base, contacts will direct you to high-paying clients who need your skills.

Therefore, freelancing as a design student will help you meet other experts in the industry, make friends, and build connections. This way, you’ll meet potential clients and have people to turn to if you ever need help.

How to start freelancing as a college student?

Venturing into freelancing as a student can be scary for anyone. However, freelancing while you’re in college is the best way to lay a foundation for your career before you step into the real world.

While you can outsource your assignments to an essay writing service, you can’t exactly outsource experience.

Fortunately, we’ve come up with a list of the basic steps to follow. So if you’re still wondering how to become a freelance artist while in college, try out the following tips:

01. Search For Your First Clients

If you’re trying to start freelancing, your first task should be to search for your first potential clients, because without them, you’re just an aspiring freelance designer. Once you get your first orders, you can shake off the “aspiring” tag from your profile.

Finding clients can be challenging if you have little to no experience, but it’s not entirely impossible if you’re looking in the right places. Start by searching for easy, entry-level gigs on freelancing platforms like Fiverr and Upwork. You’ll most likely get low-paying clients at first, but it’s a great start.

Alternatively, you can search for clients through your personal network. Ask your friends, family, or colleagues if they know anyone who needs the services of a designer. Your first client doesn’t have to be a stranger from the internet; it could be someone within your close circle or network.

02. Create A Strong Personal/Professional Brand

Once you have a list of potential clients, you’ll need to create a solid professional brand for your freelancing career. As a freelance designer, branding is crucial because your brand’s appeal could determine whether a client wants to work with you or not. But how do you create a strong brand in the first place?

Well, you’d need to start by coming up with a brand name. If you’re looking to start a one-person freelancing business, your brand name could be a variation of your personal name.

However, if you plan to expand your freelance business and hire employees in the future, you’ll need to develop a new, professional name for your business later on.

03. Build A Minimum Viable Portfolio

As a student with little or no experience in design, it might be tempting to place freelancing on the back burner just because you don’t have a strong portfolio yet. But don’t do that yet. You can still attract clients and convince them to give you a shot even without a robust and diverse portfolio.

Wondering how? Start by building a minimum viable portfolio. It is a tiny portfolio that essentially highlights your best work and proves to the client that you can satisfy their needs. It’s not an elaborate, ten-page piece that features hundreds of samples and design projects. Instead, it could be a simple one-page site featuring your best work.

But what do you do if you have no “best work” to display in your portfolio whatsoever? Well, in this case, you’ll need to pause and create some sample designs first.

Come up with a few creative pieces that you think might impress a potential client and display them in your portfolio. Remember to put your best efforts into this process because it’s your first shot at impressing your client.

04. Impress Your First Clients

So you’ve got your first client(s), and it’s time to start working with them. The next step is to ensure that you overdeliver on your promises to them. Avoid doing a sloppy job and ensure that you go the extra mile to satisfy them.

In the same vein, try to take your client’s feedback very seriously. If a client isn’t happy with some elements in the design, make corrections until they’re pleased with the final outcome.

Wondering why it’s so important to go over and beyond for your clients? The more satisfied your clients are, the more willing they’ll be to hire you for a second project. They’d also refer you to other people who might need design services, thereby increasing your clientele pool.

05. Master The Art Of Writing Proposals

Here’s the thing: being a freelance designer is more than just creating exceptional graphic designs for clients. If you’re using competitive platforms like Fiverr and Upwork, you’ll need to learn how to write convincing proposals that will help you stand out from the rest of the competition.

Your proposal should focus on the client’s problems and the value you’re bringing to the table.

06. Don’t Get Too Picky

As a newbie to the world of freelance design, you can’t afford to be picky in the initial stages. During your first months, you’ll certainly come across a lot of low-paying gigs and clients. Our advice? Take the gigs as they come without thinking about payment, and build your portfolio first.

Once you have an elaborate, diverse portfolio and get the experience you need, you can then choose which jobs you want to take on or not.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a design student, juggling college and freelancing simultaneously might seem like a Herculean task. However, it’s an essential move that will definitely help to boost your career. If you love design and want to pursue a career path in the industry, this is your sign to freelance.

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