Are you thinking about earing some extra cash with freelance work while you study? It can be tough sometimes, especially when exams are coming, but it’s also flexible and you can always decide how many clients you would like to work with. This is not just an option for journalism students; it’s a great choice for engineers too! Our guest writer Connor shared with us his experience on how freelancing as a college student jumpstarted his engineering career.
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When I started college I had plans of working as much as I
could with hopes that doing so would put me on track to
have a job I’d be proud of by the time of graduation.
However, one thing that stifled my aspirations was the lack of
engineering internships and part time positions available
during the school year. So I turned to something I never
thought would have as great of an impact on my career as it
Here are the five ways freelancing as a college student
jumpstarted my career in engineering:
If I were to list my favorite aspects of a freelancing career in tech, I
would have to say that the opportunity to diversify your work
experience would be at the top of that list. Diversified work
experience ameliorated some of my anxiety around decisions
regarding what I wanted to do once I graduated, as it gave me the
chance to explore many possible options. I then used these
experiences to better inform my career decisions I had difficulty
determining, which provided me with a great sense of confidence in
knowing the choice I made was a good one.
1. It Allowed Me to Diversify My Experience
Networking has always been in the back of my mind as
something I needed to do more of as time went on and I
became more involved in my career. But it never felt as vital to
me then as it did once I began freelancing, and that was
because it hadn’t proved its ability to me yet. Since then, I’ve
gotten most of my freelance work from networking and talking
to people. Whether it’s meeting new people at tech events or
making new friends, just talking about the type of work I’m
doing (or the work I’d like to do) can lead to some type of
introduction. These introductions could be to new people or
opportunities that can enable me to grow my freelancing
2. I Learned the Importance of Networking
3. My People Skills Became Stronger
The networking aspect of freelancing is part of a larger element
within it that holds a strong influence over all of my work—
people skills. People skills have become an increasingly
important piece of my freelancing career, as they’ve bolstered
the success of various projects and relationships—both easy
and difficult. Freelance jobs so often require the freelancer to
address needs and mitigate difficult situations in a positive way,
so I truly do not know how I’d successfully accomplish these
jobs without gaining better people skills. These are skills that I’m
thankful to have acquired as a student, as they’ve provided me
means of understanding how to work with a variety of different
people and situations that I can use in the future.
The school I go to isn’t a typical one for an engineering/tech related
position. I’m enrolled in a business school studying Computer Information
Systems, so there’s a lot of tech involved in that, but I still have to take
Accounting in order to take classes like Database Management Systems.
So for a while I struggled with the question of “when will I need to know
this.” What freelancing did for me is answer that question, because as a
freelancer you have to operate your own iteration of a small business.
Dealing with clients, processing bills and payments, or making sure you
allocate correct tax funds for the end of the year are all pieces of an
effective freelancing business. So going to a business school actually
worked out in my favor, as it enabled me to see how taking a class like
Managerial Accounting could help me in the day to day operations of my
freelancing business. Consequently, I felt encouraged to become more
involved in classes I was less interested in, making my time in college
more enjoyable, and me a better student.
4. I Saw How a Business Operates
Sometimes negative experiences are out of a freelancer’s control.
Maybe the client decides he or she no longer wants the work
requested, or there’s a misunderstanding in the terms of the
project agreement, both leading to a negative client experience.
It may seem like this is an entirely bad thing, but these negative
experiences—and what I’ve learned from them—are lessons
that continue to guide me through future projects.
5. Making Good Experiences Out of Bad Ones
I had a client once frequently request additional (free) services after the
project we worked on was complete, making the situation a bit awkward for
both parties involved. Clearly, there was some type of miscommunication
between us, and it was my job to figure out what it was and how I could fix
it. My first line of aid in this situation was the contract we both signed at the
beginning of the project that outlined exactly what I was to do for him—and
also what I wasn’t. So when work was being requested that was outside of
the scope of our agreement, I was able to easily clear up that
miscommunication, and leave off on a good note with my client. I wouldn’t
have been able to do this without a contract, and I probably wouldn’t have
requested to sign a contract in the first place had I not before had a negative
experience from not having one.
5. Making Good Experiences Out of Bad Ones
Freelancing has provided me with a number of incredible
opportunities that have shaped both the way that I work and
the direction I’ll take my career. Along the way, I’ve been able to
build up a solid, diverse portfolio that I’m proud of, and can use
to market myself for work I want to take part in. Most
importantly, though, freelancing guided me through the process
of finding my own career track during a time where I felt my
career was something I couldn't quite figure out, and for that, I
will always be thankful.