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Part-time freelancing for students

Part-time freelancing is a great way to build experience and support yourself financially while having the flexibility you need during your studies. Read on to learn what’s freelancing, what skills you need to become a successful freelancer, freelancing pros and cons and how the Careers Service can help you.  

What’s freelancing? 

Freelancing is a form of self-employment. Freelancers are not employed by a company, but they offer their services to other businesses that employ them for specific projects or a set length of time. Freelancers can work for multiple clients at any one time. 

There is some overlap between freelancing and gig work, and you can read more about this on our blog ‘The gig economy – what does it mean for you?’. 

What are the benefits of freelancing? 

Like many other types of work, freelancing has benefits and challenges. Freelancers work flexible hours, meaning they can organise their workload and workday as they wish. They can choose who they work for and what projects they work on. As they work for themselves, they are their own boss. Also, freelancers can choose their place of work, e.g. from home, from a co-working space or, in some cases, abroad. 

What are the challenges? 

Many of the benefits of going freelance can be challenges at the same time. Being a freelancer doesn’t give you the security and stability you have when employed by someone else. You need to be on your toes to find the next client or project, which requires a lot of discipline, commitment and self-motivation. Many times, your workload and income can be unstable. Having your own business and being your own boss means you need to learn to manage your business and everything that comes with it, which can be overwhelming for some people. Also, freelancing might come with a level of loneliness. While the flexibility to work from wherever you want is second to none, working on your own can be challenging for your social life and mental health. 

What skills do you need to work as a freelancer? 

Drive and commitment: Going freelance will sometimes be challenging. You might not have the next client or project, and you might not know what your next step should be. You might wonder if freelancing is the right thing for you. In those moments, remember why you decided to be a freelancer. Stay committed to your vision and be persistent with your efforts to find your next project.  

Discipline and organisation: When you’re your own boss, you create your schedule and workload. You must follow a plan, stick to the schedule and complete your projects on time. These skills make your work life more manageable and show your clients that you’re a professional that takes their job seriously. 

Time management: When you work as a freelancer, time is significant. You need to manage your time effectively to complete your tasks at the time agreed upon with your client. Managing your time well will also help you balance your work life, personal life and studies.  

Market research and knowledge: Most freelancers have a niche, which means they specialise in one thing or type of things, e.g. content creation, design, illustration, photography, etc. Knowing your market and the trends and being up-to-date with current events help you do your job well – plus, it shows a good image for you as a professional that knows their stuff. 

Business management: Being a freelancer means having your own business. As you will be the only one running this business, apart from providing your clients with a service, you will also be managing the business’s finances, taxes and admin. Part of your role will be reaching out to prospective clients and promoting your services too. Platform One is a great place to connect with alumni that have gone freelance; you can ask them about their experience and learn how they set up and manage their business.  

Networking: Networking is an essential skill when working as a freelancer. Many jobs, especially in the creative industry, don’t get advertised on job boards; instead, word of mouth tends to be the trend. Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, follow businesses and employers you’re interested in and connect with them. 

Social media: A good social media presence can do wonders for your business. By promoting your business on social media, you make your services known to a large number of people. Think about what you want to achieve, have a clear message, and be consistent with what and when you share. 

Can you work as a freelancer while studying at the University? 

If you’re a full-time student at the University, we currently recommend you work for no more than 15 hours a week. However, if you’re an international student on a student visa, you’re not allowed to do self-employed work such as freelancing. 

How can the University support you? 

The Careers Service know that many of our students need to work part-time to support themselves financially. Edinburgh Innovations runs workshops for students interested in freelancing, and our Careers Service website offers helpful advice. In March 2023, as part of our Creative and Cultural Careers programme, University of Edinburgh students will have the opportunity to attend our Freelancer’s workshop ,run by Edinburgh Innovation, and learn more about freelancing in the creative and cultural sector.  

Being a freelancer can have both positive and negative aspects. But having a plan, learning from other people’s experiences and having a clear goal will help you when looking to start your own business. 


(Image credit: Anna Shvets on Pexels) 


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