BackBest first freelance jobs for college students

Best first freelance jobs for college students

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If you’re looking to start freelancing in college, here’s a list of the best jobs to start with.

Compared to a work study or an on-campus job, freelancing is easily the most appealing way to earn money as a college student. Not only do you get to set your own work schedule, but you also choose exactly what you’re getting paid to do. It’s the first step to becoming your own boss, and the experience you gain along the way looks great on a resume. And with the Freelancers Union projecting that over 55% of the workforce will freelance by 2028, it’s a great way to future-proof your career, especially amid unprecedented labor market volatility.

The way college students freelance is changing fast, but don’t worry that you’ve been left behind. As the way to find a gig has moved on from bulletin boards to sites like Craigslist to purpose-built platforms, it’s become even easier to find jobs that align with your skillset and values.

Social Media Management

If you’re part of Gen Z, chances are you know exactly why this is number one on our list. An “addiction” to social media is a defining trait of our generation, and savvy young marketers are quickly filling out the ranks at top companies to boost their social presence. But while your screen time might portray you as a social media wunderkid, how much do you know about managing a page professionally?

At its root, social media management is about community. Your job is to communicate, market, and educate through a brand’s online presence, building an audience of repeat customers and loyal fans. Zippia estimates that the over 26 thousand social media managers in the US earn, on average, upwards of $58,000 a year.

While making social media your job does have its perks, it is still hard work. An average week may have you plan posts in a content calendar, reach out to influencers for partnerships, respond to DMs as they come in, and record or design the posts themselves. 

Instagram Management

More than just a photo sharing app, Instagram has become a centerpoint for culture across the world. As it’s matured, Facebook’s sidekick has grown into an ecosystem that connects online shops, activism, and hundreds of millions of people from every walk of life. 

Sharing content has become a large part of many businesses’ marketing mix, with the average company account posting every day. Working with and against Meta’s algorithm can be a full-time job, but it comes naturally to many college students. Regardless if you got your start as a meme admin, running an art account, or just using the app to catch up with friends, lots of clients are looking for a freelancer who truly understands what social media can do.

While many companies are looking for freelancers to manage their Instagram accounts, some are also looking for micro influencers to post about their products. Working with a brand to create content around their offerings is a great way to get started in influencer marketing, while also building your experience working with clients. This can lead to more jobs in marketing or the creative fields in the future!

TikTok Management

From the ashes of Vine rose TikTok, and the video-sharing app has grown rapidly across the world. Around 60% of TikTok’s 1 Billion users are part of Gen Z, and companies are quickly realizing how important it can be for promoting their business. 

It’s clear that DuoLingo has caught on to the trend: with almost 2 million followers and tens of millions of likes, the language app has personified their owl mascot into a surprisingly ominous reminder to do your daily lesson. A Business Insider interview revealed that the mastermind behind the account is Zaria Parvez, a 2020 graduate from the University of Oregon in her first job. It all goes to prove that any talented, dedicated college student can make their mark on a brand if given the chance. 

If you’ve started to grow your own following on TikTok, it might be time to consider freelancing as a TikTok manager. Not only would it give you an excuse for how much the app shows up on your weekly screen time report, but it’s also a great way to leverage your skills for a bit of extra money. The platform is new enough that brands are looking for anyone with experience, so you can use your first freelance job to springboard into bigger and better opportunities after you graduate. 

Graphic Design

If your notes have more doodles than bullet points, you might be on your way to a career in design. While many of the students we’ve seen find freelance jobs as graphic designers study it at their university, a good number have picked it up alongside majors like Business or English. 

Working with a graphic designer is one of the best ways a company can build a brand that is  unique and recognizable. Roughly 67% of small businesses say they would spend up to $500 on a logo. Think about how much money you could be making if you worked on one logo every day of the week. And the finished product usually makes a lasting impression, since people can remember 65% of information presented in a visual medium three days later. 

The key to landing a gig is being able to show a client what you can do. This means starting to create the type of work you would do for a business and finding a way to showcase it. Many designers keep a portfolio website updated with their latest creations, but it’s ok to start off with a free option like Behance, and it takes just minutes to set up. 

User Experience (UX) Design 

The user experience is what keeps a company in business, especially if it lives solely on the internet. The UX design process encomposses several things, but it ultimately has to do with how easily a customer can interact with a product. Its essentially based on usability, and a designer has one of the most important roles making sure the product is customer-centric. 

Graphic design is just one aspect of being a User Experience designer, but it’s a very important one. UX takes graphic design one step further and  is like “getting under the hood” of the products to construct the working parts, rather than the exterior. You’ll also rely on talking with users about their needs for a specific product to produce a service or good that’s most useful to them. 

Getting into User Design is as easy as starting to work on your own projects. This will not only help develop your skills but also build your portfolio.  

Presentation Design 

Designing presentations is likely second nature to some Pangeans at this point – and companies are hiring candidates just to get it done. What better way to make money than something we’ve been doing since grade school? Now it might call for a little bit more of an eye for design and account for more in depth information. 

As a presentation designer, one of your first tasks might be to create a distinct design template, which will give the company a cohesive look and feel.  You’ll bring your own unique ideas, but you still need to take the company’s aesthetic into account. Slide shows and visuals must also align with the brand and the message they’re trying to convey. You must also ensure each slide focuses on a singular point does not appear cluttered. 

Kick starting your career in Presentation Design is pretty simple - especially if you’ve been doing it to get through school your whole life. Plenty of tools will allow you to explore your potential in this realm, like Canva or Powtoon. This article breaks down more than 20 platforms presentation designers might want to familiarize themselves with - before picking their favorite one of course. 

Content Creation

Being a content creator can seriously mean anything from writing book reviews to making TikTok videos. Every company needs a content creator, whether for marketing emails to communicate with clients or getting someone to build their YouTube channel. 

Content Creation is one big umbrella for several, more specific, jobs that you may want to land in the industry. Being in this field typically requires planning skills, research skills, and search engine optimization skills - among others. 

Blog Writer 

Some of us may just want to live the life of Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw and her New York City adventures, but being a blog writer isn’t necessarily that dramatic. Blog writing was originally considered self published work on the internet, but businesses have started using it as a marketing tool. You’re in luck if you like to write since the smart companies that want to stay in the game know they need to hire blog writers. 

The beauty about being a blogger is that you can get creative with content - and you get the chance to put a specific company and their brand on the map. A blog can be successful and even lucrative, with bloggers making an average of 75-thousand-dollars a year. The money and attention depends on consistent posts, utilizations of search engine optimization, and useful articles that can teach your audience new information skills.  The most influential bloggers of 2021 include Gary Vaynerchuk and Darren Rowse, who have captivated readers by giving insight and advice. 

Starting out as a blog writer is as simple as putting pen to paper – really your fingers to your keyboard – and spilling out your ideas. And a lot of people are doing that since 600,000,000 active blogs are on the internet. Why shouldn’t you be one of them? 


Video Production 

A video producer can wear a lot of hats since the job typically encaompasses all aspects of filmmaking - in any capacity. Video producers might be tasked with making a commercial, short film, or even a cinematic masterpiece. We’re not all Quentin Terrentino, but most companies will want to work with a video producer for the sake of quality. 

A video producer will have to see out the entire filmmaking process from beginning to end. According to StoryTeller, that means coordinating the creative vision, managing logistics and the production crew, and helping an editor develop the storyline. And you can make pretty good money doing it, raking in an average of just over $63,000 a year. 

Love the idea of running the show but not sure how to do it? If you’re currently a student, I suggest you start young. You don’t have to be a film major, but you could fit some video classes in your schedule and there’s typically workshops, which sometimes are low cost, or no cost, for students. Taking these types of courses will show you the technical skills you need to just get out into the world and start filming. Once you do that, you can easily start building a portfolio. 

Business 

Ah, the art of the sale. Of course, being in business doesn’t mean you’re the one making a  cold call or selling Jordan Belford a pen, but that’s definitely a part of it. There are so many other steps that go into making a sale than the actual sale, like ensuring you’ll have a consumer base when the product rolls out. 

Business is growing at a fast rate, with some 843,000 business degrees awarded in the United States in 2019. And yet, a survey from CNBC found 44% of the business owners and entrepreneurs who answered are not college graduates. That means anyone with a solid idea - college graduate or not - can reach success. 

Market Research 

Market research is important because it essentially tests out a product or service with a potential customer base. By the end of conducting market research, a company should have a solid understanding of their target market and get feedback about if, how, and why they would use the product. It’s necessary for companies to invest in research, Amazon alone spent more than $42 billion - yes billion with a “b” - on market research and development. 

You’ll have to like looking at numbers and other data if you commit to market research. Whoever is in the position will  have to stay on top of sales trends, consumer demographics, needs, and buying patterns. And once you get a grip of all that information, you’ll have to prepare briefs and presentations on your takeaways. Part of your job will be straightforward since it’s based on data, but the other part - gauging why consumers do what they do – will be a little more challenging. 

If you’re thinking about jumping into market research as a freelancer, you could make an average of $31 an hour. Of course, if you’re just starting out, you may have a little bit more to learn and limited experience to create a well-rounded portfolio. Things to keep in mind if you’re  working towards a job in this field: experts recommend you learn how to scrape data and clean it. Companies will also want to see that you can conduct different types of research and have the skills to visually display what you find. 

Sales Outreach 

Whenever I think of sales I can’t help but think of Jordan Belford in “The Wolf of Wall Street” saying “we’re selling garbage to garbage men.” The movie is centered around a call center in New York City where they make cold calls to sell penny stocks to anyone who bites. And even though the operation is the epitome of bad business, growing your customer base is the goal of sales outreach. 

Outreach marketing has become more modernized these days, we are in 2022 after all. Most companies utilize their online platforms to reach new consumers and stay in touch with existing ones, and strategically put together campaigns and offerings to attract consumer bases. And it seems to work since email marketing is roughly 40x more effective than using social media to market your business. 

Once a business figures out its sales pipeline, a visual of sales prospects and the purchasing chain, it’s all hard work from there. Sales outreach is not for the weak, you need to be persistent and confident. According to Kit Smith over at Sopro, 60% of prospective customers say “no” four times before saying “yes.”  As soon as you get over that fear of rejection, success is yours for the taking. 

Technology  

Who doesn’t love Silicon Valley? Even though major companies like Apple, Visa, and Meta are at the epicenter of the technology industry, plenty of not so major companies are also developing amazing products and services. Defining the technology industry is quite difficult because of the sectors it encompasses. A tech company can be known for formulating virtual reality, solar energy, or software development. Keep that in mind when you’re looking to jump into the field. 

User Testing

Companies put their teams to task to test the quality of a product. A lot of people in this role say their job is to literally break the product and put it back together. This typically happens when a company is working on mobile apps, which are sometimes part of customers’ everyday lives. 

There are definitely two different types of user testing. One is the more technical side for a company to analyze, which is mostly considered quality assurance, and the other is actually having people test out the product. Specialists who actually work on the company side usually have experience in software development and statistical analysis.  User testing is pretty flexible, which means if you have access to the internet and some electronics, you could probably work for any company from anywhere in the world. 

Data Entry and Analysis 

If you love numbers and figures, data analysis could be just the job for you. Data entry and analysis is considered an entry level job that usually helps the higher ups make well-informed decisions. 

Some people would say data analysts are the closest to the business and that’s not far off since they project future needs, mitigate risk, and determine ways the customer experience can be improved. In this role, you’ll most likely need to be familiar working in Microsoft Excel, visualizing data, and be a strong critical thinker. People in this field do pretty well, with the average salary ringing in at just over $81,000 in the United States. 

The only way to gain experience in this field is to jump in. Of course, take advantage of what high school and college have to offer you in this realm and make sure you’re doing what you can to consistently brush up on your skills. 

Where can I find my first job?  

I’m a big believer that everyone has to start somewhere. The most admirable thing is that you’re starting. When you’re looking for a job keep these places in mind 

College job board

Most colleges have a way of connecting its student body with job opportunities. That doesn’t mean that their students are a shoe-in for these jobs, but the opportunity is present. Some universities might use Handshake or Quadjobs. 

Local newspapers and craigslist

Long gone are the days that our parents would sit with their newspapers and circle job openings in a bold colored pen, but the concept has taken a different direction. Local newspapers still go into print, but they’ve expanded their online presence to evolve with our generation, which means you might have some luck finding a job through this kind of network. 

Pangea.app

Pangea.app is one option students and recent college graduates might want to consider if they’re looking for an in with any of the industries listed above. Pangea.app is free to join and helps young professionals connect with companies that are looking to hire a freelancer. There are so many upsides to choosing Pangea.app, but it’s awesome that candidates who use the platform can work for anyone from anywhere. That means Pangeans can build their own client list and work with several companies at once, gaining experience and maximizing their income. 

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