One of the most valuable things I learned fairly early in my college career was the importance of freelancing as a student. The value of this became more obvious every year until I graduated by seeing the work done by students who freelanced versus students who did no more work than they were assigned to do for class.
Unfortunately, many design students don’t see how valuable freelancing in school can be and look at only as doing extra work. But there are many reasons to do that extra work.
Find out if you want to be a designer
College is a time for exploration and discovery when you figure out what you want to do for the rest, or at least the next part, of your life. So if you’re earning your degree in design, you should like designing. Freelancing gives you an opportunity to do real design work and get a good taste of what being a professional designer is all about.
Classes are not always exciting or inspiring, so freelancing can be the thing that gets you excited about design. It can also be what makes you realize that designing is not for you, and in that case, it’s best to learn that as soon as you can so that you can come up with a new game plan.
Most professions require more than a college degree to get a job, and design is no different. The more experience you can get before you graduate and enter the job hunt, the better. You’ll be putting yourself in a much better position to get the job you want if you leave college with your degree in one hand and an impressive portfolio in the other.
Not only does freelancing help you get a job, but it will help you excel once you’ve landed one. If you been doing client work, you will have already been designing as a profession. Nothing prepares you for working with clients other than working with clients, so if you’ve already been doing that, you can begin your career in stride.
A common stereotype of college students is that they’re always broke. There are a lot of expenses college students have, so it’s always good to earn some extra cash. If you’re a design student, what better way to make money than doing design work?
While you probably won’t be able to pull the same rate as a full-time professional, you can still make a pretty decent amount of money while building your portfolio. Early in your design career, experience can be as valuable or more valuable than money.
Be ready for the real world
Sometimes, it feels like you will never graduate from college, but before you know it, you’ll be walking across the stage and into the “real world.” Then what?
After college, many recent grads are on a job hunt looking for somewhere to start their career. Most of the job search advice I got during college could be summed up this way: It’s all about who you know and your experience. From the experiences most of my friends have had getting jobs, I think this advice really hits the nail on the head. Most jobs come from a recommendation from someone you know based on your experience in a certain field.
If you do freelance work in college, you meet a lot of people who you wouldn’t have otherwise met and expose them to your skill as a designer and professional. One of your clients could be the one to recommend you for the job you end up getting after college.
You may also end up loving freelance work and will want to do that full-time when you graduate. If this is the case, it’s best to start freelancing as early as possible so that you can build up enough of a client base to be able to earn a living as a freelancer.
All in all, freelancing can be one of the most valuable things you can do as a student. You can also get just as much value working part-time or getting an internship with a local creative shop, magazine or other company. There’s a good chance you’ll learn just as much from working than you will from class.