Freelancing allows students to apply skill sets, be their own bosses

Romi Geller

What started as a promotional video for Student Government candidates blossomed into a career for computer science sophomore Nabil Bayoumi.

Students seeking an opportunity to apply their creative skill set while earning extra bucks can pick up freelancing. Freelancing, or working independently rather than for a company, allows students to gain experience, and creates a platform to sell their skill set to clients. According to a 2018 survey conducted by Upwork, a global freelancing platform, individuals aged 18 to 34 make up 42% of the freelance workforce in the United States.

Following the success of his SG campaign video, Bayoumi said clients began approaching him with opportunities. It was time for him to think more seriously about freelancing as a job.

“I started looking at other freelancers, and then I checked out their work and their prices,” Bayoumi said. “I ultimately came up with prices of my own, but I based the price relative to what I’ve seen.”

Though Bayoumi now charges clients for his photography, he said he was hesitant to do so at first.

“I charged a lot less than I currently do because I wanted to build up a portfolio and then establish a base price,” Bayoumi said. “Charging people was definitely hard for me to do at first because it goes back to, ‘How do you justify how much your art is worth?’”

Eric Webber, advertising and public relations lecturer, works as a freelance photographer and has been featured in publications such as National Geographic and The Daily Mail. Similar to academics, Webber said the first step in being successful as a freelancer during college is doing your homework.

“It is important on the homework end to know where work is selling, who’s paying for it and what kind of work is being attracted,” Webber said. “You need to ask yourself, ‘Am I doing work that people are going to want to pay for, or am I doing work that people would like to see for free?’”

Like Bayoumi, biology senior Casey Tang said she needed time to hone her craft before she felt comfortable charging clients. Her photography career gained traction after she was assigned to take photos as a member of Longhorn Pre-Pharmacy Association, she said.

“I try to keep my prices reasonable just because I know that my target audience often doesn’t have the disposable income to be able to pay for things like pictures,” Tang said.

Although it can yield financial benefits and offer flexible schedules that may appeal to students, Tang said freelancing provides a creative opportunity her STEM major doesn’t offer.

“As a biology major, I feel like I don’t really have a lot of creative outlets in school,” Tang said. “Freelancing is something that I do to not only to make money, but also as a way for me to exercise my creative freedom with photography.”

For college students who are interested in freelancing but fearful of competition from more qualified professionals, Webber’s advice is to not undersell your skill.

“Just because you might not have experience doesn’t necessarily mean that someone that does is better than you,” Webber said. “If you’re good, be realistic about your abilities and don’t apologize for being a student.”