My freelance career began by happenstance. It was my sophomore year at Virginia Tech and I was the news editor of the student newspaper, The Collegiate Times. During production one night, my editor-in-chief, Cameron, told me her friend needed a new bio for his band. He asked Cameron if she would be interested in writing a bio for them, but she said she knew someone better for the job. That person was me.

Truth be told, I have no idea why she thought of me; I had never written a bio before. Perhaps it was because I was dating a musician, or because my music was always blaring too loudly through my headphones. Whatever the reason, I graciously said yes.

I met with the band, heard their story, and a week later their new bio was online. I figured that was that and returned to my regular routine – until about a week later. The band emailed me and said another friend of theirs needed a bio for his band, and that he wanted me to write it.

That’s when I realized I could make an income as a writer. I knew I needed more than two band bios under my belt to show clients they can trust me to write their stories. So I reached out to anyone I could think of who could benefit from a bio or self promotion in some way, and I did it all for free. I reasoned that putting in the free work to build up my portfolio now would pay off later down the road.

And it did. Once I had a big enough portfolio to showcase, I began cold calling (well, cold “Facebook messaging”) bands across Virginia. Every morning I spent a few hours before class searching potential clients on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and told them about the services I offered. My “package” included a one-page bio, a half-page version, and a one-sentence “blurb” for social media sites.

After about a year of searching for work solely on my own, I finally decided to sign up for freelancing websites. Fiverr and Upwork were my top picks, and I was fortunate enough to gain a few regular clients through both.

My freelancing continued when I moved to Richmond and transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University. My work later led me to a part time copywriting position my senior year, and after graduation it took me to Longwood University as a producer for the Day After Graduation podcast.

If you are interested in freelancing during college, here are my top five tips that helped me get started as a freelancer that I still turn to today.

 

 

  • I wasn’t afraid to reach out

Cold calling potential new clients is an inevitable part of freelancing, especially when just starting out. No one knows who you are yet, and unless you go out and tell them what you can do, your customer base will never grow.

 

  • I asked for reviews.

Once you turn in finished work for a client, don’t be afraid to ask for a review! If you have been communicative, punctual, and thorough in your work, there’s no reason your client would write anything bad about you. Reviews are great to showcase on your portfolio, and they make you seem more legitimate and trustworthy to future clients.

 

  • Ask for referrals

After working with a client, I asked that they suggest me to a friend who may be in need of written work. If a client shared my writing on social media, I asked that they tag me in their posts or credit me in some way. Why? Because referrals lead to more work. Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool for freelancers, especially when you’re just starting out.

  • I created an online portfolio

I maintained an online portfolio to showcase my writing samples. Portfolios are a great way to showcase your work all in one place, and when contacting a potential new client all you have to do is send them one URL rather than multiple links to your work. Even if you only have two or three samples of your work to share, put them online! This way, people can start finding you.

 

  • Make a LInkedIn profile and update it regularly

I have found more freelancing success through LinkedIn than any other online platform. I’m very active about keeping my profile up-to-date, making new contacts, and posting content whenever I can. You don’t have to be a writer to take advantage of LinkedIn as a freelancer. There are freelance graphic designers, bookkeepers, photographers, and more utilizing LinkedIn to help their businesses grow.

These tips helped me stay afloat in the early days of freelancing. But don’t be fooled – I made a lot of mistakes in the early days. Looking back, there are things I would have done differently and more efficiently that would have benefited my freelancing career down the road.

That’s why we’re here. So I can tell you how you can take the skills you already have (whether you’re a writer or not!) to start freelancing in college – and to avoid the many mistakes that I made when first starting out.

About the Author

Maura Mazurowski

Maura Mazurowski is the Community Coordinator bringing together students and alumni to the Longwood Professional Communities. She also produced Season 2 of the Longwood podcast, Day After Graduation." Her work has been published in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, The Daily Progress, Virginia Mercury, and more.

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