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Hustling in College

“An unconventional way to work during your college years.”

Before you start college, one of the things that could be on your mind is how to support yourself financially in college. As many of you titans are high achievers, you’ll most likely start college with scholarships that pays 80%-100% of your tuition plus a little extra in your bank. At some point, you might consider joining campus organizations or plan to travel during your college years, and that will cost money that scholarships might not cover.

Most people will tell you to get a job at the college you are studying or work part-time. What I am going to suggest to you is something most college students don’t do.

It’s called “FREELANCING”.

What is freelancing? It’s an opportunity to get paid for the things you love to do. Granted, you might be wondering, “I don’t think I have the skill sets”. Don’t worry, no one ever starts amazing, but I’ll tell you my story of how I started freelancing and what I’ve found to work. During my college years, I had an interest in building websites, photography, and animations. For some projects, they’ve really helped me during times when I was in debt (over $8,000) and even helped pay for trips I’ve always wanted to go on during my college years.

If you’re still reading this, let’s get started Titan!

Step 1: Figure out what you love to do

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Find something that gets you excited, or something that makes your want to learn more and be the best at. Back when I was a student in Marketing & Hospitality, whenever someone said, “I don’t know how to do this”, I remember Mr. Silva say “Figure it out”. That was the best indirect advice I’ve gotten and it has helped me to be confident and hone my skill sets. It has even been my motivation to be more than what I could ever think of doing.

In college, I studied Computer Science, but wanted to build websites, take amazing photos, and learn how to create cool videos. To get started, I signed up for free trials on websites that had people teach you how to take, edit, and create beautiful photos (PHLEARN). For animations, I used to download videos and learn frame by frame of how they created animations.Websites, I would read articles and view cool websites that I like and see from the back-end how they were built (right click + “Inspect”).

Once you’ve started to build your skills, now is the time to work on real projects.

Step 2: Do everything for free and participate in contests
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That sounds crazy right? It’s not, and the reason why is to build your credibility. If you ask someone to pay for what you can do, they will usually ask for your portfolio or examples of what you’ve done. Start with doing projects for free and ask people that you know if they are looking for someone to improve whatever they have. Even contests (i.e. Online Video Contests) are great ways to build your skills. Contests will challenge you to create something, and hopefully get paid if your work is really good..

I started building websites for non-profits and organizations in college. It was a great start to build my skills, and I even started taking photos for free for college organizations I was involved in. I became a “historian” of taking hundreds of photos and editing them at night to get posted on social media. I participated in hundreds of video contests where I only had one week left to submit my videos online. There have been times where I’ve won a couple of video contests. The biggest I’ve won was $4,000 that helped pay for my first Collegiate DECA conference in Washington DC.

As your start doing things for free and create works of high quality, people will notice and they will start asking you how much you would charge them for the projects they have. You won’t notice this, but you’ve just built a side hustle that can now start paying for things you want to do.

Final Step: Figuring out how much you charge

The hardest part is telling someone how much your charge because you have a 50/50 chance of getting a paid project or not. The best advice I can tell you is the following:
● Figure out how much time it takes to complete a project
● Understand the expectations from your client
● Ask what is their budget

Granted, you can’t charge someone $3,000 without justifying the costs that is involved with a project. Start something small ($100-$900) until you gradually grow your list of paying customers. Once you start realizing that your time has become too valuable and you can’t handle too many customers with their projects due to school and personal life commitments, this will be a good time to start charging over $1,000.

Why Freelance?
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Having a part-time job will immediately provide you financial security while you are in college, but I would argue that freelancing is an investment to yourself and an opportunity to “be more” than just a college student. Freelancing provides a once in a lifetime experience to work freely, to learn how to work with clients, and provide unique experiences to share in an interview when you graduate from college. There is truly no limit to what you can do. Freelancing challenges you to manage your time, talk to clients, and eventually be something that can pay for the things you’ve dreamed of doing.

Everyone at ECTA taught me that you can do more no matter how old you are, and I definitely challenge you to be more than what you think you are capable of doing.

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Randy Huynh

Graduated from the class of 2012 in the Marketing & Hospitality Program.

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