Whether it’s to pursue a passion, expand a skillset or support themselves financially through their studies, some students turn to freelancing.
If you’re a UK resident attending a UK university, part-time freelancing is accepted as a great way to earn extra money and gain experience in a particular area.
But freelancing is not permitted if you’re an international student attending a UK university on a student visa. This is because of restrictions about the number of hours and type of work you’re allowed to do on this type of visa.
Benefits of freelancing while studying for a degree
The obvious advantage of freelancing while studying for a degree is that you can make some extra money to supplement your student loan. The benefits of running a side hustle while studying go way beyond making some extra cash though.
Not only is freelancing a great way to open an additional income stream, it’s also an incredibly flexible way to earn money.
Many students take up part-time work in the retail or hospitality industries to earn extra cash, but part-time self-employment is far more adaptable than working for an employer.
Working for yourself means you can scale your workload up or down depending on how busy you are with your studies, and ensure your university deadlines and freelance deadlines never clash. Contracted employment hours and shifts can be far more rigid.
While working in retail or hospitality is a proactive way to support yourself financially as a student, freelancing in your chosen industry is a great way to get ahead professionally while earning at the same time.
Many industries evolve rapidly so if you’ve been freelancing during your degree course, you’ll be able to hit the ground running post-graduation with practical skills and actionable knowledge of the sector.
It will also give you a competitive advantage in the professional market.
If you want to start applying for jobs, your freelance experience will boost your employability as you’ll already have a portfolio of freelance work to support your applications.
If you want to continue freelancing and turn your side hustle into a full-time business, you will have solid self-employment foundations to build on.
Plus, what you learn through your freelancing can also have mutual benefits for your academic work, hopefully boosting your grades.
While you’re out gaining experience in the professional world alongside your studies, you also get the opportunity to meet people in your industry and make connections.
Just like skills and a portfolio, this will support your employability once you start looking for a job post-graduation. Or, if you plan to freelance full-time or start your own business after university, these connections can form the start of your client base.
Establishing strong work ethics
Part-time freelancing while studying is a great way to get a feel for what the working world is like without having to dive right in at the deep end.
Freelancing exposes you to things like client communications, time management, and negotiating costs – all of which are incredibly useful soft skills for a graduate.
Balancing a side hustle with your academic studies also teaches you valuable lessons about discipline, organisation, and striking a healthy work-life balance.
Things to consider as a side-hustling student
Before kick-starting your freelance side hustle whilst you study, there are some important things for you to think about in order to manage expectations and ensure you’re not spreading yourself too thinly.
Impact on your studies
First and foremost, it’s vital to make sure that your freelance work doesn’t get in the way of your academic studies. Only commit to a realistic number of hours or projects and leave adequate time and head space for your degree.
The beauty of freelancing is that you can adapt your workload in between semesters. So, when your university work is more intensive, you can focus less on side hustling. In your academic breaks, you can ramp up your freelance work if you want to.
Uncertainty around earnings
Employment might be rigid and inflexible in terms of time, but it is pretty stable when it comes to weekly or monthly pay. Freelance work, on the other hand, is less reliable as you will be counting on clients to pay their invoices within the agreed terms.
Clients sometimes miss payment deadlines and it’s up to you to chase them to settle their bills. This can be stressful and eat into your valuable time.
Only work with clients you know are going to pay their invoices on time and not add to your to-do list (or stress levels).
Finding freelance work
Completing work is one thing but sourcing gigs and maintaining client relationships takes time and effort. Even sending emails back and forth to sign off prices, discuss amends or arrange meetings is time that pulls you away from your studies.
Applying for freelance jobs and preparing your portfolio to present to potential clients can also be super time intensive.
Make sure to factor all of this in before agreeing to any work. It’s important to be open and honest with your freelance clients too, so that they’re aware of your situation and that sometimes, your studies will have to come first.
Do students have to pay tax on freelance work?
Yes, all of the same tax rules apply to students who earn money through self-employment alongside their academic studies.
This means you need to pay personal income tax on any taxable earnings you make through your freelance side hustle.
You can earn up to £1,000 from self-employment in a tax year before you need to register with HMRC and report your income. After that, you may need to sign-up for Self Assessment so you can submit a tax return each year and pay what you owe.
The Personal Allowance means you don’t have to pay income tax on the portion of your earnings that fall below the current £12,570 threshold.
Your student loan and things like bursaries, grants and scholarships are normally tax-free and therefore don’t typically contribute to your Personal Allowance.
If you make money from selling goods and services overseas, you might also have to pay taxes to other countries as well.
Dealing with your accounts takes time and energy too, so just make sure you’re realistic about what you can take on alongside your degree.
Find even more advice and guidance for freelancers in our handy info hub!