Freelancing in High School — Should You Do It?
Mar 16 2020
We all want to make money. In high school, your amount of freedom varies from family to family. But, most high school students have the freedom to make money on their own and spend it on whatever they want. Now, there are many ways to make money in high school. Some ways are glamorous, others, not so much. And one way to make awesome money is freelancing!
Freelancing is a great way to make money. You get control of your own schedule, you get to pick and choose the clients you want to serve, and it can make you a six-figure salary easily! There’s a special aura around freelancing, and I have personally felt the pressure of getting into freelancing as a side hustle. But is it really a side hustle that you should take on in high school?
Here are some of the pros and cons of freelancing for those in high school.
Pro: No degree required
No one that outsources tasks to freelancing cares about a college degree. Some may, but it matters a lot more about your skills and if you can get the job done.
When applying for full-time jobs, degrees are a metric of general knowledge, commitment, and endurance. It shows that you have a certain level of proficiency in a field of study, and stuck with it throughout several years. Freelancing gigs don’t work that way. You don’t have any papers to sign or contracts to fulfill. You just need the skills to build and deploy whatever the client needs, and have the patience to revise and improve the final product. In certain fields such as STEM and software engineering, many of the freelancing jobs that you will land will not apply to what you learn in college. Specifically, computer science degrees are mostly theoretical and focus on topics that aren’t applicable to modern-day technology. Those who graduate from coding bootcamps or are self-taught are much more appealing to clients. Degrees become obsolete in the world of freelancing, and it has helped many college students and dropouts kickstart their careers.
Con: It’s hard to land jobs
Freelancing is a great side hustle and a great career choice, but no one ever said it was going to be easy. The freelancing community is a highly competitive space, and those who don’t prove themselves and stand out from the competition will be eclipsed by those who do. This especially holds true for those just getting started in freelancing, and that applies to almost all high schoolers.
Here are some reasons why standing out as a freelancer in high school is hard:
You don’t have enough experience
Remember, you’re competing with professional freelancers with years of experience in the field. They have more past experience than you, which naturally helps them strategize and land more jobs than you can. Don’t take it personally, they’ve built up their status from their hard work and dedication, so expect that to be a roadblock. You may not have more experience than your competitors, but you can get that over time.
You don’t have enough credibility
Your competitors have a lot of experience, and with that comes a lot of ratings and testimonials. More than likely, they probably have really high ratings and amazing testimonials. This is something that makes them stand out the most, and it’s what is most comforting and appealing to clients. They want freelancers who have experience in freelancing and proof that others were satisfied with their service.
And can you blame them? If you were in their shoes, would you take the freelancer with tons of great testimonials, an amazing portfolio of projects, and a 5-star rating? Or would you choose the freelancer with no experiences, no testimonials, no ratings, and no portfolio?
Credibility is one of the most important pieces of freelancing, and it definitely shows throughout the community.
You don’t have the knowledge to land jobs
This is a simple issue, and it has nothing to do with your competition. Sometimes, you simply don’t have the knowledge or skills to apply for the job, making it impossible to stand out. If you don’t have the skills to apply for the job, you’ll either have to find a different job or learn what you need to complete it.
Your hourly rates are too high
Hourly rates are very important to pay attention to because those outsourcing jobs to freelancers don’t want to pay a whole lot of money. Though credibility and the skills of the freelancer matter, so does how much the clients will be paying them. It’s simple: clients are more inclined to pay the freelancer who has a cheaper hourly rate.
So, with this in mind, you have to be conscious of how much you’re charging per hour. Especially if you have no credibility or experience, you want to charm clients with your hourly rate. You want to show how cheap your service is, enticing clients with smaller budgets to take a chance on you. This is how you can slip through the cracks and land clients where bigger freelancers can’t.
Professional freelancers have adapted to this situation and placed their hourly rates low as well. Just when you think your hourly rate is low, chances are there will be a big freelancer with tons of credibility at the same rate, or even lower. Many big freelancers live outside the United States, so they can afford to put their hourly rates extremely low. My tip on hourly rates is to look at your competitors and find their hourly rates. Then, put your hourly rate below them by a decent amount. Sure, you may not make as much money, but then at least you’ll have a chance at landing clients.
Pro: It’s great for work experience
Work experience is highly coveted when applying for any job, and if you don’t plan on freelancing for a career, you’ll definitely need it when applying for jobs in the future. And what better experience to put on your resume than freelancing?
Freelancing shows employers that:
- You have the skills to build real-world products and solve real-world problems
- You have good digital communication
- You are capable of working with clients and making product revisions
- You are not a beginner!
This holds especially true for high school students. Many employers have a mindset that high school students are beginners, and don’t have the skills, knowledge, or ability to work in their preferred industry. Not to mention that many high school students are constantly searching for jobs to fill up their resume, and freelancing can finally help students put something impressive to add.
Another thing that freelancing can do is add to your portfolio. Portfolio projects confirm to future employers that you know what you’re doing and measures your skill level in action. They are very important, and freelancing jobs automatically add new projects to your portfolio that you can show with pride.
Con: It’s an unstable business
Freelancing is very unstable. Freelancers can make a lot of money, but they can also make absolutely nothing. Freelancing goes based on supply and demand. There is a demand for outsourcing for some businesses, and freelancers supply that need for cheap work being finished. But, there can be external factors that can crash the entire freelancing business. Some of these may be:
- The global trends have shifted
- There’s a market crash
- There’s too much competition in freelancing
Focusing more on the competition in freelancing, there is a lot of competition. For those who live in the United States, there are jobs everywhere. Thousands of job listings are posted online every day, and many of those positions can be filled by high school students. But, for those who don’t live in the United States, jobs may be hard to find. People in other countries don’t have the same opportunities as those in America. But, with modern-day technology and the Internet, freelancing has been made accessible for almost anyone with a computer. So, if you look at freelancing platforms like Upwork or Fiverr, much of the competition live in countries outside America. And because of the currency differences, USD is worth a lot more to those outside America, allowing them to place their hourly rates even lower than those who live in the US.
Freelancing is an incredibly risky business to sink your teeth into, but it can reap a great reward.
Pro: No time commitments
High school students don’t have the option of working a full-time job, because they are already fully-invested into school. This is another reason why freelancing is so amazing is because it doesn’t require any time commitments. Freelancing is incredibly flexible. You can only gain as much as you work, making it perfect for high school students who don’t have too much time each day.
Here are some of the differences between freelancing and working a job:
- You choose what projects to work on
- You choose how much you get paid
- You choose when you work
- You choose how long you work for
- Quit and join the freelancing community as you please
- Work from anywhere
- You must work the number of hours required
- You must work within a certain time range
- Superiors assign you tasks
- Some jobs may require you to come into their office for work
As a high school student and freelancer, you have the flexibility to place your freelancing duties around your school schedule, while still making time to spend with your family and friends.
Con: It’s very limiting
Freelancing is very flexible, but at the same time, it’s very limiting. It is flexible in the sense that you can work on whenever you want, wherever you want. But, in terms of the work you will be completing, it’s very limit, and here’s why:
There’s nothing new to learn
Clients who hire you as a freelancer expect you to be an expert at whatever you’re doing. They don’t have a designated amount of time where you can learn how to use a certain technology or learn a new concept. In this context, freelancing doesn’t allow you to learn new things because you will be working on projects that exploit your strengths and not your weaknesses.
It’s not an outlet for creativity
You are not an employee of your client’s business. You have no control or influence over anyone within your client’s business, so you have no right to object to certain decisions, request new features, or add your own personal twist on the project. You are simply a freelancer that has no affiliation with the company besides your temporary outsourcing service.
No real career growth
Besides work experience and monetary benefits, freelancing is not a platform to help you grow your career. It may be a stepping stone to something bigger, but it is certainly not a career that will make you rich, famous, or extremely successful. There’s no doubt that freelancing will stick around, as it poses as a major benefit to businesses and individuals around the world, but it will never be more than that.
Though freelancing may seem like a risky business, there’s no harm in trying. High school is the time where we can explore our interests and jumpstart our careers, so what better time to try freelancing than in high school? There are many roadblocks in freelancing, and chances are you won’t be successful in the first few weeks or months. But, if you stick with it, some success is bound to come, and that will automatically put you ahead of almost all of your peers.
This was not meant to encourage or discourage anyone from freelancing, but simply to show the reasons why it could be beneficial or detrimental. I simply gathered every reason why freelancing is a good and bad idea and presented it for you to decide.
If you have any questions, feel free to message me on LinkedIn!