The Pros and Cons of Freelance Writing for Students

Whether or not you have a gift for the written word, you can make a decent income writing content for the web. How though, do you get started and how much can you make?

Freelance writing can earn you $1000’s a week. These sums are obtainable for those that have a client base, established a good reputation, and have developed a strong social network to advertise their services. Most writers are likely to earn can earn closer to $20-30 a day. For the average student, that’s not a sum to scoff at.

It is unsurprising then, that many students are turning to this alternative income source to traditional part-time work.

The Appeal for Students

Most students have hectic academic schedules. With a full course load, they’re probably being tested at least once a week, and frequently more. While balancing course work, they’re expected to build their resume with volunteering, keep fit by working out, and perhaps show some school spirit by supporting a team once a while. On top of that, many students also need to earn some income to support themselves. It can lead to a stressful existence, one that too often affects academic performance, personal relationships, and mental health. Being a freelance writer can assist in making this type of workload manageable.

Working from home (or a dorm room) can save time and money by eliminating the commute. You save gas and parking costs, or the public transport fee. In that hour you spent getting to and from your job, you could have written an article for a client. When you travel for the holidays, you’re not leaving you employment behind – you can take it with you. The weather also won’t impact your revenue stream. How many lost working hours can be attributed to floods or snow?

Once you are established, you can set your price point so that you earn more than minimum wage. In fact, after a few years, you could be earning triple what you would if you’d taken a steady job in the food-service industry.

Freelance writing allows you to learn as you work. Not only do you enhance you research, typing, and article construction abilities. Each of these skills used is vital to modern student life and beyond.

You will also find that the work is demanding, educational, and expose you to topics that you’d never considered. No two articles are the same, so unlike most part-time work, monotony won’t destroy your soul in this career path.

The pros of choosing the invest your time in freelance writing can be surmised by this shortlist:

Benefits of Freelance Writing

  1. Work anywhere, anytime
  2. Set your pay-grade
  3. Learn a lot
  4. Write about what you are interested in
  5. Develop a life-long skill

What Should Give you Pause

The appeal of gig-based income is obvious, however, it is a saturated market. It is predicted that 43% of the American workforce will be earning at least part of their income from the gig economy by the end of 2020. Therefore, it is hard to establish yourself as a valuable member of this bloated workforce.

When you start, pay will be pitiful. Sometimes, as low fractions of a cent per word. That’s barely enough to pay for the electricity you’d use typing up an article. This is especially counter-productive if you are slow at typing, researching, or sentence construction.

Depending on the platform you use to find clients, there may be no guarantee of work. Freelancing is synonymous with inconsistent income and this may produce a highly stressful lifestyle. You may go weeks, even months, without a gig initially.

Many platforms, e.g., websites, give power to the client. This means that you can be hired for work and then they refuse to pay you. They don’t even have to provide a reason for rejecting your work. Alas, some clients are scammers who are interested in free content. They will receive your article, copy it, and then reject it. For them, they get work for free. For the freelancer, they have wasted their time and left with a distrustful feeling toward future clients. The best way to avoid this is to take on small jobs – up to 500 words, so if you don’t get paid, it won’t have been a huge time sync. Also, look at the client’s rating and rejection rate (if available). A high rejection rate means the likelihood of getting paid is significantly reduced.

If you are a perfectionist you are going to take a long time to churn out the articles. In the freelance world, accepting below perfection is going to make this a profitable gig. Personally, I started getting regular work from a client and I started scrutinizing every word to ensure I’d get rehired time and time again. The result? A very low hourly wage. You need to learn to accept near your best at all times instead of striving for the next Pulitzer prize-winning article.

To be a successful freelance writer, you need to be proactive. This means getting your name and services out there in front of clients. If you choose to advertise your services on familiar platforms like Fiverr and UpWork, you need to attract clients to you. That is nearly impossible for a young, inexperienced writer in these market places. To have a better chance of success, you should build a portfolio. Do this by writing mock pieces and offering to write for blogs for free to get a few by-lines in your name. Use social media actively to show potential customers what you can do and your rates.

So, yes, there are cons to starting out in the freelance writing world. Be aware of them and have a strategy in place to overcome these major pitfalls:

Downsides to Freelance Writing

  1. Pay can be pitiful
  2. No guarantee of work
  3. Clients can scam you
  4. Can be time-consuming
  5. You must be proactive

Final Thoughts

Freelance writing can be an excellent source of income the suits a student’s hectic, ever-changing schedule. To be successful though, you need to be disciplined and proactive about recruiting clients.


In future posts I will go more into how to get started in freelance writing, provide more tips on how to be successful, and provide reviews on some of the platforms I have used.


Callie B. Scott
Callie has spent most of her life in one academic lab or another. Her background is in the sciences and she holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

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