It can be hard to find the right job in Australia as an international student. You have to find a way to successfully balance your work, study and social commitments, and, in 2021, the unpredictability of COVID-19 lockdowns can mean you’re stuck at home for extended periods of time.
Finding an extra source of income, like freelancing, could be the perfect solution. With freelancing, you are your own boss, can set your own work hours outside of the normal 9 to 5, and can work from almost anywhere. But first, you’ll need to find customers.
Insider Guides spoke with BigHouse Web Marketing copywriter and content specialist, Radhika Basuthakur, to find out how to make money online as an international student.
What is freelancing?
Freelancers are considered self-employed and are usually hired by companies or individual people to work on short jobs in specific fields.
You can offer freelance services in almost any field; you could be a freelance writer, a freelance photographer, a freelance graphic designer, a freelance web designer, or just about anything else.
Radhika has been freelancing since 2005 and says it can become a “viable career option” for students if you’re willing to put the work in.
By working as a freelancer, you could potentially make money online in Australia by doing something you love, or something you’re currently studying.
Radhika’s freelancing story
Radhika started freelancing between finishing her bachelor’s degree in India and travelling to Australia to complete her master’s degree as an international student at Griffith University.
“Like a lot of international students, there wasn’t much work available to me with my visa status for my experience and my field [in Australia]. I really wanted to get some experience in writing…So, I just thought I’d keep freelancing to give myself that experience.”
Radhika began freelancing by creating a profile on Upwork, which was known as Elance-oDesk at the time.
The professional experience she gained from freelancing led to Radhika getting a full-time job after finishing her master’s degree.
Radhika eventually left her job to freelance full-time in 2013, and Upwork itself has been one of her clients for the last seven years.
Despite starting her own business, Radhika still finds Upwork useful.
“Even just last week, I had a new client come through Upwork.”
What do I include in my freelancer profile?
Radhika says putting effort into creating a good profile on a website like Upwork is essential to your success.
She suggests shifting focus away from your lack of professional experience or accreditation by focusing on the experience you do have. For example, providing examples of your previous work can demonstrate that you have the skills to work as a freelancer. Your portfolio examples could range from a university essay to your social media accounts.
“If you’re going for translating, for example, and if you’ve never translated for a client, you could just show an example… just create a sample and add it to your profile, like, ‘This is how I would translate it.’”
No matter what field you’re in, it’s important to remember you’re selling your work as a product.
“Try to think of how you’re useful to a business…Get into the client’s head and see what about you is useful to them.”
How do I write proposals for freelance work?
Before writing a proposal, make sure you’re being selective about what jobs you’re applying for. Radhika suggests starting out with a job that you think is too easy for you. This could guarantee your first good review, which will attract more clients.
A good job proposal on Upwork shouldn’t be long, and must catch a potential client’s attention.
“Clients get a lot of generic proposals…just going that extra mile, doing a bit of research, and writing something personalised really helps,” says Radhika.
You also shouldn’t over-explain your status as a student and your lack of experience. Instead, explain what you do, and how you believe you can help the client’s business.
How do I set my freelance rates?
Figuring out what your work is worth can be hard.
Research is important. Radhika suggests you look up what other freelancers in your field are charging for freelance jobs in Australia to find the average rate, and experiment to see what works for you.
“I think a good starting point is $20 to $30…it’s not set in stone, so you can see what’s working, what’s not,” says Radhika.
“If $20 an hour feels too low, you can always do one project with that rate, and then you have the experience to go, ‘Okay, now I have something to show a client, I can charge a bit more.’”
For more information, check out Upwork’s tips on how to set your freelance rate.
How do I stay motivated as a freelancer?
Mental self-care helps Radhika get through hard times while freelancing. This can include reading positive self-help texts, and practicing yoga and meditation.
“Freelancing, especially at the beginning, can be a bit tough when you’re building things up. So, if you have one bad day, [don’t think], ‘That’s it, I’m done, I can’t go on anymore,’ but just keep at it.”
However, it’s important to keep a good a good work/life balance to avoid burnout.
“When you start, you say yes to everything…because it’s addictive,” says Radhika. “You make money, and you enjoy all the perks, and then…you burnout sometimes because you’ve taken on much more than you probably wanted to do. I think that’s something to keep an eye on.”
Can I study and freelance at the same time?
While it might be hard juggling work and study commitments, the flexibility of working as a freelancer is a great benefit.
“I think in uni, you have to be really organised, really managing your time between your different courses, and I think that gave me the skills for managing different clients and different deadlines,” says Radhika.
Where can I get freelancing advice and support?
Freelancing platforms like Upwork usually have community forums, where you will be able to post questions and connect with fellow freelancers.
For help specific to your field of work, Radhika also recommends searching social media like Facebook and LinkedIn for groups filled with people working in the same field. In these groups, you will be able to share questions, advice, and potentially find new jobs.
How long will it take for me to regularly get freelancing jobs?
Even with consistent effort, Radhika says it can take months to start getting a steady flow of jobs. For herself, it took 6 months to get a steady income on Upwork.
Getting your first job, and your first good review, will give you more credibility, and could help get you more jobs. That’s why setting up a good profile, putting effort into your job proposals, and selecting the right jobs can be crucial to your success as a freelancer.