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Freelancing While You Study: An International Student’s Guide

Offering ample flexibility and freedom, freelance work is the employment style of choice for many international students. In recent years – particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – we’ve seen a boom in the gig economy around the world. As a result, there is now an abundance of freelance jobs in Australia across a variety of industries and services. 

Eager to learn more about freelancing jobs in Australia? Thinking of pursuing this type of work yourself? In this guide, we break down everything you need to know about freelancing as an international student. Read on to learn more. 

What is freelance work? 

Freelancers are self-employed workers who offer their services and skills to an organisation or client. This work can be billed at an hourly rate or project-to-project basis. 

In today’s digital world, the workforce is increasingly mobile; as a result, our location no longer limits our connectivity. Freelance workers now have the option of selecting from a range of different jobs that can be done from anywhere. Equally, employers now have a larger pool from which to select their talent.

In short, freelancing in Australia is a fun and flexible way to earn an income while you study. 

Can I work freelance in Australia as an international student?  

As an international student, you are entitled to work freelance in Australia. To do so, you will need your own Australian Business Number (ABN) because you will be hired as an ‘independent contractor’. Your ABN is an 11-digit number unique to your business, and you will need to have it set up before you start work. Luckily, it’s free to set up your ABN. To get started, consult our article on setting up your own business here. 

You will need to invoice the company you work for (hint: you can find free invoice templates online). You’ll also be responsible for keeping track of your income and business-related expenses. These earnings and expenses must be reported when you lodge your tax return at the end of the financial year (from June 30). 

As a freelancer, you are considered a sole trader for tax purposes. If you earn less than A$75,000 per year from your business, you don’t have to register for GST (goods and service tax). 

When working freelance in Australia, you will still need to abide by the visa conditions for international students. While the cap on working hours for international students is currently not in effect, it will be put back in place from 1 July 2023. Excitingly, the working cap will be increased from 40 hours to 48 hours per fortnight

What are the different types of freelancing jobs in Australia? 

There are plenty of freelancing jobs in Australia. When it comes to freelance work online in Australia, some common roles include website developers, writers, social media managers, graphic designers, video editors, tutors and photographers. 

You can also freelance as an Uber driver or a food courier with Uber Eats or Doordash. Some freelancers even complete one-off tasks such as assembling furniture to earn money. 

The benefits of freelance work 

Flexibility is often the biggest incentive for many freelance workers. As these roles are often performed individually, you will have the luxury of completing them in your own time. Additionally, you can choose how much work you want to take on, making it easier to achieve and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Plus, working on several projects at the same time can be immensely valuable. You have the opportunity to work with various organisations, learn new time management and priority-setting skills, and enhance your network.

Where to find freelance jobs in Australia 

A good place to start when looking for freelancing jobs in Australia is to set up a profile on a few websites. You can administer the accounts to notify you when new jobs are posted that match your skill set.

Try Upwork, Fiverr, Airtasker and Freelancer. You can also search for freelance work on SEEK and Indeed

For creative industries like writing and graphic design, it’s a good idea to set up a LinkedIn profile. This can help you network with other freelancers and potential clients, and see when freelance gigs are advertised. 

Final tips 

It can sometimes take a little while to find consistent freelance work, so don’t be disheartened if the work doesn’t pick up straight away. Once you have built connections with clients, it’s easier to work regularly with them. 

It’s also important to put your name out there, so don’t hesitate to pitch your services to relevant businesses. 

Lastly, you may also want to build an online portfolio of your work (such as your previously published articles or photos). That way, clients can easily see what you can do!

Whether you’re moving house or building a piece of furniture, freelancers could be the missing piece of support you need. Students who hire freelancers through Airtasker can save $25 on their first task. All you need to do is sign up for Airtasker and verify your student status with UNiDAYS. 

Learn more about how to get started.