holding money freelance

Freelancing as a full-time student How I earned extra cash, networked and developed skills I couldn’t learn in the classroom


By Hess Sahlollbey

I still remember being in first year, looking at the banking machine and finding that I only had $22 to my name. In that moment I swore to myself that I’d never find myself in that position again.

One of the hardest things to pull off in university is gaining work experience while trying to maintain a high grade point average. Many students, including myself, are put in a position at school where we’re forced to choose between our studies and finding a job.

While joining volunteering societies and committees may be a fulfilling way to invest your time, the harsh truth is that most won’t pay the bills and may not provide you with in-demand skills when you start looking for work.

While working off-campus may allow you to start gaining work experience, it can often be hard to commit to working three or more shifts a week for an employer week after week.

And while faculties are starting to integrate entrepreneurial classes into their curriculum, the most recent being the Integrated Business and Humanities program McMaster introduced this year, there are some things you must learn first-hand and not from a textbook.

To circumvent commitment to a work schedule and to maintain absolute flexibility in their school schedules, many students are turning to freelancing and finding alternative opportunities to earn money during their free time.

One of the opportunities that worked for me was to participate in studies being conducted on campus. While it may sound intimidating, many are as simple as riding an exercise bike or navigating a pen on digital display.

The vast majority are non-invasive, pay cash and might even allow me get a quick workout in.

The students conducting these studies are always looking for participants and are flexible when it comes to working around your class schedule.

Some of the studies are so fascinating and engaging that the money becomes a bonus.Most of my friends do them to earn some extra beer money, but with some clever planning, I’ve seen people make close to a grand in a semester.

Since then, I’ve spent some time looking for a variety of odd jobs to earn extra money during my spare time.

I’ve been paid to provide personal training for people in their offices during lunch breaks, bartending a baptism, answering a Kijiji ad to move furniture, taking photos for a wrestling match and teaching an art class for a children’s March Break camp.

My current paid project is to translate a full-length film, which allows me to add a new skill and experience to my résumé.

I found that with websites and apps like Fiverr now available, the barriers of entry for finding freelance work have been nearly eliminated. If you search the website, you’re bound to find an odd job that you can qualify for.

On campus, my main side-hustle has been with the Centre for Simulation-Based Learning. A friend recommended that I apply through their website’s online application, and now I am a standardized patient, trained to replicate  physical and emotional medical scenarios that a real-life patient would have in a hospital or medical clinic.

The centre is located in the McMaster hospital, and the nature of the job allows me to pick or turn down shifts, allowing me to make extra money whenever I have the time.

I found that with websites and apps like Fiverr now available, the barriers of entry for finding freelance work have been nearly eliminated.

A bonus has been that I can network and make connections with people from all walks of life that I normally wouldn’t meet if I focused exclusively on my studies.

While you won’t be able to attain financial freedom while completing your degree, taking a couple hours out every week to hustle and freelance is an engaging way to develop entrepreneurial skills and gain experience in many fields while lessening the financial burdens that university life carries.


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