Students have a lot of expenses. Sometimes, very stupid ones. It feels awful to repeatedly ask for money from your parents. So, having a way to earn some money despite being a student sounds very cool. This is why I've decided to introspect on my experience and listen to a few friends' experiences to create a framework that can be used to learn how to earn money.
The framework focuses on learning a skill and selling it as a service. I am aware that there are other ways of earning money in student life like starting a small business, teaching others, etc. But the reason I'm focusing more on this one is that I believe this route has the most benefit, both long term, and short term. The skills you learn will be helpful to you in the future and so it's easier to justify spending a lot of time on them. Moreover, applying these skills will help you get a better idea of which direction you want your future career to go towards and that helps with making decisions regarding your education.
Before I explain the framework, a couple of things need to be cleared out.
- You won't make money overnight. If anyone promises you a way to make money quickly, it's either a scam or they're not telling you the whole story. To consistently make money, you need to generate value and for that, you will require a skill. The more unique your skill is, the easier it'll be to utilize the skill to earn money.
- Unless you're a 4th-year university student, you'll have to go the extra mile to prove your worth as a student. Because if you think from the employer's point of view, hiring a student is always a risk because the student will likely focus on their exam if an exam and important project deadline overlaps. So, even if the student is better, sometimes it's less risky to hire a fresh graduate because they have all the free time. Moreover, there is also the bias that a younger person is less likely to be competent. There are ways to overcome this. One is to be too good to reject (with verifiable past work). You could also offset this disadvantage by only using mediums that don't involve direct employee-employer contact (e.g. freelancing platforms).
Now, moving onto the framework. There are 3 parts to it:
- Learning a skill
- Building proof of competency
- Getting the clients
Learning a skill: There are many skills you can learn. Examples include designing, video editing, writing, social media management, marketing, programming, etc. Which skill you learn will depend largely on you. If you already have some experience or interest in any particular skill, it's best to start with that. Otherwise, just start with anything. The important part here is to start learning SOME SKILL.
Then comes the question, how do you learn the skill. Here are some tips that might help with that:
- Use youtube and google to find resources. The internet is filled with tutorials. You're bound to find something useful for free. The reason there is no perfect tutorial for any given skill is that everyone learns and understands differently. So when looking for tutorials, I would recommend choosing one where you like the instructors' way of teaching.
- Try building real-life projects. Here, projects are anything that could very easily be for a real business. For example, if you're writing, start writing a real blog about something meaningful. If you're marketing, offer someone free marketing. If you're designing, design a logo for a fictional company, etc. Even if you think you aren't capable enough yet, you can still learn while you do it. Most people won't reject a free offer so it ends up becoming a good excuse to practice your skills in an accurate context.
- Try getting a mentor. This will not be possible for everyone but getting a mentor is helpful if they can give you feedback. A mentor will not spoonfeed you content. But they can guide you and show you your mistakes. Getting instant feedback about your mistakes will allow you to change it up and improve rapidly.
Once you've learned the skill move on to the next step which is building proof of competency.
Build proof of competency: At this stage, you already know a particular skill to some extent. You're nowhere near being a pro but you know enough to do the basic work in this industry. So, you need to start building something that can vouch for your competency in this skill. There are broadly 3 things that can help you achieve that.
- Certificates: These are the easiest and least effective out of the 3. However, when you're just getting started, getting certificates from online course websites can show some level of competency when you don't have anything else. But to seriously earn money, it's recommended you do more than just this.
- Portfolio of original projects: Build a portfolio of original work. A portfolio is a collection of your work. It shows what you can do and to what extent. However, if you were following tutorials that showed you how to build something, don't put that exact thing you built (following the tutorial) on your portfolio because projects from tutorials end up becoming very common and whoever will look at your portfolio will probably have already seen that project on someone else's portfolio. Rather make some modifications to it, to add your flavor and turn that project into your unique project. Having amazing creative original work on your portfolio carries almost the same value as having a real experience of working on a real business project.
- Network: This is also extremely important in getting future clients. You might have to give free work to some people (friends and family) at the beginning. This will simultaneously add projects to your portfolio and also generate advocates for your service. These people will tell other people that you helped them for their business by providing this particular service and word spreads fast. Eventually, your network of clients will grow exponentially. But to reach that point you need to start building up a network of satisfied clients.
Getting Clients: Once you've learned the skill and also have proof of your competency, you can start charging your clients. While you were learning, you didn't charge anything because hiring you for the service used to be extremely risky since you had no experience. However, at this stage, you have some experience and it's less risky to hire you for your service. So you should start charging clients a minimum fee. For the first paid customers, your biggest strength will be low prices. However, as you increase your competency you gradually start charging clients more and more.
A common question at this stage is where do you look for clients if your network is not big enough. There are multiple places you can look for them. For example, you could utilize the freelance platforms (but you might have to spend some time learning how sales work to get the clients in those websites since it's very competitive usually). You could also look for agencies on Facebook and Linkedin and reach out to them. A secret about small companies and funded startups that no one talks about is they're always on the lookout for competent people. If you're competent and can solve their problems (and can convince them of this) then it's very likely you'll get the client or job depending on what you're trying to get. This is how I got my first agency job as well.
This should give you some guidance in terms of earning money in Bangladesh as a student. Let me know if you have any more questions regarding this and I'll try my best to answer them.