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Freelancing, or working for yourself, can be a great way for college students to kickstart their creative careers before finishing their degree. Since freelancers aren’t committed to a long-term employer for their creative work, they can work at their own pace and can tailor marketing and pricing to their specific needs.

However, the freedom to bring your own business to life often raises important questions about where to start and best practices.

I recall contending with similar questions when I began freelancing as an illustrator five years ago. Since then, I’ve grown my small business to have a modest online following and open commissions on a rolling basis based on my schedule.

Here are a few tips that I wish I had known when I was first starting out:

1: Determine your target audience.

Before you can begin advertising your creative products, you have to determine what demographics you’ll be marketing toward. Consider the gender, age and income level of the people that you think would buy your product. By looking at these factors, you can tailor your outreach and pricing for those who will support your business.

If you’re unsure how to begin finding your audience, look at other creators selling similar products. Research how they connect with their audience online and in-person to find what could work for you

2: Set costs

After you’ve determined your target audience, come up with a clear plan for pricing. Do you plan to charge customers per project or per hour? Checking on prices set by businesses selling similar products to your target audience ensures that your costs align with the market.

Don’t sell yourself short, even when you’re just starting out. Your time, product and service are valuable. Setting prices low to draw customers in will prevent you from making a profit and may not be sustainable long-term.

3: Design a website

During these unprecedented times, cultivating a robust online presence can allow beginning freelancers to reach their audience from the comfort of their own home. An easily navigatable website allows you to showcase your work and give your customers an impression of your business’s mission and vision.

The layout, branding and pages on your website can entice people to purchase what you’re selling, if properly curated. Explore other websites selling similar products and look at how they organize their page. Once you’re ready to build your own, check out a website builder like Wix or Squarespace. These offer a variety of free and premium options for different needs.

4. Make dedicated social media accounts

Social media can be a great way to direct online traffic to your website. Curating a well-presented presence on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter gives potential customers the opportunity to discover and engage with your business. High-quality images and consistent posts can help you to build an active following.

Designate the social media accounts for your business as business accounts across platforms. The setting allows you to track your growth, views and traffic directed to your website. Keeping track of these metrics can help you to expand your business as time goes on.

Graphic by Juana Garcia

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