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How to keep earning during the coronavirus outbreak as a uni student

James Davis

Careers Commentator
Many sectors, including the hospitality sector, are being affected by the coronavirus outbreak and people are losing their jobs. Fortunately, as a student you’ve got marketable skills to help make some side cash.
How to keep earning during the coronavirus outbreak as a uni student

A surprising number of Australians care more about their wallet than their health. Over 77% of respondents to a nation-wide Newgate Research online survey of over 1000 Australians said they were ‘extremely’ or ‘quite’ concerned about the economic ramifications of COVID-19, with most believing their financial health is in the greatest jeopardy. Uni students across the country are feeling the effects via lay-offs in the food, recreation and hospitality sectors, at no fault of their own.
If you think your job is at risk, or have already lost it, there are fortunately a few online ways to help pay the bills that utilise your skills. Specifically: freelancing, either using proprietary services or your own outreach. It’s work you can do before you’ve graduated while complying with social distancing recommendations during the outbreak. 

You might not think freelancing is for you, but just about any uni student already has marketable skills that people still need. Common skills required include:

  • Coding
  • Graphic design
  • Business consulting
  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Digital marketing

In this article, we’ll talk about a few resources you can use to generate some income in a pinch while quarantines and economic turbulence are still in full-swing. We admit: these aren’t going to be as stable as your regular jobs. But they’re a good way to stay sharp, further develop some marketable skills and make a buck when other options aren’t available. Let’s get cracking. 

AirTasker

This is a site exclusive to Australians, and is primarily for local odd jobs, but there’s definitely a market for online work too. We’ve actually used this site at The Uni Guide to commission plenty of writing work specifically from uni students.

The way it works is one user, ‘the poster’, throws up a job, including what the instructions are, how much they’re paying and when they need it by, and then ‘taskers’ (that’ll be you) are free to browse different categories of jobs, pick, choose and negotiate prices and task requirements. 

Payment is held in a third-party account while you’re doing the job, and the poster has to put money forward the moment you come on board. So it’s a decent middle-man that makes sure nobody’s getting ripped off.

The catch? AirTasker takes a 15 - 20% service fee off the final price, so factor this in when you’re negotiating pay. 

If you think you’ve done a particularly good job, you can even request a tip, so there’s incentive to do things properly and make a bit more for a job well done.

Every tasker and poster has a star rating, so if someone’s a dud (or just has no reviews on their account) you can shy away from them and take a job from a trusted user instead. It’s kind of like uber for freelance jobs. The user interface is nice and all communication can be done within the service, both on mobile or in a desktop browser. You do the job, get paid, and go your separate ways. A decent tool to get some coding, editing or graphic design practice in. 

Truelancer

Similar deal to AirTasker, but across the Asia-Pacific region. This is both a blessing and a curse. You’ll find loads more jobs, but you’ll be competing against many more freelancers who are likely willing to work for less. On the bright side, the fee is only 3 - 10%.
We’re mentioning this service primarily because you’re likely to come across it, but honestly it’s probably worth exploring all other options before touching this one. The best use-case is probably just low-stakes freelancing practice managing client expectations and delivering work on time. But if you do go this route, it’s worth branching into other options quickly. 

DesignCrowd

This site is basically democratised graphic design freelancing - the job poster puts up a design brief and graphic designers all put their best interpretation of that design forward. The poster then picks their favourite and pays for it. DesignCrowd takes a 4% fee, and then another 20% on projects priced above $200.

Now, although this is a fantastic proposition for the job poster, there’s an inherent risk for the designers. You may be competing against 100+ rival designs, and if yours doesn’t get picked, you’re out of luck. But if you’re confident in your work and aren’t too risk averse, this can be one of the most lucrative platforms. If you’re just trying to get your feet wet in the world of freelancing, it may be wiser to start somewhere less competitive. 

Upwork

If you’ve heard of freelancing, you’ve likely heard of Upwork. This is very popular in Australia for competitive rates, solid UI and high quality work. It’s the Rolls Royce of freelancing services, featuring free video chat and messaging services between you and your clients, star ratings, payment protection and performance tracking. 

Similar to AirTasker however, Upwork takes 20% off the first $500 you earn for each client, which then scales back to 10% and later 5% if you enter into a repeat relationship with the client. But that’s per client, so this can get pretty expensive.
The standards and expectations are high on this platform, so maybe get a little bit of experience under your belt using the other platforms on this list before graduating to Upwork. If you think you’re already a wizard, go for it. 

You might be wondering: what’s the point of using Upwork over AirTasker if the latter is potentially cheaper? Honestly, it’s because Upwork is designed exactly for this kind of online freelancing work. You’ve got accountability tools and collaboration methods that you otherwise wouldn’t have with AirTasker. So if you’re willing to front that consistent 20% fee, you’ll have a smoother experience. 

Fiverr

The original conceit of Fiverr used to be, ‘freelancing services for $5 per job’ (which translates to about $6.70 AU). But these days it’s more, ‘competitively priced freelance jobs starting from $5’. 

Setting up a profile is comparatively easy, but still requires some input from you. You put out however many services you’re offering, be that writing a blog, designing a logo, or offering to manage someone’s social media page for any given length of time, complete with the price, and then users on the hunt for that type of work come across those jobs. 

The main advantage of Fiverr is how you can get discovered as a newbie. You’re not going to start with fifty positive reviews to your name, so doing some quick jobs well is a great way to build your presence before scaling the price of your services. Assuming the coronavirus outbreak lasts for at least another four months (and that’s being very optimistic), you’ve got time to get the ball rolling in this regard. The point is: Fiverr gets you in front of interested eyes more so than other platforms on this list do, at least when starting out.

Unfortunately, you’re paying a potentially hefty price for this privilege. Expect a 20% cut off your jobs. 

Gumtree

People don’t normally think of Gumtree as a freelancing platform! It’s normally used to say you’ll be dropping by in your ute to pick up a cabinet at 1.00 PM. But if you do a quick search for services like ‘copywriting’ or ‘coding’, you’ll find pages upon pages of different services. 

The main allure of using Gumtree to freelance is it’s free. But the other side of the coin is it can be harder to find clients here than on a bespoke freelancing platform. At the end of the day however, it doesn’t hurt (or cost!) to put out a Gumtree ad and fill it with similar detail you might put into an Upwork listing. Who knows? You could find some great clients. Just don’t expect to be rolling in them!

The verdict?

The best thing you can do is to just dive into one of these and do your best. The sooner you sign up to one, the sooner you’ll be earning. We’d recommend picking one of the lower barriers to entry options initially and then graduating to a more competitive platform when you’ve built a portfolio of work. Here’s a closing feature list:

Site

Their cut

Barrier to entry

Earning potential

AirTasker

15 - 20%

Medium

Medium

Truelancer

3 - 10%

Low

Low

DesignCrowd

4 - 20%

Low

Medium

Upwork

20%

High

High

Fiverr

20%

Medium

Medium

Gumtree

0%

Low

Low

Good luck, and stay safe during this scary period using the government’s health advice

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