Tech Express is North by Northwestern's new personal technology blog. This week, we take a look at StudentFreelance.com, a service for connecting students with employers.
Productivity is nothing I should expect to find on the Internet. The evidence is everywhere I look: Facebook, BuzzFeed, Twitter, TMZ. Every pageview adds another line to the scroll of wasted time unraveling in my web history. And all the while, I still need to find an internship for the summer. This is where StudentFreelance comes in.
StudentFreelance is an online job board that connects talented university-educated students to employers in need of their specific skillsets. You can build a profile, apply for jobs and get paid, all while gaining increasingly valuable work experience.
I signed up for a StudentFreelance account several weeks ago, and listed proofreading and copy-editing as a couple of my skills. Low and behold, within a week I had received an email connecting me to someone looking to have a children’s book he was working on edited. I submitted a proposal, got the job and spent about an hour looking over and editing a book about a little kid who practices Kung Fu at a spider’s dojo. The book was pretty funny, and I was able to see a lot of what went into the process of producing a children’s book, all while making 15 dollars.
StudentFreelance founder, Michael Talei, insists that this site can “help fix America’s unemployment problem,” by solving issues that often plague both employers and students. His goal sounds pretty lofty, and may oversimplify American unemployment issues a bit, but his reasoning is sound in reference to solving America’s fresh-out-of-college unemployment problem.
“College kids graduating now are having the hardest time in finding a job. That has a lot to with the economy, but also that most employers are looking to hire people with some experience,” Talei told me. “Students can use StudentFreelance.com to build up their work experience and employer contacts and they can use that to land them a job.”
There are a lot of freelancing website options on the web, but Talei says that StudentFreelance.com’s quality of talent sets it apart. “Students on our site are American-educated, and are doing some pretty amazing stuff,” he said.
Talei’s point mainly focuses on what makes the site unique to employers, but what makes StudentFreelance an especially distinctive and preferable option for student freelancers is that you only have to compete against other university students for the jobs.
Other freelancing sites like freelancer or Elance are flooded by full-time freelancers with decades of experience in their field, which can make it difficult for college students like us to insert ourselves in the process. These sites also have dozens of applicants for most of the jobs on the site, but because StudentFreelance has only been around for a few months, the user base is still growing and most jobs only get five or so applicants.
Jobs offered through the site are very diverse, ranging from property management and graphic design, to DJ gigs and web development. The jobs also differ in their involvement, the majority of which are functioning on an hourly or contractual basis, while others appear to be more long-term.
It is the site’s particularly unobtrusive experience that makes signing up for an account a no-brainer. After creating a profile with your specific skillsets and titles, you simply enter your email address, and StudentFreelance will message you whenever an employer posts a job that seems to align with your skillset.
The main flaw of the website is in the same vein as its greatest asset, but it is really only an annoying quirk. Strangely, there is nowhere on the website to physically see any of these jobs for which you are emailed unless you physically click on the link in your email. How much this bothers you obviously depends on your level of involvement, but the website already gives you a personalized message inbox, so it doesn’t make sense that you have to open your external email whenever you log into the site just to see the jobs it thinks you’re qualified for.
Patience is a good virtue to live by when initially operating the site though. Until you complete your first job and receive a rating from the employer, you might seem like a gamble to employers investing a decent amount into whatever job they are offering. Starting off with smaller tasks, and getting good ratings can usually open up some of the higher-profile, résumé-worthy jobs, especially since the site is relatively new.
StudentFreelance is growing rapidly, and they are looking to expand the services they offer, but right now the most important thing they are doing is reaching out to employers and gathering more student talent, something Talei sees a lot of at Northwestern specifically.
“Students bring the quality talent to StudentFreelance.com and that’s really why employers keep coming back to our site, because of the students. Especially at Northwestern, where the talent field is second to none,” Talei said.
While StudentFreelance does have a few of the standard technical oddities that often plague startups, there really aren’t too many reasons not to sign up for a free account. It isn’t going to replace a steady source of income since the site is still building up its list of employers, but it does what it aims to do admirably, providing already-busy college students with an opportunity to get some extra cash while also earning some increasingly valuable experience.