A UWindsor Student’s Journey Through Freelancing
Today, students are redefining the narrative by not just excelling in their academic endeavors but also digging into the world of freelancing! Meet Mya, Sean, and Montse, three UWindsor students who have not only embraced their academic responsibilities but have also embarked on a freelancing journey that has significantly shaped their personal and professional lives. Join us as we delve into their journey, examining the strategies, challenges, and successes that have defined their unique paths as freelancers while pursuing their degrees.
Mya Bezaire is an undergraduate student in her fourth year of Communication, Media, and Film (CMF) at the University of Windsor. During her senior year in high school, Mya began freelancing due to her previous job experience in social media and digital marketing. She felt that freelancing would be a great chance for her to experience an area she is passionate about while creating a portfolio for potential employers and earning extra income.
“My first official freelancing job was being a Social Media Manager for a popcorn store. I worked with this brand for about three years, tackling content like video production, product photos, and advertising campaigns,” said Mya. Since then, my portfolio has evolved by working with clients across Canada and the US, including clothing brands, wellness companies, and food & beverage brands.”
Sean O’Neil is another third-year CMF student who juggles freelancing and university. Sean started freelancing during the 2023 summer, offering his photography and videography services to organizations, businesses, or anyone he thought needed a photographer/videographer.
“After reaching out to different groups about my services, I started to build up a reputation. Over time, my presence in the local industry has grown, and people have started to reach out directly to me rather than me reaching out to them,” said Sean.
Montse Pineda, a third-year BFA Film Production student, also balances freelancing while pursuing her degree. Montse started freelancing during this past summer, after working for the Entrepreneurship, Practice, and Innovation Centre (EPICentre) at UWindsor as their Marketing Student Assistant for over a year and learning entrepreneurial thinking to take her artistic career to the next step.
“As EPICentre’s Marketing Student Assistant, I create content for their social media channels for students and community to engage with the center. My favourite part of my job is creating video series showcasing local entrepreneurs and their journey because it has allowed me to build meaningful connections with passionate people pursuing their dreams,” said Montse. “While working on the different video series, I gained confidence in myself, and I started offering my graphic design, photography, and videography services to entrepreneurs who were starting their startups and needed help with their marketing.”
Not only has their freelance work enhanced their media production skills, but their university education has also complemented their entrepreneurial journey.
“Definitely knowing how to build a successful and clear production plan for projects is a skill that I’ve learned and perfected thanks to my university education that has helped me to work better with clients and be professional,” said Montse.
“Through freelancing, I’ve developed specific skills in product photography, email marketing, website design, blog writing, commercial video production, and more. As well, I’ve also built a lot of personal skills, including time management, organization, communication, and confidence,” said Mya. “I find these skills all complement my university education. I’ve been able to take ideas and concepts I’ve learned inside the classroom and use them in a more hands-on environment, which has been super beneficial.”
Networking and building a professional online presence are essential for Mya, Sean, and Montse’s success as freelancers and media students. By doing so, they have been able to display their work and university projects to a broader audience, establish relationships with clients and other artists, and explore new opportunities for the future.
“Networking is really at the core of freelance work,” said Sean. “An online presence was also great for trying to grow my brand and notify people of my services. Utilizing a website and an Instagram page shows anyone quickly what my skillset is.”
“Sometimes, I find it’s not what you know but who you know, so I always recommend for people interested in freelancing to put themselves out there at networking events or not be afraid of cold-contacting potential clients,” said Mya.
“I found my first two clients by attending networking events and listening to what other entrepreneurs are struggling with or might need assistance with. Then, if their concerns were related to marketing, I would start talking about my passions and how I would like to collaborate with them,” said Montse. “Perhaps instead of asking for work or telling people you can help them, I suggest approaching people by telling them you would love to collaborate because you resonate with the person, their brand, and their values, and you are a student looking to learn and enhance your portfolio or resume.”
As a consequence of following her advice, Mya recalls a pivotal moment during her freelancing journey. “The memory that comes to mind right now was my first experience meeting my long-distance mentor, Cece Reusch. Cece is in British Columbia, and we met in a Social Media Manager community group when I was looking for an internship. Cece was the first person I chatted with outside of Windsor-Essex, and upon submitting my resume, she mentioned that it was one of the most incredible resumes she had ever seen. This moment in my life was when I realized that freelancing had a significant impact on my professional development and that people were starting to notice.”
“I don’t have a specific moment that has significantly impacted my personal and professional growth. My journey since moving to Canada has been my most significant moment. As an international student, moving across countries forced me to step out of my shell, overcome the language barrier, and make new connections. Since then, I have connected and collaborated with artists, influencers, entrepreneurs, and passionate people to create meaningful content,” said Montse.
However, despite their success, Mya, Sean, and Montse still experience stress and burnout due to their hectic schedules.
“I’ll admit work-life balance can be hard as a freelancing student. I am probably at a high in freelancing right now, meaning that I have found this past semester super draining and chaotic,” said Mya. “However, some ways I manage balance are: 1) having a maximum client load and 2) prioritizing time for myself. I prioritize screen-free mornings and avoid checking client emails, texts, or Slack messages until I’m ready to work. I also try to have a dedicated time each day to log off from client work to avoid working late into the night on client projects.”
“It can be very stressful at times, but it is a rewarding experience, nonetheless. Taking breaks to spend time with friends and loved ones during off time is a big part of maintaining balance,” said Sean.
“I suggest keeping in mind what your body and mind can handle. Don’t forget to prioritize yourself. If you prioritize your health and put yourself first, you’ll perform ten times better and enjoy every experience so much more,” advised Montse.
Freelancing has had such a significant impact on the lives of Mya, Sean, and Montse that it has also affected their career aspirations and post-graduation plans.
“While at one point in my life, I thought a simple 9-5 desk job would have suited me, I have now gotten the opportunity to experience a more chaotic and busier lifestyle. While at times it is stressful, it is rarely boring, and that excitement motivates me to keep pushing towards even better jobs in the media and film industries,” said Sean.
“When I was 17 years old, I had this idea that I could never work in anything related to marketing, advertising, or anything commercial, 1) because I was only interested in film and fiction, and 2) I felt like if I did it, I was not going to be considered a legitimate and professional film person. But now, I can’t imagine myself doing just film. It is still my main focus, but if I want my art to reach more people, at least now, I have to be open to doing more things,” said Montse.
“Freelancing is having me consider doing this as a career after graduating. I enjoy working 1:1 with clients, having control over my income and hours, and being able to do a diverse range of projects. However, if I decide that I don’t want to freelance the rest of my life, I at least have a professional portfolio of work that I can show to potential employers in the future,” said Mya.
If you are a student considering freelancing, here are some lessons and insights from Mya that might be valuable if you are seeking a similar path. “I think some lessons would be: 1) find a mentor, 2) find ways to be social, 3) start with the portfolio, 4) always remember your worth, and 5) don’t be afraid to say no.”
“Freelancing isn’t easy, and it isn’t for everyone. Perhaps test the waters as you work a regular stable job, and as you garner more of a reputation, start taking on more jobs until it’s something you can actively make a living off. There is a lot of flexibility with freelancing that can be very advantageous when first starting,” said Sean.
If you want to connect with Mya, follow her Instagram @marketwithmya. If you wish to connect with Sean, follow him on Instagram @illiterit.multimedia. Or, if you are looking to connect with Montse, visit her website https://laregistamx.com/.