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By Troy Lambert

Freelancers are always learning, since the field itself is always changing, and to adapt to new clients you need to learn about their industry and what they do.

Many of them go back to school to learn more about business, writing, and the niches they work in most often. This presents some obstacles not common to other non-traditional students. Without traditional income verification or an employer to reimburse your tuition, how do you pay for your own continuing education? Here are some simple tips:

Resolve Old Student Loan Debt

Already have student loans from other “careers you tried or other colleges you have attended? Be sure you are up-to-date on payments. Because of the nature of freelance income, you can often qualify for reduced or deferred payments even before you head back to school.

When you attend school with enough hours, you can defer loan payments until you are done with classes, if you are seeking a degree. Even if you are not, you may still qualify to be on lower payment plans while you pursue more education.

Making sure your current debt is up-to-date ensures you are eligible for federal aid, which leads to the next step.

Keep Your Options Open

Depending on your goals, you may have several options to finance your education as a non-traditional student. Even if you are not seeking a specific degree, you still can find creative ways to pay for your education.

  • Federal Aid: You may be eligible for grants, loans, or scholarships. Whether you think you are eligible or not, fill out a FAFSA anyway.

  • Private Student Loans: State agencies, banks, and credit unions often offer student loans for tuition and expenses. If you have good to excellent credit this may be a good option for you.

  • Mortgage Equity or Lines of Credit: If you have equity in your home, you can use it as a low-interest way to go back to school. Sometimes, a line of credit is a good option as well.

No matter what you think you may or may not be eligible for, keep your options open and apply for every possible resource.

Become an Adjunct Professor

Colleges need teachers, and they often employ degreed professionals as adjuncts to supplement tenured faculty.

If you have a master’s degree, there is a good chance that you could work as an adjunct professor. Freelancers have a unique set of skills that colleges will find desirable. One of the benefits of being non-tenured faculty is that your continuing education is often paid for or offered at a steep discount.

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For teaching a class or two, you could get a significant amount of tuition waived, making it worth your while. Although salaries are relatively low and positions are not permanent, they do offer a certain amount of flexibility, along with a foot in the door should you wish to continue on a teaching career track at some point.

Keeping abreast of developments as a freelancer can be challenging. No matter what discipline you are currently in, if you want to go back to school to enhance your skills, learn in a new field, or even get another degree, there are options to finance your education. You just have to be as creative and flexible in going after them as you are going after clients in your career.