Careers Service

Start your own business or become a freelance

Where to get support to start your own business, or if you’re thinking about freelancing

An increasing number of students are considering self-employment after graduation or starting up their own business alongside their studies.  It might appeal if you have a strong interest or skill in a certain business area or you want to be your own boss. Self-employed opportunities are common in, for example, sports coaching, fitness instruction, private tuition, journalism, performing arts, creative industries, food-related businesses, web developers, and designers. 

Is self-employment right for you? (Prospects) 

The University is keen to encourage business start-ups. Its commercialisation service, Edinburgh Innovations (EI), is open to students and recent graduates. Get in touch with them for support with freelancing or starting your own business or social enterprise.  

Edinburgh Innovations can help whether you want a taste of entrepreneurship, have an idea you want to work on or have a running business you want to develop – and you don’t need to be studying in the Business School or have prior knowledge to take the first step.  

EI services are open to students and alumni from all schools, at all levels of study. They offer 1 to 1 advice, online resources, networking opportunities, workshops and events, funding support, and access to the Student Enterprise Hub at Appleton Tower. 

Edinburgh Innovations  

Other sources of support at the University are: 

  • Informatics Ventures - provides support to technology entrepreneurs and offers networking opportunities. It aims to inspire and develop globally ambitious software start-ups across Scotland.  

Informatics Ventures  

  • Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) - a collaboration between all Scottish universities. The Institute's activities at the University of Edinburgh include undergraduate and postgraduate study options, a programme of free workshops, and commercialisation advice and support. 

Scottish Institute for Enterprise 

What skills do you need?  

Besides the commitment, initiative, drive, enthusiasm and hard work necessary to get a venture off the ground, you’ll need: 

  • basic business skills - combine your specific subject knowledge with some business or marketing courses 

  • market research skills - research your business sector so you know your market, and produce a realistic business plan if you want to get financial backing 

  • social media skills – to promote your business and showcase your work 

  • networking skills - vital; in some sectors, for example creative arts, a high proportion of freelance work comes via the hidden jobs market rather than being advertised, and a well-developed network will give you access to this 

Professional bodies 

Joining a professional body provides opportunities to network and access to information resources. Professional bodies can be especially important if you’re self-employed as they can offer advice on the rates that you should be charging for your skills, continued professional development opportunities (CPD), and support for issues that may arise. Membership shows your professionalism and commitment and will give potential clients confidence in you. 

 Approved professional organisations and learned societies (Gov.UK)