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 skills 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:
Edinburgh Innovations (EI) is the commercialisation service at the University. They offer a free service which is open to students and recent graduates. Get in touch with them for support with freelancing or starting your own business or social enterprise.
EI 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 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:
Freelancers are self-employed and not committed to an employer long-term. They offer a skill or service to other businesses which employ them for projects or for set lengths of time. They may be given office space or work from home, delivering work to deadlines.
They can be totally independent, actively marketing themselves and managing all their own work, or can be represented by a company or agency that sells their skills, and which offers a full range of financial and other support services.
EI provide a comprehensive list of freelancer resources:
EI also run specific workshops aimed at those interested in freelancing:
Contractors can be self-employed or work for an agency and work on a contract basis. They may be viewed as an employee of the organisation they are contracted out to, or be considered a self-employed member of staff.
Where to look for freelancing and contracting work?
Some of the below websites and companies enable freelancers to communicate with employers, raise invoices, and track their jobs and financial interactions. Some have a UK focus, but as many of the jobs can be carried out online from home, there are opportunities for freelancers to get work from all over the world.
E4S (E4S) - includes a section for online freelancing work with useful information and links to freelancing job sites.
Contractor UK - provides a service for the UK's IT contracting community, where freelancers can not only find job adverts, but get daily news, market information and an active forum with members sharing experiences and willing to help new freelancers. There is also a series of First Timer guides, covering all aspects of freelancing, including CV advice and how to find work.
Upwork - an international website with many UK jobs listed. As the work is being done online, clients can take jobs from anywhere in the world.
People per hour - has a wide range of jobs on offer, with a good selection in creative arts, and employers’ pay rates seem reasonable. Freelancers can also sell their services for either an hourly rate or a fixed price for the entire project. Offers a full range of services.
Startups are emerging businesses started by entrepreneurs. They are often in the early stages of development, have a focus on growth, fill a gap in the market, have few employees, and work toward an innovative common goal (source: startups.com).
EI run a range of startup workshops and events. They also provide a collection of free online resources on "how to startup" and "managing your startup":
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
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, continuous 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: