Starting your own business or working on a freeelance basis can be an exciting option, either while you are studying or at some point after you graduate. It's possible to do this in range of work areas but whatever sector you're in, the rewards include:

  • Independence – the freedom to make your own decisions and build a business that belongs to you
  • Personal fulfilment – succeeding through your own efforts
  • Flexibility - to choose your own hours of work
  • Variety - you'll have lots of different aspects to manage, with many different tasks and people

Building blocks for success

Working for yourself relies on your knowledge and personal qualities. For instance, your business may use the knowledge and contacts gained on your degree, or the skills you've gained gained from your various experiences. For many areas, specialist knowledge and relevant professional qualifications may be required, but for others it can be possible to start a business without having a background in the sector.

Examples where self-employment can be more common are:

  • The Arts – including music, drama, art and writing
  • Healthcare – personal trainer, nutritionist, dentistry
  • IT – for example web or software development, IT consultancy
  • Media and digital industries – e.g. graphic design, photography, online journalism
  • Leisure, sport and tourism – including sports coach, instructor
  • Law and finance – for example solicitor, accountant
  • Translation services – translator or interpreter
  • Private tuition – e.g. music, languages, mathematics etc

Whatever your business idea, your skills in the following will be important:

  • A strong drive to succeed - the hours can be long and you have to be committed
  • Risk taking - a willingness to try new ideas and to ‘go it alone’
  • Self-reliance - you will need to set your own deadlines and cope with setbacks
  • Self-efficacy - self-confidence and belief in what you are offering
  • Enterprise skills and financial awareness - innovation and entrepreneurial skills are necessary to generate income, while minimising your costs
  • Networking and negotiation - skills to build a client base, alongside the ability to identify and negotiate with customers and suppliers
  • Presentation and communication - to represent yourself clearly in business situations, from pitching your business to negotiating contracts

If you have these kinds of skills and the idea of working for yourself appeals to you, our Information resources article 'Working for yourself' provides lots of advice on getting started. Note: International students cannot normally set up a business or work on a self-employed or freelance basis in the UK whilst studying. This means they cannot register, trade or market their business for trade whilst they hold a student study visa.