These days being a student is an expensive business, with the average UK graduate leaving university with debts of £44,000. Students’ working alongside their studies has now become commonplace and is imperative to managing a student budget. This doesn’t mean being a slave to the minimum wage though; many students will start to freelance and even set up their own businesses whilst at university. In fact some of the biggest names in business today were set up or conceived whilst their founders were at university – Facebook, Napstar, Google, FedEx to name but a few.
If you’re considering working alongside your studies, here are a few pointers to consider before launching into a career as a student entrepreneur.
Freelance is a great way not just to gain experience in your field, but to get paid and dip a toe into industry waters. Do your research before setting out looking for work; you’ll want to consider your rates and those of the industry, the time you can dedicate and how it will fit in around your studies, whether you’ll need to work on site or will be able to work remotely. For sourcing jobs check some of the following sites, work on your CV, set yourself up on LinkedIn and seek endorsements from peers, employers and lecturers.
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Setting up your own business
If you think you have an idea that could cut it in the professional world the first thing you need to do is get it down on paper; detail what your product is, who your audience will be, whether there’s a demand, how you will market it, cost of your product or service and if possible a 5 year plan. Essentially you need to get a business plan together – this isn’t just for getting funding and partners, but also for your own clarity, to ensure you have set goals and targets and have established how you’ll meet them.
You may not be on a business course, but there’s a good chance there’ll be one running at your university, so seek advice from lecturers. Join student unions and keep an eye out for events dedicated to careers and future planning – some universities in the UK run week long events to inspire and inform students as future business owners. Whilst Job Shop/Career Hubs are great places to find out about free courses and should be available at most universities.
Once you’ve set out your business plan and taken advice, you may need to think about funding. If you do, there are a couple of options other than the bank of mum and dad, that are appropriate for someone without any assets, experience or collateral i.e. students ;) The Enterprise Programme at The Princes Trust has helped more than 80,000 young people set up in business since 1983 – it’s for people aged 18-30 who are unemployed, so only appropriate for finance post graduation. Alternatively, Crowdfunding is a newish concept in start-up finance – peer to peer investment that runs on two platforms, equity or rewards, it’s a great way to test the market, establish a customer base and even get corporate equity fund matching. The biggest player in the UK is Crowdfunder. You may also find that your own university has grants available for student research and innovation, so make sure you ask.
Money management & tax
Once you’ve got the business ball rolling you’ll hopefully see the fruits of your labour i.e. hard cash. And whilst this will be your ready reward it does need to be managed. Set up a spreadsheet to detail all your invoicing and expenses, make sure you send out invoices quickly and with a stipulated ‘pay by’ date on them, chase late payers – it’s worth noting the UK Government states that payments after 30 days of invoice or receipt of goods are deemed to be ‘late’ and that ‘statutory interest’ can charged thereafter, for more information see Late Commercial Payments. Set up a separate account for all business transactions. Register yourself as self-employed and remember that even though you may be a full time student, you’re still obliged to pay income tax and NI. Find out more on the HM Revenues and Customs site.