These days being a student is an expensive business, with the average UK graduate leaving university with debts of £45,000. 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.
In fact, you don’t need to wait until you are a student, there is nothing to stop you from getting that business off the ground when you are in your teens. See here for the top 10 business ideas teens can start with little or without money.
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 and the cost of delivering your product or service. You can cover all of those elements in a one-page summary known as a business model canvas. And if you need funding you will need to put a business plan together.
Test trade first
The most important element of either type of plan is evidence of demand. Asking people what they think will only tell you so much, the only real test is whether people will actually pay in a real situation. Try to test trade in some way before you invest too much time and effort. That could involve a pop-up stall or a few online adverts to see if there is any genuine customer base to start building on.
Many universities now have Enterprise Support hubs that offer business advice, training, and often generous grants. If you think you’ll want to start a venture while you’re a student, then the quality of support and funding offered by Enterprise Hub might be one of your criteria for finding the right university. The Enterprise support service may be stand-alone or part of the students union or careers service.
There is an awful lot you can do entrepreneurially with little or no money these days. But if you do need funds, then there are a few options out there. First off check out your student Enterprise Support service. Alternatively, you could look into Crowdfunding – 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. After graduation, there is the government-backed Start-up Loans Company, which offers loans of up to £25,000. Those are a few ideas for starters. For more options see here.
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. 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 report your income to HMRC and to pay income tax if your earned income exceeds £12,570.