Graduate entrepreneurs are the next generation of freelancers. It's vital their universities give them the support and information they need to help them move from student to startup.
But, when we asked over 1,000 graduates about the level of freelancing support their university offered, the answer was a resounding 'not a lot'.
So, for another perspective, we asked seasoned freelancers for their take on the best route to a solo graduate career. And this is what they said.
Love what you do,
be brave but not reckless
and work hard
to make it happen.
Invest straight away in an accountant.
Always plan for a rainy day.
Make sure to keep some
cash in the bank
for the monthly bills.
Don't be put off if things start slowly. If you've put everything into launching your business, have confidence and give it a chance.
Join an organisation representing your profession.
is a great way to start a freelance business without letting go of your
Be prepared to work more hours than you anticipate.
You don’t get paid for the time you spend on things like promoting, marketing and invoicing, so you need to factor that in.
Taking the leap and getting used to the unpredictability of self-employment is the toughest bit. Start by building an email mailing list of everyone you know and send them regular advice on your area of expertise. This will increase awareness of what you can offer while educating your audience and building trust.
Don't undervalue your work, always negotiate on scope and not price.
I know insurance is boring, but it is the safety net that helps you sleep at night.
Provide fantastic support. Don't abandon the client when the project is complete and there's a good chance they'll recommend you again.
It takes a little time before your name gets out there.
Do everything in your power to get your company name known. Advertising is very expensive so the more time you spend on social media and free business sites the better.
You need to find time to
do your accounts and expenses
every month and have good filing systems. If you don’t, it makes your accountant’s life difficult, and their hourly rate could well be more than yours!
Develop your elevator pitch. It sounds clichéd but make sure you can describe your business and your USP quickly and succinctly.
A good idea isn't a business. Research your marketplace, sound out your colleagues & friends, and look at the competition. It's possible to make a dream a reality, but reality can soon be a distant memory if you don't plan.
Do a business plan – and follow it. If it isn’t working, adjust it, but don’t work without specific numbers and goals.
Survival of the “fittest” is really survival of the one who can best fit into a particular niche.
If you work from home, try to ensure your office is a separate area so that you can shut the door and take a break.
Always, ALWAYS be honest with your colleagues, even if they don’t return the favour.
Entrepreneurs are essentially risk takers; freelancers offer a service in return for a fee. Don't confuse the two things.
Every relationship you make through your business needs looking after, as it could be the one that makes, or breaks, you. And getting on with everyone will keep a smile on your face!
Keep an open mind and don't get stuck in a genre rut, cast your net wide and enjoy the experience.
The key is not just working hard but having the attitude that it is going to work. It is up to you to make the difference.
Follow your dream, be true to your vision and never give in, however hard it might get - pressure makes a diamond.
And enjoy it!
Meet as many businesses as possible and create a platform for selling. There’s no better time to sell than when you’re busy: your head’s in a good place, you carry a positive vibe and you build a hustle habit from the start.
Keep your CV up to date as a PDF, and ready to send to prospective employers at a moment's notice.
Family and personal events and illness can exert a big emotional and energy drain. Look after yourself at these times and remember to relax, eat properly and stay fit. If you are on good form, your business will be too.
Take all you can from your university. Mine offered interest-free loans.
A friend’s uni offered FREE desk space in Greenwich for a year, which is usually £500 a month.
It's better to take action and make mistakes than to take no action.
I work to my 90% rule; if I'm working on something and I get to 90% I go with it and worry about the rest later. More often than not the remaining 10% never gets done.
I always change out of the t-shirt I’ve worn when I walk my dogs first thing in the morning and put a shirt on. It makes me feel like I’ve gone to work (even though I work from my home) so I switch from leisure mode to work mode.
My advice to young freelancers would be to take full advantage of all the funding available to startups.
You won't be eligible forever.
Tiredness could kill your business - take a break if you need one and get back to it with enthusiasm!
Know your customer and know their buying process – for example, big 'blue chip' companies don’t go to local networking events, they have a procurement process which takes time.
Don't be too cheap: You don't have a pension, sick pay, holiday pay, healthcare, or subsidised gym. Make sure you factor this into your rates.
Thanks to everyone who got involved.
Your advice is invaluable in supporting the next generation of freelancers.
Riccoboni Services Ltd
We Make Websites
Steel Cap Consulting
Anna B. Sexton
Open To Create…
Silver Birch Design
Lane Three LLP
Coolin IT Services
Daniel Lloyd Barrett
DPW Energy Consulting Ltd
Six Days Ltd
All Round Leadership Limited
Geko Consulting Limited
Blacklight Intelligence Services
Paramount PA Services
Nevas Consultants Limited
WCM Solutions Ltd
Politics at Work
iEd (UK) Ltd
Penguin Learning Limited
Flaming silk Photography
What If Specialists Ltd
Don’t Pose Photography
Robyn Berry Energy & Sustainability Services
S G Accountancy (UK) Ltd
Imagine Learning Ltd
Lacey Alexander Design