GUEST BLOG: Ruth Bushi of Save the Student

Turn your studies into a start-up

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Ruth Bushi, an editor of ‘Save the Student’ and former Lancaster student (English, Lonsdale College) discusses the many different ways of starting up a business, regardless of your degree background.

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Think working for yourself is only for Business Studies bods? Arts subjects have just as much potential to boost your cashflow and your career, say the brand boffins at Save the Student.

Once you tot-up the tuition fees, the rent and the price of paperclips, higher education costs. A lot. If you’re holding out for a graduate starting salary and building up a sizeable stack of rejection letters, you may be wondering just when your degree is going to start paying you back.

Here’s some good news: working for yourself can help plug your work experience woes and your empty wallet – and you can use your degree subject to help you, right from your dorm room.

Could I really start a business?

Forget the idea that having your own business means kick-starting the next big brand – there are as many roads to business as there are to happiness. And Luton, come to think of it.

Your business could be as grand as launching your own clothing line, or as simple as freelancing from your living room. Whichever floats your canoe, there’s more inspiration here.

When it comes to self-employment, there are some qualities that it helps to have or be prepared to learn:

  • Perseverance, people skills and problem-solving smarts
  • Self-discipline, bags of motivation and a dedication to hitting deadlines
  • Tons of ideas, and the ability to act on the best ones
  • Gift of the gab: optional

If some of these are familiar, they’re the ones employers expect to see on your CV. And that’s one of the best reasons to consider working for yourself: you get tons of proven, transferable skills that you’ll be hard-pressed to come by in your average work experience gig.

It’s not all Jeremy Kyle and working in PJs, though. The hours can be long and without immediate pay when you’re first starting out. But is it rewarding, exciting and achievable? Heck, yeah.

What’s the difference between freelancing and starting a business?

You could say that freelancers sell their time and skills on their own terms instead of working for just one employer. Business owners tend to think about the long-term growth and development of their brand. Beyond that, they’re both just ways of saying you’re self-employed.

If ‘Founder of The Skis The Limit’ looks better than ‘Freelance ski instructor’ on your business cards … go for it. If freelancing sounds less daunting than starting a business, think of it like that instead.

What kind of business can I start?

Have a go at these questions to get a handle on your motivation:

  • Do you just want to make some extra cash, or do you see yourself collecting awards in the future?
  • Is starting your own business a stepping stone to your dream job or potentially a career in itself?
  • What are you good at? What do you love doing?
  • What goods and services do folk at your campus/town need? What gets people excited?

You should now have some sense of whether you’re a skills provider or more entrepreneurially minded.

If you’re a budding business brain, your studies don’t have to feature in your self-employment plans at all: get inspired and then get a plan.

If you’re after short-term cash and long-term kudos, go for freelance projects that piggyback on your subject knowledge and which you can start with minimal equipment.

How can I turn an arts subject into a business?

Think of these as brainstorm suggestions – but don’t be limited by how we’ve grouped them. Most students have cross-discipline skills and interests: the main thing is to get inspired.

English, Creative Writing & Journalism

  • An editing and proofreading service for students, tutors and local businesses – get some basic industry qualifications, if you can, to gain credibility and a leg-up on the competition
  • Cover niche topics to get more business, i.e., science and technical topics for editorial work, or get known as a columnist on specialist subjects, from vegan cuisine to ecotourism
  • Self-publish your short stories, poems or novel and set-up a speaking/book signing tour
  • Be a freelance copywriter or social media consultant for local businesses
  • Start your own news site or app (and keep an eye on potential Google funding for European start-ups)

Film studies, Sociology

  • Start an alternative film or literature festival
  • Produce your own arts magazine and sell ad space or subscriptions to turn a profit as well as make a name for yourself – keep production costs low with digital publishing, or use Issuu

Advertising & Marketing

  • Create a deals website, magazine or newsletter and sell partnership opps to local businesses
  • Start your own PR firm and promote other student businesses

History

  • Offer walking tours with a theme: the Pendle Witches, film locations, or famous former students
  • Go one better and make an audio or multimedia version that visitors can download to their phones and follow by themselves

Dance & Theatre

  • Run murder mystery or bespoke themed dinner parties
  • Create a YouTube channel of masterclasses, dance routines or fitness programmes – you can monetise it with advertising or potentially charge for streamed content
  • Got acting skills? Slot into corporate training packages by offering role play practice, or start your own mystery shopping service for local companies

Music

  • Compose and create soundtracks for games, apps
    and YouTubers: target students building their portfolio or businesses locally/online
  • Write and perform personalised songs for weddings, birthdays and other milestones
  • If you’ve had voice training, you could record audio books for indie and established authors (a growing market!)

Languages

  • Offer conversational practice via Skype to learners around the world. Get a PayPal account to make getting paid in any currency a doddle (but check for any fees)
  • Look for app developers and authors and offer to translate their work for other markets

Art

  • Supply professionally designed posters and programmes for campus societies or local theatres/clubs
  • Turn customer photos into illustrated digital wallpapers, bags or phone covers
  • Sell your work to the art collectors of the future with an Etsy shop (and get your name out there at the same time)

Photography

  • Find a niche subject to go freelance with less competition from the pros – think pet portraits, or under-represented stock shots
  • Print alternative postcards and get them stocked in shops, galleries and cafés
  • Offer a photo editing service that makes everybody’s snaps super
  • Turn your best work into greetings cards, posters and canvas prints and sell them online and on campus, or sell limited edition art prints to collectors for better prices

Got the business buzz? Great. Start thinking how it might work: what’s your core product or service? Is it legit – think location, copyright, insurance, qualifications? Who are your potential customers and how will you reach them? How much will you charge and how will you get paid (and, if you’re super successful, do you know how tax works)? If you think you need funding or further advice, chat to the uni’s enterprise team for tips or check out crowdfunding sites like kickstarter for project ideas. Good luck!