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Starting A Business/Going Freelance

Are you thinking of starting up your own business? 

Maybe you already have a side-hustle, and you’d like to grow your existing business, perhaps taking on new staff or moving into your first office? 

Whatever stage you’re at in your entrepreneurial journey, even if you’re just at the ‘initial idea’ phase, the Careers and Employability Service at the University of Cumbria can help. 

Every enterprise journey is unique, so we can offer a range of resources to get you started and help you to flourish. 

These options include start-up advice, funding opportunities, marketing options, pricing matters, business structure and so on. 

This section of My Cumbria provides a range of tools that can help you on your entrepreneurial journey, whether you are looking to start a business or just develop enterprise skills to support you on your journey to graduate employability. 

Get 1-1 Business Support Via My Career Enriched 

Upcoming events related to student enterprise or self-employment and freelancing will be posted on My Career Enriched, your career hub. 

This service is available to all undergraduates, and students who have graduated within the last three years. 

Book your appointment HERE to take your first steps into the world of entrepreneurship or contact Paul directly at 

  • Getting Started In Business

    Here is a selection of tools to help you to clarify your business idea and to take the first steps in getting your new business underway.

    Information about setting up a business can be found on the UK Government website as well as information about business tax if you are self-employed. You can download a pdf of ‘Thinking of working for yourself’. For more information about what you need to do click here. 

    The Federation of Small Business provides information on everything from deciding on your business to protecting your intellectual property.

    TEG Kickstart - The Online Accelerator course from The Enterprise Group will help you decide if starting and running a business is for you. There are 6 modules to complete at your own pace, including finance, marketing and leadership. Students and graduates have access to this FREE resource. 

    Voucher: TV-voucher 

    Note: Select the TEGvirtual Premium pricing option and apply the voucher prior to checkout. 

    Cumbria Chamber of Commerce provides new business support via Cumbria Growth Hub. Find out more at

    London Chamber of Commerce helps you to to build valuable connections and access a host of support services. Find out more at

    Lancaster Chamber of Commerce offers a range of assistance that can help companies at every stage of their development; from getting started to expanding their existing business activities. Find out more at is an excellent source of general information, covering all the basics as well as providing plenty of success stories for entrepreneurial inspiration.

    Enterprise Nation is a vibrant community of small businesses. Find advisers, attend webinars and learn from in-depth content aimed at small-to-medium sized businesses. Make sure you check out the StartUpUK area of the website. 

    The Association for Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (UK) - or ipse for short - is well worth checking out for useful content, news of events, and everything else related to being self-employed.  

    Santander offers a free resources page with guidance on how to build a side hustle. This is the type of enterprise activity that you might run alongside your studies, or even a job, and then grow it over time. Side hustles are a great option for enterpreneurs who don't want to go 'all-in' at first:

    The Prince’s Trustprovide a useful business plan template that you can find here. Whilst the Prince’s Trust target people aged 11 to 30, they have a good range of useful resources available to everyone and are well worth checking out. Visit their website at 

    If you are considering setting up or buying into a franchise, you will find information at the British Franchise Association website.The advantage of a franchise is that you can start your business via a proven and tested business model. 

    The Intellectual Property Office provide help and support so that you can protect your business with regards to areas such as, Trade Marks, Patents, Design, IP Crime and Infringement, Copyright and so much more. 

    If you are considering a social enterprise, there is lots of useful information via Social Enterprise UK.  

    The British Association of Women Entrepreneurs provides support for female entrepreneurs and Flourish CIC offer a range of workshops and information targeted specifically at female social entrepreneurs. 

    If you are thinking about setting your business up as a Limited Company, Companies House provides an in-depth range of information to help and support you. 

    Watch this video from the Young Entrepreneurs Forum on ‘How to Write a Business Plan to Start Your Own Business’ 

  • Interview: Starting A Business With Graduate Vincent Walden

    Vincent Walden is a former University of Cumbria student who studied on the Graphic Design and Illustration course from 2013-2016.

    He runs a limited company design studio called Cairn Collective and an eco-friendly print studio called Studio Walden.

    In this interview, he discusses the process and challenges of setting up a business from scratch.


  • Useful New Business Documents

    Download our basic Business Plan template to help you consider the viability of your business.  

    Use ourMarketing Strategy templateto help you to plan your marketing activities. Remember to make sure that the information aligns with the rest of your business plan and cashflow forecast. 

    When starting your own business, you need to understand how much the business needs to generate for you so that you can draw wages and cover your living expenses as a minimum.  Our Personal Survival Budget will help you to do this. 

    Understanding your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is important as well as understanding what times actions you need to put in place, use ourSWOT Analysis template to support you with this activity. 

    Many businesses also find completing a PESTLE analysis useful, download one of our template to support you with this activity: PESTLE template 1; PESTLE template 2. 

    Effective networking is a skill in itself, and the first time you attend an event by yourself can be quite daunting, use ourNetworking Checklist  to help you to plan and get the most from your time at events.

  • Funding Your Business

    Before applying for funding, you need to be clear how much you are looking to raise, the period of the funding, what the funding will be used for and what type of funding you are looking to raise.  Be realistic and make sure you have the data to back up any claims made in your business plan and cashflow.  

    When looking at funding decide are you going to apply for grants or loans? Or a mixture of both? What will this look like? Consider the payment terms and make sure you included this within your financial forecasting.  

    If you have decided to apply for a potential grant, make sure that you meet the eligibility criteria before applying. If you don’t meet the criteria, don’t waste your time developing an application! Use the time to help generate income in other ways or by applying for funding that you do meet the eligibility for.  

    Funding streams change quickly, so the links below may lead to funding that has finished, whilst other funders will not have been listed. Remember to do your own further research. 

    It's always worth chatting to your local Chamber of Commerce about the lastest funding opportunites as they're well-placed to give up-to-date guidance on this matter.

    Angel Investment

    If you’ve seen Dragon’s Den on the TV, then you’ll understand the basics of Angel Investment. Angel Investors put their own money into your business in exchange for a share of the business. You also get to access their expertise and know-how. 

    Here are three examples of Angel Investment websites: 

    Business Finance 

    Funding Circle offers finance from £10,000 to £500,000 to help existing businesses to grow. 

    The UK Government website has a short, but helpful section on business finance and support. 

    Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund Loan funding to support for start-up and growth plan.

    Cumbria LEP aim to create one of the fastest growing economies in the UK. Find details of forward plans as well as funding information.  

    Cumbria County Council have community grants that can demonstrate lasting community benefits.  

    Rural Tourism Infrastructure support the development of tourism infrastructure throughout rural Cumbria.  

    Rural Business Development have funding to assist rural business development with grants to enable farm diversification or business growth and innovation.  

    The Co-operative and Community Finance have loans to help support the social enterprise sector.  

    The Key Fund has a central mission to provide finance - flexible loans and grant/loan packages targeted towards community and social enterprise.   

    Power to Change offer help, support and funding to community groups to help them to develop community business ideas.  

    If you are a voluntary organisation or social enterprise, you can also look for funding via Funding Central. There is a subscription fee to be paid to access any of the information.  

    Arts Council England has a range of funding programmes as well as lots of useful information to help you on your entrepreneurial journey.  

    The National Lottery have a range of grants as well as information on eligibility and how to apply.  

    The Henry Smith Charity offer grants to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the UK to support projects which help improve the lives of people. 

    The Tutor Trust supports voluntary and community groups to make a positive change in communities. 

    Paul Hamlyn Foundation supports children and young people to experience a better quality of life.  

    Nesta provide a range of information and funding.  

    John Moores Foundation provide grants towards organisations that support communities, for full details see their website. 

    Esmee Foundation funds work that focuses on social change, the arts, children & young people, food and environment.  

    Sport England focus on small grants that will help to get people active.  

    Groundwork UK focus on helping to transform the lives in disadvantaged communities.  

    Food Processing grants to support food processing businesses.  

    Solway Border & Eden Leader Funding is currently closed for expressions of interest, but it is worth revisiting this website again in the future.   

    UnLtd look to support social enterprises and have different streams that you can consider. 

  • Digital Business Support

    Most businesses these days have a significant digital element, even if you’re a producer of physical goods or services.  

    Here are some useful links which will help you to get started and flourish online. 

    Digital Business Support 

    Digital Tech Cumbria provides digital skills support and advice for Cumbrian businesses. 

    The UK Government website helps you to find the right business software and advice to help your business grow. 

    LinkedIn Learning gives you access to online training on a wide variety of business-related matters. 

  • Getting Your Business Online

    If you’re thinking of selling online – whether it be digital or physical products – there are a number of popular choices which are worth looking at to get the ball rolling.  

    This is not an exhaustive list, there are many other services available via a Google search. 

    Always check the fees taken by the service before you sign-up as this will erode your profit margin and needs to be factored into your accounting. 

    Shopifyis perhaps one of the best-known services for creating online shops. 

    Etsyis incredibly popular with creatives and crafters 

    Amazonprovides a huge online retail space to a global source of buying customers. One of the advantages of a service like this is that Amazon provides storage, shipping and returns. 

    ebayis a well-known and popular ecommerce store, providing smaller-scale online stores as well as large-scale procurement services.  

    Getting online fast 

    All businesses benefit from having a web presence but building a website can be a costly process. 

    There are several ‘quick-start’ options available, the first two being highly suitable if you’re unfamiliar with building websites. 

    SquareSpace is a low-price website builder which guides you through every step of the process.  

    Wix is free and paid-for web hosting. This is probably the fastest and most tech-free way to get a professional-looking website built fast. 

    Over 40% of all websites are built on Wordpress. There are two versions of Wordpress. is a sitebuilder, with everything you need included. You will be encouraged to upgrade and buy extras. is a much more complicated software download which requires technical skills. It’s much-used and much-loved but is best avoided if you want to get a website up-and-running quickly.

    Social Media 

    There are many social media channels available to you, but some work better than others when it comes to finding customers. 

    Always ask yourself ‘where do my customers hang out?’ before selecting the social media channels that you’ll use for your business. 

    You don’t have to use every channel, and in the early days of your business it’s recommended that you choose the best channel and stick to it while you focus on getting things going. 

    Facebook business page - note, not a regular Facebook profile. Facebook advertising is an excellent route directly to targeted and/or local customers, but make sure you get some training first as it can burn through your marketing budget. Facebook business pages shows up fast in the search engines. 

    Twitter is not a first choice for business use, but it can be excellent for business networking and finding like-minded people in your industry. 

    LinkedIn is very much a professional networking site which is best used by consultants and those offering professional-facing services. 

    There’s no doubt that TikTok is a massively popular social media website, but make sure your audience can be found there before you start to use it for your business.  

    Instagram is an excellent social site to use if you can keep it supplied with engaging images. It’s probably best suited to visual businesses, such as travel, fashion, art and so on. Use a business profile rather than a personal profile as it gives you better business-facing features, including advertising. 

  • Business Accounting

    One harsh truth about running any business, however small, is that you need to keep a track of your accounts. This applies whether you’re a sole trader or a Limited Company, and even if you’re running at a loss. 

    You should keep receipts from the day you start your business. Often, businesses start running at a loss, before they turn a profit. Those losses can be set against profits later, so always keep a track of everything you earn and spend. 

    Using a local accountant is the first the option that most new businesses would opt for. Using a professional will help you stay on the right side of the Inland Revenue and gives you an on-hand source of advice whenever you need it in those early days. 

    Google Sheets (free) or Microsoft Excel (expensive) are the bare minimum if you just want to record your income and outgoings in a simple format. OpenOffice is a great free alternative to Excel. Bear in mind that HMRC (the Inland Revenue) is introducing Making Tax Digital from 2024 (for those with income above £10,000 each year) so, at some point, you’re going to need to engage with an approved accounting software serve.  

    A word on accounting software 

    Accounting software comes with all sorts of bells and whistles, so check the features carefully to make sure you’re not paying for things you won’t use.  

    It’s very handy to have invoicing built in if you’re a business that invoices. Similarly, if you have staff who need to be paid, payroll services are incredibly useful to have close to hand. Always check the features and make sure you get the best fit for your business. 

    Sage Accounting offers cloud-based accountancy services for all types of business. 

    Crunch starts free for small businesses but offers a hybrid of software and access to accountants if you pay for the service. 

    FreeAgent is free if you bank with NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland or Ulster Bank. It’s modern and user-friendly. 

    Xero is used by many accountancy firms, so you may end up using it if you take on a traditional accountant. 

    Note: The web links in this section are by no means exhaustive. They are offered as starting points and further research and due diligence is recommended. 

  • Student Success Stories

    Many students from the University of Cumbria have gone on to start their own businesses.

    You'll find many of these stories in Aluminate, the graduate magazine, in the Alumni Business Spotlight features.

    Here's a selection of success stories to whet your appetite.

    Maisha Outreach Therapy Organisation (MOTO) - read more HERE

    L.E Sport Rehab and Massage Therapy - read more HERE

    Heaney Homes - read more HERE

    Yolanda The Coach - read more HERE

    Wishbone Words, a magazine for disabled & chronically ill writers - read more HERE

    Tom Boggis, Author - read more HERE

    Neil Mulhall, Ark Sailing - read more HERE

    Martyn Crowe, Sport Rehabilitation - read more HERE

    Josephine Scales Illustration - read more HERE

    If you're a University of Cumbria graduate and you'd like to share details of your own business, you can do so HERE.

  • Thinking about going freelance?

    If you’re a freelancer, you run your own business. You’re responsible for invoicing clients and tracking your income and outgoings. 

    These days, depending on your freelance specialism, you can often provide services from your kitchen table or from wherever you’re based on the planet. 

    Here are some great websites to help you manage life as a freelancer. This is the best website for UK freelancers wanting UK jobs. It’s not exclusively UK, but it’s where you’ll find most UK freelancers and clients. Lots of clients seeking lots of freelancers, this is an excellent international website to consider. similar to the previous website, a busy online marketplace for freelancers and clients. This is a site for ‘micro-jobs’ i.e., small jobs which don’t cost very much. Don’t discount this strategy as a freelancer, there are many people making a lot of money on Fiverr by offering upsells – additional services offered at the point of sale, and which make the job more profitable. 

  • Office Space

    Most small businesses can operate from a kitchen table these days, but if space is limited or your housemates or family are making too much noise, there are cost-effective options available to you. 

    Shared office space can help a business to grow without crippling it with legal commitments or leasing costs. 

    Locally, here are some good starting points. a central location for Carlisle-based businesses. It offers office space, meeting rooms and mailing addresses among many other features. offers a similar service and will be more suitable if you don’t wish to see non-working animals in the workplace. There is also off-street parking at Bourne House. A suitable place to start if you’re Lancaster based, with the added attraction of Day Passes if you really don’t need office access all the time. excellent facility in West Cumbria, particularly if your business involves manufacturing, which comes with its own unique set of demands.  

    You’re spoiled for choice if your new business is based in London. The best place to start is to refer to websites which collate the different services, such as,  or 

    If you need a commercial premises from the get-go, it’s best to take professional advice first. This article gives a good overview of the issues and considerations 

    You might also opt for a virtual office address, where you work from home but use a public-facing business address.

    Here are some suggestions by way of example:

    It's also worth noting guidelines on office addresses:

    Note: The web links in this section are by no means exhaustive. They are offered as starting points and further research and due diligence is recommended. 


  • Exporting

    If you are considering exporting, then there is a wealth of knowledge to be found at the UK Government's website ( This includes:  

    The UK Government also run the Tradeshow Access Programme, this can help with associated costs.  

    A quick search will find other areas of help and support, including one to one support with a Department for International Trade adviser.   

    The Department for International Trade also provide statistics, which you may find useful when undertaking your planning.  

  • Enterprise Events

    Enterprise events on My Career Enriched

    Upcoming events related to student enterprise or self-employment and freelancing will be posted on My Career Enriched, your career hub. 


    British Chamber of Commerce 

    The British Chambers of Commerce provides a wide range of help and support, whether you are looking to start a business or looking to build and grow your business. Depending on your location there is different support available:


    Growth Hubs

    Growth Hubs provide business support programmes to help businesses start and grow. Find your local hub below or search for 'Growth Hub + your location' on Google: 

  • Interesting Videos

    There are so many videos that are available to help develop skills, understanding and knowledge, here are a small selection of what is available.  Undertake your own research to find others, if you come across others which you feel are really good, please let us know. There are also thousands of videos on LinkedIn Learning related to starting your own business, leadership, finance, and more! Get started with LinkedIn Learning here:


    See Simon Sinek present a thought provoking TED talk on ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’.

    The spirit of a leader – Inspirational video featuring Myles Munroe

    Are you a leader?


    Looking to present your business idea to potential investors, see top tips by Karren Brady.

    Levi Roots had a different approaching to pitching his business and getting the interest of the Dragons. He was not very good with his numbers but has charisma and passion which got him through! (From Dragon's Den)

    Here are the top 3 pitches from MIT Global Start-up Workshops 2011. See what you think, they are all quite different.

    Josh Light’s coffee cup pitch is well worth watching.  Their brand in your hand!



    Good teamwork and bad teamwork

    Rowing and Teamwork 

    The power of Teamwork

    Teamwork – fun but not sure you should try this one!


    Business Planning

    Watch this video from the Young Entrepreneurs Forum on ‘How to Write a Business Plan to Start Your Own Business’ 

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