Careers Service

Enterprise: starting a business and self employment

Enterprise is the ability to handle uncertainty and respond positively to change, to create and implement new ideas and ways of doing things, to make reasonable risk/reward assessments and to act upon them in one’s personal life.

There is an increasing trend for some graduates to start their own business rather than pursuing the traditional graduate training scheme. Self-employment could provide a more flexible way to live and earn. Developing and nurturing your enterprising streak could be beneficial in whatever career path you take. Recruiters will appreciate your creativity, innovation and self-motivation.

You may be involved in running a business alongside your studies, or in the holidays, already. Considering expanding this as a potential graduate job could be an exciting challenge.

The types of opportunities to work for yourself or own your own business often include:

  • Freelancing (journalist, writer, musician, translator, photographer etc.)
  • Founding a start-up
  • Running your own business
  • Intellectual property spinouts from research
  • Consulting and business services
  • Turning a hobby into a business
  • Opening a shop or selling online
  • Contract work (coding, writing apps, designing websites, architecture etc.)
  • Starting a social enterprise

Getting started

Get experience

Enterprise is all about having an ability to handle uncertainty, respond positively to change, taking risks and innovating. Whilst studying, you have lots of opportunities to develop a range of important skills to help you become more enterprising.

  • Join a student society and get involved by running events and managing finances
  • Organise your own club night or concert*
  • Buying and selling online*
  • Fundraising or volunteering for a charity
  • Take a course module with UCIL
  • If you are a research student you may have developed intellectual property as part of your studies. Talk to your supervisor to determine whether you, or the university, own this.

*if you are making a profit, you may need to declare this and fill in a tax return.


Companies and professional bodies often run competitions asking for innovative solutions to problems. They may offer funding or mentoring to get your idea off the ground. They can be a great way to get experience of pitching, problem solving and exposure to business practices. Many are open to students or graduates.

  • Venture Out The annual enterprise ideas competition for all current students and researchers across The University of Manchester.
  • Venture Further The annual business start-up competition for all current students, researchers and recent alumni across The University of Manchester.

Links to other external enterprise competitions:

Understanding the jargon - sole traders, limited companies and social enterprises.

Working for yourself can take many forms, in simple terms they fall into the categories below. The links to the .gov website will keep you up to date with current legislation and legal requirements.

Running your own business where you are the only employee:

  • Sole trader You don’t have any employees, you will have several customers for your services (often described as freelancing). Also trading in goods or services including online and via apps - selling to make a profit.

Setting up a company where you may employ others:

It is possible to be employed in 1 job while working self-employed on others. For example you may work part time while setting up your own business, or work full time but be trading in online sales as a business too.