Self-employment alongside studying: top tips

Guest blog post written by Lucy Eliza Davis, Management, Leadership and Leisure student running her own fitness website. 

Increasingly, we’re seeing that some graduates want to work for themselves or start their own business after university. Self-employment can offer a more flexible way to live and earn – but isn’t without its challenges!

Some of you may even be thinking about running a business alongside your studies. One of our undergraduate students, Lucy Eliza Davis, has turned her passion for fitness into a business by launching her own website, blog and YouTube channel with the aim of encouraging, motivating and inspiring others to be healthy and active. She’s taken the time to write about her experience and share some of her top tips…

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Lucy Eliza Davis: Student and online fitness guru

I have always been an athletic individual, from cross-country at primary school to swimming nine times a week throughout high school and college, making my debut on the GB team in 2014. After finishing swimming in April 2015, I’ve dedicated much of the past two years into the health and fitness industry.

Being a highly ambitious and optimistic individual, I’ve always wanted to be as successful as possible and dreamt of managing my own business. Over the last two years, I have developed as an individual, and whilst being at university, I have unquestionably advanced the skills I have used to grow and develop myself as a brand. To share one key piece of advice before I go into talking about my website; if you set your mind to doing something, it will always be achievable. You just have to distribute your time between studies and external interests evenly and consistently.

So to explain a little about the process of my website..

In December 2016 I decided to make a move into digital marketing, with the help of my good friend, Elliot Matthews. I was inexperienced in website design, not even knowing how I would go about creating one in the first place, but by using my connections and Elliot, we managed to pull it off. I knew if I wanted to increase my own individual brand awareness, a website was a must. Of course I was feeling a little skeptical and not sure how I was going to manage both university and starting a website, but at the end of the day, I knew it was possible if I continued to be organised and kept thinking how much it was going to benefit me. In February 2017 I finally got round to starting my own YouTube channel. It took a lot longer than I had expected, however I am finally there!

Starting out will never be easy and straightforward, or everyone would do it. But I can give you an insight into making the process that whole lot easier!

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Snapshot of Lucy’s website

Skills needed:

  • I can’t stress enough how important it is to be organised. And this isn’t just needed for having your own little business. If you are organised at university, I promise you will be making your life 10 times easier.
  • Time management is crucial. Don’t think you will be able to juggle both university studies and starting a business without having your day/week mapped out. Buy yourself a diary/whiteboard and make sure everything you are doing is noted down – your stress levels will dramatically decrease.
  • Innovative ideas will not go a miss. Never ever think an idea is ‘stupid’ just because someone else thinks it is, or you aren’t 100% confident. You will never know the success of an idea unless you share and utilise it!
  • Written skills will always be a useful when having a website aimed at connecting with your audience, and you want them to read your blogs. There is no point in writing something that you are bored writing yourself and know won’t engage people.
  • Having motivation and dedication not to give up when things are not exactly going to plan. You have to deal with failure and setbacks to understand how much you really want it.

Challenges and difficulties I have faced:

  • Over-facing myself with tasks – Sometimes, I forget to take a breather and take a step back when I have a million and one things going on. It’s so important to not take on tasks at that moment when you are already stressed. If you wanted to finish a blog post, and write some more of your assignment but didn’t have enough time – take a breather, make a brew, do your university work (always ensure your academic work is up-to-date over your website), and then if you do have time, work on your blog post.
  • When the assignment period is looming – This is still my greatest struggle with working on my own brand and when its time to start writing assignments. Don’t think you can leave your assignment until the last minute. Start the night you get set it, create a plan to follow… use your time wisely and you WILL be ok. If you don’t, you may do what I did when I was handed my first assignment and spend too much time on your own business, forgetting about your academic work. DON’T do this, it isn’t worth the stress.
  • Being patient has never come easy to me. My website was very slow starting off, and at the time I was worrying so much and didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. But at the end of the day, start-up businesses don’t always take off straight away. You do have to be patient when launching, just like I am being patient with my new YouTube Channel.

Highlights and things I have really enjoyed along the way:

  • The independence. Working for yourself is very satisfying as you get to see the results you have produced. Because I am in the fitness industry, I am lucky enough to engage with many individuals, and to understand how they view my brand.
  • You meet so many like-minded individuals when you create a website. Whether this is through the website itself or meeting with people along the way in the design process.

Top tips for students that would like to do something similar:

  • For organisation and time management – BUY A DIARY. Your diary will be your bible.
  • Use your connections and networks to engage with more and more people.
  • Write your goals down and look at them every morning to motivate you

So if self-employment sounds like something that you might be interested in, visit our website for more information, useful links and a comprehensive guide on how to get started with your own business, self-employment and freelance work.

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