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Note: Art and Design students should use our guide: Freelancing, Exhibiting and Community Arts [Insert link when published].

Every year, around 200 of Manchester Met’s students report being self-employed within 6 months of graduating. A fair proportion of these will have begun accepting commissions or trading whilst they were students. Yet more of Manchester Met’s graduates see working for themselves as a long-term careers objective and use their first years in employment to gain more experience, develop business networks and generate finance to start up.

You may be very clear about what you want to do and already be taking steps to secure financial backing, market your product or service, and protect your idea(s) from the competition. Alternatively, you may be just setting out. Wanting to be your own boss but not sure what is involved or even what it is you want to do.

Whichever stage you are at, you will need to consider whether working for yourself is the best option for you and if ‘yes’, how to plan ahead. 

An often heard phrase is ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’ One in three small firms does not survive the first year and the most common reason is a failure to get the appropriate advice and plan thoroughly. Considerations will include:

This page lists organisations and professional networks that provide start up advice and information. It particularly highlights those in the Manchester region that work with recent graduates and students, a number of which are based in Manchester Met. 

Getting Started – Support at Manchester Met:

The Careers and Employability Team will always be pleased to discuss your initial ideas and point you in the direction of further help and advice within Manchester Met, the North West or beyond.

You can assess how ready you are to start working for yourself by working through:

Innospace: Manchester Met’s graduate business start-up incubator located on the All Saints North campus. It offers office space together with a range of business services, start up support and mentoring. Freelancers and social entrepreneurs are very welcome. Innospace also operates at Cheshire and has a strong focus on social enterprise. Innospace start up offices from £110 a month including VAT. As a student, you can join Innospace as an associate enabling you to discuss your initial business ideas informally with successful local entrepreneurs and receive mentoring support.

Market Place Studios: Two floors of incubation studio space for Manchester School of Art graduates.

This is located alongside Innospace. This enables collaboration between Innospace tenants and those developing new applications of digital technology.

MMU EntrepreneursFounded by students, the group provides a platform for all students interested in working for themselves to collaborate and share ideas, skills and knowledge. The regular meetups are a combination of inspirational guest speakers, business start-up workshops and networking events in addition opportunities to sell your own product or service. The Facebook page lists events, competitions, business simulations and funding streams for students and graduates interested in starting their own businesses.

The Society links with Innospace, Manchester Entrepreneurs (for student entrepreneurs based in Manchester) and the National Consortium of University Entrepreneurs NACUE.

Through Manchester Entrepreneurs, students can access AccelerateMe an intensive 5 month programme that fits around academic studies and provides participants with workshops, resources and funding to develop and grow their businesses successfully.

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs
: A cross-border exchange programme that gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other participating countries.

Getting Started – Support in the City of Manchester:

Getting Started - Government Support:

Information Online:

Business Start-up, a number of these sites host business start-up tool kits and e-learning modules. A charge may be levied for accessing these.


The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed
 (IPSE): The largest association of independent professionals in the EU, representing over 67,000 freelancers, contractors and consultants from every sector of the economy. Their guide to freelancing is free to download here.

Freelance UK: Useful guides on setting out as a freelancer in design, photography, journalism, copy writing, marketing and public relations.

A growing number of sites advertise short-term commissions, the so-called ‘Gig Economy’. These can be useful for testing out whether freelance work really is for you as well as helping you earn some cash if you still need to add to your professional portfolio. They also offer guidance on costing your work and making your pitch. Sites include:


Social Enterprise and Community Interest Companies:




Funding Your Start-up:

Schemes targeted on young graduates:

Schemes open to all graduates:

Funding in the North West for start-ups:

Competitions and Awards:

Selected carefully, these can secure additional funding together with good publicity for your business. There are a number to choose from see Entrepreneur Handbook Competitions Award and Enterprise Activities.

A Particularly relevant example is:

Venture Capital Firms and Angel Investor Networks:

Funding for Social Enterprise:

Tax and Legal Issues:

Start Up Spaces in Manchester:

A useful overview of other spaces in the City centre aimed at freelancers and small business start-ups can be found at Manchester Evening News. Regus and Bruntwood specialise in managed office space for small businesses in Manchester and across the UK.

Graduates looking for studios and galleries should refer to our guide ‘Useful Resources For MSoA Students’ in the creative section of our careers guides page.

Business Exhibitions and Trade Shows:

If you wish to consider setting up an online shop, pop up or market stall seeour guide ‘Freelancing, Exhibiting and Community Arts’  on our careers guides page.

Business Networking Groups in Manchester:

Setting up in business on your own can be a very lonely experience. Research repeatedly shows that new business start-ups perform better when they access regular advice and mentoring support from experienced entrepreneurs. Whilst online networks such as those which are featured in the last section of this guide can be supportive, many self-employed people prefer to be members of small business clubs and ‘face to face’ networking groups.

When first starting out, groups such as those run through the local Chamber of Commerce can appear very formal and high-powered. As a result, entrepreneurs and business owners have created their own more informal groups. The Start Up Digest provides a free fortnightly update of events taking place in the City.

Joining such groups is usually free or low cost and they can be very helpful in terms of enabling you to:

Several MeetUp groups have been formed with a focus on freelancing and business start-up including:

Other Manchester-based groups include:

Online Networks:

Careers and Employability Support:

The Careers and Employability Service offers a range of support to Manchester Met students and graduates:

Detailed careers guides
: Our full range of careers guides, including information on finding and applying for opportunities are available on our website.

Ask a Careers Question Online: Get online advice through My Career Hub, ask your question at any time and receive support via email.

Careers Consultant Appointments: Book a 30 minute appointment with a Careers and Employability Consultant by calling 0161 247 3483.

Careers Events: Meet employers and enhance your employability by attending our workshops, employer events and careers fairs.

MMyou: The online careers centre you can access 24/7 to view lots of career resources, advice and tips, career quizzes and helpful articles wherever you are. Including articles and information tailored to your sector. Login to MMyou Careers Centre to find out more!

Careers and Employability Support

We offer range of support services to Manchester Met students and graduates:

For more information visit