If you are considering working for yourself, starting your own business or freelancing, support is available whilst you are studying.

Enterprise and entrepreneurial thinking

Whether you are just starting out or are very clear about what you want to do, you will need to plan ahead. Think about:

Enterprise and entrepreneurial skills are a combination of other abilities including:

Being enterprising and entrepreneurial involves spotting an unexploited opportunity and making the most of it: essentially, identifying a gap in the market and filling it.However, it can also be about improving a process or trying something new to improve results and increase efficiency.

Students and graduates with these skills may consider starting their own business, but are also often seen as an asset to graduate employers as they are innovative and commercially minded.

We offer a range of services and initiatives to support the development of entrepreneurial skills, including: Enterprise Society and Innospace.



Working for Yourself Careers Workshop - This interactive workshop explores the motivation, skills and networks you might need in order to be successful, and provides tips on putting together your business plan. We run the workship each term.

Manchester Met Student Enterprise Society - Meet other enterprising student and graduates, and keep up to date with competitions, business simulations and funding streams.

Online information and advice:

Prospects - Provides a detailed guide to becoming self-employed specifically for university students and graduates.

Direct Gov Start your own business - Find introductory guides, National Insurance and tax information, help and advice on the Gov.uk website

Small Business UK - Offers advice on starting, running and growing a small business.

The Start Up Donut - Provides resources on marketing, legal issues and IT for new businesses.

Research reference books – the Employability Hub in the Business School has a range of reference books providing advice for business start-ups.

Online assessments – the following websites will help you assess how ready you are to start working for yourself: Creative Boom’s essentials freelancer skills, University of Durham’s General Enterprising Tendency and Enterprise Nation’s self-assessment toolkit.

Innospace - Manchester Met’s business start-up incubator offering office space, start up support and mentoring. 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.

MMU Entrepreneurs – a Facebook group founded by students providing a platform for all students interested in working for themselves to collaborate and share ideas, skills and knowledge.

Manchester Entrepreneurs – students can access Accelerateme an intensive five 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.


Support in the City of Manchester

Manchester City Council – practical information covers trading standards, tax returns, health and safety, food hygiene regulations, street trading and franchising, as well as links to the City’s business and intellectual property centre and SME Club.

Starting a Business in Manchester – a very detailed guide to support in the City including accelerators, business angels and  venture capital investors. Mentoring support, such as that provided free through Innospace, will be extremely useful in guiding you through this very complex landscape.

Manchester Business Growth Hub – Growth Start-Up Support Programme. The Hub’s free Start-Up programme helps you plan, launch and develop your business. The advisors can provide feedback on your business plans and ideas and introduce you to additional services and ways of accessing finance.

The Blue Orchid – provides free start-up support via awareness sessions, one to one advice, workshops in the North West and signposting to other agencies providing support.

Government support

StartUp Britain – Government initiative to encourage more business start-ups. Advice and support is offered for both start up and further expansion of existing businesses.

Business Support Helpline – this site provides a wealth of resources to underpin the government’s strategy. It offers a useful format for writing your business plan gov.uk/write-business-plan.

Great Business - Support, advice and inspiration for growing your business.

Information online

Be aware that some sites request payment for accessing business start-up tool kits and e-learning modules.

Prospects.ac.uk – a detailed guide specifically for university students and graduates.

Vitae – support specifically for postgraduate students.

The Start Up Donut – resources on marketing, legal issues and IT for new businesses.

Smarta – an off-shoot from Dragons’ Den.

The Design Trust – an online business school for designers and makers offering factsheets, webinars with successful practitioners, online master classes, business start-up training programmes and events plus updates on funding streams, scholarships, competitions, exhibitions, commissions and residences. The Design Trust’s Business Club offers enhanced services for a subscription.

Creative Boom – practical tips on every aspect of working as a creative freelancer. In particular, see: 110 essential resources for creative freelancers and small business owners

Make Your Passion A Success – succinct downloadable e-book aimed at students and graduates.

Small Business UK – advice on starting, running and growing a small business.

Start-ups – useful Q&A business clinic.

The MOO Start-up Toolkit

Entrepreneur Handbook

The Big Society

Blueprint – features fifty e-learning business modules.

NESTA – The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts is an independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative. NESTA invests in early-stage companies, informs and shapes policy, and delivers practical programmes that inspire others to solve the big challenges of the future. However, NESTA does not currently fund individuals.


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:  Upwork, Freelancer, Guru, Authentic Jobs, People Per Hour, 99Designs, Talent Cupboard, Student Gems and Enternship.


Professional Contractors Group – represents the interests of contractors and offers a toolkit, business guides, tax and legal support, insurance advice, networking and events.

Contractor UK – offers a set of guides, contract job rate calculators and a contractors’ forum

Social Enterprise and Community Interest Companies

UnLtd – finds, funds and supports social entrepreneurs

Social Enterprise North West – social enterprise networks from across the region.

The Social Enterprise Coalition – the largest social enterprise network in the UK.

The Social Investment Business – provides loans, grants and strategic support to charities and social enterprises to help them improve people’s lives. ​

Community Companies – provides specialised company law services to clients who would like to start, or who already run, community, social or charitable enterprises.

Cooperatives and franchising

Co-operatives UK – network for thousands of co-operative businesses, Co‑operatives UK works to promote, develop and unite member-owned business.

British Franchise Association – the voluntary self-regulatory body for the UK franchise sector.

StartUps – the pros and cons of franchising, how to choose a franchisor and the legal aspects involved in buying and selling a franchise.


The Tutor Pages – free downloadable guide that explains the private tuition industry in the UK covering tax and insurance advice, safety and self-promotion as well as effective teaching.

Funding your start-up

Staff at Innospace can advise you on the range of funding streams available and those likely to be the most accessible for graduate business start-ups.

Schemes for young graduates

Shell Livewire – the Smarter Future Programme awards a start-up grant of £5,000 each month to one 16-30 year old entrepreneur with an idea that addresses sustainable living challenges through smart innovation.

Princes Trust Business Programme – targets young people aged 16-25 who are not in education, training or employment.

Schemes open to all graduates

Accelerateme – a pre-seed micro accelerator available exclusively to Manchester Entrepreneurs members. Accelerateme is 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. No equity is taken.

The Start-up Loans Company – a government-backed initiative, the Start Up Loans Company allows you to borrow up to £25,000 to start a business for a low fixed interest rate of 6% per annum.

Virgin StartUp – distribute government-backed Start Up Loans ranging from £500 - £25,000 to entrepreneurs launching or growing a business that has been trading for less than two years in England or Scotland. Every entrepreneur who receives a Virgin Start Up Loan is matched to their own mentor.

Creative Industry Finance – an Arts Council England initiative offering business development support and access to finance for creative industry enterprises.

Crowdfunder – crowdfunding entails funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, often through internet-mediated registries, but also through methods such as benefit events and mail-order subscriptions.

Support and finance for business - directory of finance and support for business.

Great Business – support, advice and inspiration for growing your business

Funding in the North West for start-ups

The Business Growth Hub – coordinates Access to Funding Scheme (A2F) for business start-ups and SMEs in the North West.

Greater Manchester Investment Fund

Business Finance Solutions

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 Business competitions and awards in the UK, enterprise competitions and IPSE Freelance Awards.

Venture capital firms and angel investor networks

These can offer external investment to start or grow your business. See The Investor Directory for details of key investors in the UK finance landscape.

Funding for Social Enterprise

Funding Central – online funding directory covering the voluntary and community sector, including social enterprise.

Unltd – range of competitive awards, some of which are specifically targeted towards students and recent graduates.

Manchester Community Central (MACC)

Tax and legal issues

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – critical information about starting a new business/going freelance with a focus upon the financial and business registration aspects. HMRC also offer support by video.

FreeAgent – offers a free field guide to finances for freelancers www.freeagent.com/fieldguide together with online accounting software designed specifically for freelancers and small business owners.

UK Intellectual Property Office - information on the four main types of Intellectual Property (IP) – Patents for inventions, Trade marks for brand identity, Designs for product appearance and Copyright for literary and artistic material.

Institute of Patentees and Inventors

Companies House – the Government database of existing companies so you can check if your proposed trading name is already being used.

Manchester Central Library Business and IP Centre

Legal Advice – summary of the legal services provided by solicitors to small and medium-sized businesses.

Nominet – web domain registration

Start-up spaces in Manchester

Innospace at Manchester Met – provides an affordable starter (or incubation) space for new graduates. 

MadLab – offers incubation space for digital start-ups.

FabLab – offers incubation space for product designers.

The Spark Studio

The Sharp Project  

Entrepreneurial Spark

Ziferblat - located in the Northern Quarter, ‘a pay as you go’ coffee house offering work space and events.

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 the following guide on MMyou:

Useful resources for Manchester School of Art Students  

Business exhibitions and trade shows

Marketing Donut

Tradekey Trade Shows Directory

The British Invention Show

If you wish to consider setting up an online shop, pop up or market stall see our guide on MMyou: Freelancing, Exhibiting & Community Arts 

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. 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:

  • Meet like-minded people.
  • Make contacts with people who can be inspirational in the development of your business.
  • Get advice on what you can do to get your work noticed – for example, participating in activities such as competitions, exhibitions and trade shows.
  • Find out who the key players and customers are in your sector.
  • Meet potential customers and clients.
  • Learn about forthcoming contracts and freelance commissions before they are advertised.
  • Meet people who may have the very skills that you need to buy in as you set up.

Several MeetUp groups have been formed with a focus on freelancing and business start-up including: Creative Industries Network Group – CING, Startup2sme, GoalGettersUKManchester Lean Start Ups, Manchester Entrepreneurial Meet, Manchester Net Squared (Focuses on using the web effectively in business), and Manchester Inventors Group.

Other Manchester-based groups include:

Northern Soho MentorMatch – offers a mentoring programme for members who have recently set up digitally based businesses in the Manchester area.

MDDA – the independent trade association for the ICT and new media industries in the North West, works closely with Manchester Digital.

Junior Chamber International Manchester – a voluntary personal development organisation for young professionals, students and entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 40.

TiE – offers mentoring, networking events, seminars and workshops to those starting in business plus the Founders Dock accelerator in Manchester.

The Careers and Employability consultants 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.



Online networks

Startacus – an online community for students and recent graduates who are interested in working for themselves.

NACUE (National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs) – key membership organisation for engaging students in enterprise. Set up by students for students to support student-led enterprise societies, run events and advocate practical learning.

SME Club – free weekly mailing of top tips from pro.manchester, the region’s largest business advice agency.

Manchester Start Ups facebook group

The Federation of Small Businesses – with 200,000 members and 194 branches, UK's largest pressure group promoting and protecting the interests of the self-employed and owners of small firms.

The National Federation of Enterprise Agencies – members are not-for-profit organisations providing independent and impartial advice, training and mentoring to new and emerging businesses. As well as enterprise agencies, members also include Chambers of Commerce, local authorities, further and higher education providers and other specialist enterprise support providers.

Enterprise Nation Business Club

Disabled Entrepreneurs Network – provides a number of employment related fact sheets including job hunting, self-employment and teaching.  It also provides networking opportunities, enabling self-employed disabled people to share information and issues.

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