It’s a common story, but when I left university I was keen and excited, almost to the point of desperation, to get that all-important first design job. In my mind it was all about London, and the race was on.
Two years passed, and I finally I got that job. What a struggle it had been to get there, but at last – I’d done it.
Four years later I was back in my home city of Hull, after being made redundant during the recession. I decided to set up freelance, and I’ve not once looked back.
Now that I’m feeling settled as a freelancer, I’ve been wondering what it was that meant I couldn’t go freelance straight out of University. I could have filled those two years where I was job-hunting with real paid design work. Why didn’t I?
I’ve been speaking to current students who are preparing to leave university courses, asking them key questions about self-employment in their specific fields of study. I’ve been trying to gauge whether a graduate could comfortably set up on their own, or whether they need to do as I did, and enter the race to get “that foot in the door” through employment.
The truth is, that the students I’ve spoken with couldn’t see self-employment as being a viable option. Not one student had any idea of how to charge for their work. Very few of them could give me a clear idea of how to market themselves. The odd one shone through as confident enough in their ability to put themselves forward to pitch for work.
They’re not alone. When I set up freelance I didn’t have a clue how to run a business. I was lucky to have a network of freelancers to call on for support, but I continue to learn on the job every day.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a similar network for students to explore self-employment? They could develop the skills, the knowledge, and the confidence to pitch for creative work and be ready for the real world once they’ve handed back their cap and gown.
I’ve been exploring this concept through a new division of my existing design company, and through collaborating with my business mentor and a part time tutor we’ve set up Creative Briefs.
Creative Briefs is an academy where students can learn first-hand experience of working on real jobs, and how to work for themselves. Our students are set live briefs, which are sent to us from businesses and members of the community. It is up to the students to develop a conceptual solution to each brief, and pitch their ideas to the client, under our guidance. This is tangible experience, which can sit nicely alongside most creative specialisms.
I believe that self-employment is a really good option for graduates. Obviously it’s hard work, and they need to find their niche, but in theory, and with the right guidance, they could graduate one day, and be pitching for work the next.
Rebecca Shipham is founder of Ships and Pigs and co-founder of Creative Briefs. Creative Briefs is in the running for Pitch to Rich, the competition set by Virgin Business – for more information and to vote, visit www.virginmediabusiness.co.uk.