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Skint? Make money doing what you love as a student

Written by Careers & Employability
Published date 24 September 2019

Last week we held our first event of the year, which was hugely popular and a great opportunity to introduce ourselves and what we do. For those of you who missed it, we’re covering some of the main points of the talk, so that you too can learn how to make money doing what you love as a student.

We invited two UAL graduates to share their experiences and insights at the event: artist Tobi Falade who graduated from Wimbledon this summer and graphic designer and curator Abi Wright, who graduated from LCC in 2011.

Please note that if you’re an international student on a Tier 4 visa, there are restrictions to the work that you can undertake whilst studying in the UK as stipulated by the Home Office. It might be a good idea to read the bottom paragraph of this article which gives further details, before taking advice from the rest of the story.

Recent graduate Tobi graduated from BA (Hons) Fine Art: Painting this summer. Tobi shared how she built up her experience by working at a restaurant in her first and second year, before eventually getting a job as an invigilator at a gallery through UAL’s jobs board, creative opportunities. Tobi also worked as a student curator for the Royal Academy through Arts SU and undertook temporary assignments with ArtsTemps to build up her portfolio whilst studying. She said following other creatives through social media is a great way to see any job adverts that they post.

Tobi's top tips for finding work:

  • Adapt your CV for the different jobs you apply for and keep a bank of CVs for different roles - e.g. creative roles/admin roles/hospitality roles
  • Make sure you have good notifications on your email so that you can reply to any offers straight away, as a lot of employers may prioritise the first people who reply.
  • Reach out to people who inspire you but make sure to do some research about them before you get in touch.
  • Ask your tutors and course tutors if they can help you to find creative work opportunities, or if they have any contacts.
  • Use Careers & Employability resources such as CV checks, mentoring, funding, talks, events and awards.
  • If you're a home student (UK) whose parents did not study a University degree, you can also take part in the Creative Shift programme. Contact to find out more.
  • Create a website for yourself so that you can easily show other people your work. Squarespace has 50% off for students and several templates for portfolios.

Our second speaker Abi Wright works freelance across branding, print and digital design.

Abi said that she’s been self-employed for the past 6 years and it’s taken her that long to be satisfied with her portfolio. Abi advised that when starting out as a freelancer you may have to accept some jobs that aren’t your ideal freelance job to begin with, before you can build a portfolio that you’re proud of and shows your best work.

Abi's top tips for starting out as a freelancer:

  • Register yourself as self-employed
  • Draw up contracts and set boundaries, research copyright options, intellectual property and your working rights. Define your speciality and your skill-set.
  • Create a portfolio that reflects the direction that you want to go in and your career aspirations.
  • Website vs portfolio? Abi would advise that you have both! Make sure you integrate your CV. Consider your website to be something which gives an overview of everything that you do, whereas your portfolio can be altered for different jobs.
  • Sign up to freelance platforms like YunoJuno so that you can find work and connect with others.
  • Talk about money! Decide what your day rate is and check how it compares with others who have similar experience and skills as you.
  • Pay your taxes. Use apps like coconut or monzo to help you manage your money.
  • If you’re still studying, be sure to consider freelancing after you graduate as a viable option. You’ll better prepare yourself with the world of creative work if you’ve already done some research into freelancing before you graduate.
  • Remember that a good work/life balance is key for your mental health and wellbeing.

Our enterprise and events manager Vicky Fabbri talked about the four main ways to make money as a student:

  1. Get a job
  2. Freelance or work for yourself
  3. Sell stuff/your work
  4. Get funding

So how do you get a job?

Just like Tobi mentioned, you can use UAL’s in-house temp agency ArtsTemps to find temporary work and earn money. Or you can use UAL’s jobs board, creative opportunities, which advertises external jobs and paid internships for UAL students and graduates.

You can also attend our Part-Time Job Fair, which is taking place on the 9th October at Central Saint Martins and gives you the opportunity to meet employers who are looking for part-time, flexible and freelance staff.

What if I don’t feel ready to get a job?

We offer support when you’re applying for jobs such as CV checks at your college and employability talks and workshops. We also have a range of online resources and you can access learning materials through our Moodle courses.

Other ways that you can look for jobs beyond our own resources are looking at external recruitment/temping agencies, searching for companies and viewing their vacancies, using job listing sites and considering non creative jobs as a way of getting experience.

What if I want to work for myself?

You can attend our enterprise events and workshops throughout the year and attend our launch event – Creative Start-Up Day on the 30th October. You can also book a one-to-one advice session with tailored advice on business start-ups and freelancing.

How can I showcase or sell my work?

UAL students and graduates can sell work through not just a shop, UAL’s retail and enterprise space. You can also apply to get a discounted stall at the Top Drawer trade show – keep an eye out for the spring deadline. Plus, we run paid design commissions such as our Christmas Wrapping Paper & Gift Tag design competition which is currently open for applications.

Other ways you can sell your work are online market places such as Etsy and Ebay, setting up your own online shop, using Arts SU’s platform Made in Arts, London and booking a space at one of London’s many markets and fairs.

How can I apply for awards and funding?

Careers & Employability manage a number of awards:

  • The Creative Enterprise Awards which allow you to apply for a grant of up to £5,000 plus a share of prizes including: showcasing, industry mentoring and business training. Deadline: May/June 2020.
  • Pitch-it: pitch a business idea to a panel for the chance to win £100. Taking place on Creative Start-Up Day (30th October) and Futures Week (February 2020.)
  • Mead Awards: £200 - £2500 Final Project Awards to support final major projects & £10,000 Fellowship Awards for creative projects after graduation. Deadline: Nov 2019 & Feb 2020.

What if I’m an international student?

If you’re an international student on a Tier 4 visa, there are some work restrictions which you can find out more about on UAL’s website and on UKCISA. Full-time Tier 4 students can work a maximum of 20 hours per week and full-time during the holidays. Part-time students can’t work. The limits on your working hours will depend on when you applied for permission to come to or stay in the UK, the type of course you study and what type of sponsor you had so be sure to research the conditions of your visa.

If you’re an international student studying full time and you want to undertake up to 20 hours work per week, you’ll need to apply for a National Insurance Number. You can call the application line on 0800 141 2075 to make an appointment.

Unfortunately students on a Tier 4 visa are not allowed to be self-employed in the UK.

However, if you do wish to remain in the UK after you’ve graduated to develop a business, UAL endorses up to 30 businesses each year with the International Start-up Visa.

As an international student, you can still attend Careers & Employability’s full range of events and workshops. You will also be eligible to apply for many of our opportunities and competitions.

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