Category Archives: student

Basic Guide to Becoming a Self-employed Student (Part 1)


If ‘Dragon’s Den’ and ‘The Apprentice’ have taught us anything, it’s that enthusiasm plus a creative idea does not always equal a successful business! But for students, self-employment can be the best solution to the old funding problem. No more long hours for minimum pay and you can completely control of your own timetable of work and study.

You are in the most creative and truly collaborative social space of your life, so ideas are not the issue. But this needs to be combined with factual knowledge about the tax system and the laws around being officially self-employed. Rather a daunting prospect!

The sheer amount of available information is overwhelming in itself, never mind actually identifying the legitimate and useful.  So, we have put together this basic guide to prepare you to take your business from lightbulb moment to regular income.

Stuff you just need to know

The government department in charge of administering tax procedures is called Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, or HMRC to its friends. And you will become its friend.

HMRC has its own language that you need to start learning. It assigns very specific definitions and a whole host of regulations to particular words or phrases. So let’s get some of the basic vocabulary identified and if you have an accountant they can translate whatever else you need as you develop.

Your basic HMRC-English Dictionary


HMRC consider that you are a ‘trader’ if you frequently sell services or goods in order to make a profit and you fulfil any of these criteria:

  • Get paid for delivering a service
  • Sell things you have made for a profit
  • Sell items for other people on a commission basis
  • If you often sell at car boot sales, through classifieds or online. (This doesn’t mean the odd item or a batch of stuff once a year when you move flats.)

Sole Trader

This is the most uncomplicated way to set up as self-employed. As an individual you are responsible for the business.


A business partnership has similar rules to a sole trader but just has two or more people holding responsibility.

Limited Company

This is a more complex way to establish your business. The company becomes an entity in its own right and you become both its owner and employee. It is recommended to get in touch with an accountant if you’re thinking about this option.


This is when an existing business sells you the right to run one of its branches.


This is a different business model which involves multiple people who all have ownership and authority.

Self employed

Most student businesses are set up as sole traders or business partnerships. HMRC considers self-employment to mean:

  • You intend to make a profit by selling services or goods.
  • You have responsibility for how well your business does (or not!) because you run it yourself.
  • You have the freedom to choose where, when and how you do the work involved.
  • You have multiple clients simultaneously.
  • You have employees that you pay.
  • You are responsible for having any necessary equipment needed to complete the work.
  • Your charges are a fixed price that is agreed by each client.
  • You have the responsibility to correct any mistakes in your work at your own cost.

Many of these factors would be part of the definition of a limited company but, because you would then be classified as an employee and owner of the company, you would not be considered self-employed.

You can be both self-employed and employed at the same time. For example, you work in a café during the day and make jewellery to sell in the evening.

Have you found this article helpful? Join us next week for part 2! 


This article was written by Tony Shanks Operations Director at


How to keep yourself focused when writing an essay


At university, education is not always the top priority of students and understandably so, as many would opt for a night on the tiles rather than completing the essay which is due in next week. It can be quite thrilling to do an essay on the day or night before it is due to be in, but it’s a high-risk strategy and one which can back-fire in terms of marks and enjoyment as well.

I think the reason that some people struggle to love education is because they would rather be doing something else – witness kids at schools on their mobile phones, people on social media or procrastinating when they are meant to be revising or writing an essay.

Why is it that we struggle so hard to concentrate on things? The influence of social media is undoubtedly a factor and the temptation to check what is going on in the world in the moment is sometimes hard to resist, as well as the multitude of other distractions which exist to keep us from our work. A lot lack the mental acuity to be able to concentrate, myself included.

At the moment, I have just graduated from the University of Cumbria and am mainly doing academic related things, by tutoring, writing essays and proofreading. My concentration is not as good as I want it to be and there can be times when my mind wanders, not to social media or the usual avenues but to looking at the time – it is a weird habit and something which really distracts me from doing my work, which is odd because nothing else normally does, my days of clicking onto social media every 5 minutes are over, I just worry about the time which is quite surreal, although that fear seems to be easing.

Little and Often

To cure your procrastination in doing work, the trick is to do a little and often. Spreading work out is key to enjoyment and getting a good mark, although if you want to concentrate for long periods that can be achieved. I already have the ability to do this, but the time can sometimes distract me from my work which is very frustrating.

Get into the Flow

Many academics talk about the enlightened ‘flow’ phase of work where you lose all concept of time and become immersed in what you are doing, completely in the present moment. So to get better at writing essays (or anything else for that matter) practice something called gradual desensitization, which involves gradually building up the period that you work (5, 10, 15, 20 minutes….) before you reach a stage where you don’t care about the time anymore. Once this has been reached, you will enter ‘flow’ on a very regular basis, maybe from even the moment you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and you will just be able to work on things unaided, without any distractions. You might even be able to enjoy and appreciate your work more as well.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is another thing which can improve concentration and is similar to the present moment and involves focusing on what you are doing, rather than thinking about the past or in the future. It is similar to meditation and can also involve building self-esteem so you might have the initiative and confidence to tackle topics that you are not sure about, which could broaden your horizons. Of course, having a friend with you whilst you write the essays can be a bonus and one which can really make you work harder, but I guess if you want true concentration and enjoyment, you have to be able to learn to work on your own and be comfortable with that.

That’s what I have to do. A lot of my work is remote, in freelance writing and proofreading, but now having done the gradual desensitization and learning mindfulness, I am starting to see the improvements. Today I wrote 1500 words of an essay in one go and proofread nearly 4000 words as well, all the time without watching the TV or looking at social media. I lost concept of the time and finally started to enjoy what I was doing, which has taken a long time and will hopefully improve with time. Eventually, I want to get to the point where I enjoy all my work and never think about the time when I do it. It sounds like an unobtainable goal, but it’s not, because I now enter the flow stage pretty much every day, it is just a case of eradicating the thoughts about the time from my mind completely, because they distract me from my work and impair my enjoyment of it. I must be getting better, as I have wrote this blog post in one go, non-stop and the cumulative total of the words in it exceeds 800 words.  What can you do to enjoy your essays more and concentrate better? Try the desensitisation and mindfulness and see what happens.

Sam Curran is a graduate of the University of Cumbria who proofreads essays, personal statements and CVs for very reasonable prices. Get in touch with him by emailing 07943631655 or emailing                                                

Be part of our FLUX team and represent UoC!

Last year's Flux team: Alana, Yasmin, Helena, James, Kevin and Charles

Last year’s Flux team: Alana, Yasmin, Helena, James, Kevin and Charles

Be part of our FLUX team and represent the University of Cumbria at this year’s competition which takes place on 23 and 24 March 2015.

FLUX is the higher education sector’s largest annual competition to encourage entrepreneurship and bridge the gap between education and work with each team member developing transferrable skills to help them in the world of work after graduation!

The business-focused competition has been running for seven years and consists of teams of six students from universities across the country. Each year FLUX attracts sponsorship from industry who set the challenge for the students to compete against – Can you work as part of a team of six to provide the solution to a ‘real’ challenge and present your ideas to the panel of judges?
On 23 and 24 March 2015, around 100 of the top students in the UK will travel to Lancaster (UoC will provide our team with accommodation if needed) to compete in this Apprentice style Challenge which will be judged by a panel of judges.

Our successful team will benefit from some additional training and development sessions before going head to head with others from across the country. In addition, during the competition there is support available from local Business Mentors and Advisers.
This competition is open to all students from all subject areas so you don’t need to have studied business to apply.
The winning team will scoop the grand prize of £1200, with three runners up winning £600

Download the information and application form here.

If you would like to discuss your application or find our further information before applying please email your questions to

The application deadline is Friday 30 January at midnight.

Frontrunner for Disabled Students – in Association with EY

Have you heard about this new, (free!), leadership development and employability opportunity for students with disabilities? I thought it might be of interest to some of you!

Frontrunner for Disabled Students in association with EY_EMAIL (2)_Page_1

In association with the professional services firm EY, Common Purpose are launching a two day programme in February 2015 hosted at EY’s global headquarters in London. Over two days students will investigate a challenge set by EY: How can EY employees, or the organisation as a whole, achieve their vision of building a better working world? They will explore this from within EY and also through visits to organisations in London across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

This is a great employability opportunity for students and may lead on to summer internship or graduate recruitment opportunities.


The key details are below and you can find out more on the webpage:

Date: 24 – 25 February 2015

Location: London, UK

Course fee: Free. A number of accommodation bursaries are available for students studying outside of London on a first come, first served basis.

Who: Open to all students with a disability, as defined by the website.

Frontrunner for Disabled Students

Free Download: Masters Application Tips & Advice

Are you looking to apply for a Masters? This FREE ebook download from is for you!


From the introduction: There are many motivations for undertaking postgraduate study, and many reasons that you might be thinking about applying for a postgraduate degree. In this increasingly competitive graduate jobs market, a postgraduate degree can give you a considerable advantage over competitors, while it can also provide you with the chance to explore a topic in more detail, extending your academic career.

Some postgraduate courses are very academic in nature, and often involve an extended piece of research and writing, whereas others are more vocational and will provide training for a particular career path.

This ebook takes you through every aspect of applying for a postgraduate degree, from your initial thoughts and motivations through to the research proposal and funding application. The
ebook aims to offer some advice and suggestions to potential postgraduate students from all backgrounds and disciplines, and to anyone at any stage hoping to undertake an academic career.  Along the way, the ebook provides an action plan for your next steps along your route to becoming a postgraduate student, and eventually an academic, and draws on advice from current and past postgraduate students. Happy reading… and good luck!

Download via this link:

Making the most of your time at university


In seeing all the freshers going to University now and just starting their academic journey, it makes me feel slightly envious. I had a great time at Uni, but I still wish I had made the most of my time there a bit more.

The Uni of Cumbria is a really good Uni and the Lancaster Campus is where I studied and I had some wonderful times there, but this article gives you some tips to make the most out of Uni life whether you are a fresher, second year or final year…..

The first thing that you should do is try and make as many friends as possible. I didn’t just stick to the people on my course; I also got friendly with people off other courses as well. This allowed me to build up a big network of friends and always have someone to go on a night out with! Seriously though it made life much more interesting as I got to interact with people off a lot of different courses and it definitely enhanced my University experience.

Although it sounds slightly clichéd to say it, something else you should do is try and get the best grade possible in your degree. It’s advice that you are probably sick of hearing and is a constant refrain, but I’m not suggesting that you go and spend every day down the library. What I am saying is that you should try and strike some sort of balance and if you are writing an essay, decide whether you work best on your own or with your mates. Some people leave writing essays to the last minute and having done this myself on at least one occasion, there is something of a buzz you get when the deadline is the next day. However, whether this is a wise choice is something I’ll leave you to decide. Doing essays with your mates can be fun in my own experience.

Also, see what you can get out of Uni. I don’t mean in a financial sense, but see what you can blag in terms of gym memberships, use of facilities and even a quiet place to study. Of course wherever you are at Uni, there will be plenty of promotions for nights out and you should snap these up as well as there are loads of good deals on offer. You’d be surprised what you could get out of Uni if you put your mind to it, even a part-time job in some cases.

I think the other thing I would say is live life to the full whilst you are at Uni, there is no point in stopping yourself from doing things you may as well just have a go at everything and try things out. The mantra work hard, play hard definitely applies to your time at Uni. Maybe not going out 5 times a week like my friends did but going out every week is not a bad thing. You have just got to make sure that it doesn’t interfere with your life and academic commitments.

Always think about what you want to say about your time at Uni when you leave and do all those things that you want to. If you do that, you will have a great time!

By Sam Curran

Sam has his own proofreading business. He charges from £3.00 per 1,000 words. He can help with style and content as well as grammatical and formatting issues. Sam has proofread for 6 years and has proofread pieces of work from Undergraduate to PHD level as well as editing CVs, job applications and personal statements. The business has its own Facebook page ‘Efficient Editing’ which you can contact Sam through. You can also get in touch with Sam by emailing him at

Four ways to achieve your goals in the new academic year


Whether you are a new student, about to embark upon your first year at University, or you are in your final year – now is the perfect time to start thinking about what you want to achieve over the next 12 months. It’s not just January 1st that gets all the fun! There’s loads of evidence out there that people who are most productive follow some simple ‘habits’ – one of which is making effective plans and setting goals.

Basically, planning, goal setting and organisation are essential for most university students – not just for a new year (be that calendar, academic or lunar!) but every day, week and month. It should be an ongoing process, not something that you just do once then forget about.

Here are a few tips and resources for you to develop some new productive habits – which will hopefully help you achieve what you want this coming year.

Creating new habits

It takes 28 days of doing something every day for it to become a habit. Whether that be exercise, stopping smoking, or learning to play the guitar. There are loads of apps and web tools out there that can help you set and achieve your targets. The main thing that they do is remind you to spend a certain amount of time each day on tasks that you set. Why not set a target of 30 minutes of reading around your subject area each day? Soon you won’t even need to be reminded to pick up that text book – it will have become a habit!

Using your time more effectively

Ever turned on your laptop to do some work, and ended up in a Pinterest black hole, YouTube vacuum or never-ending Tumblr scroll? There are loads of apps and programmes that you can install on your PC that can monitor how you use your time so that you can see where the sucks on your productivity are.

Alternatively, there are also apps that can block certain websites – so if you constantly find yourself on social media sites or gaming sites when you should be working, they will not let you access the ‘banned’ sites for a certain period – giving you some time to really focus on that assignment!

Be more efficient

Have a big project to work on? Don’t leave it all to the last minute – plan ahead and create ‘laser focused pockets of time’ each day to focus on the project. Similar to the habit-forming idea above, if you spend even 20 minutes a day on your project, you can get it done in bite-sized chunks, meaning that you won’t get that fuzzy un-focused blur after concentrating on it for 3 days straight the week before the deadline.

How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time!

Set small achievable goals

Create a to-do list system and use it! There are so, so many different approaches to this one – whether it be online or paper-based – so try one or two out and see how you get on. Some good places to start are Getting Things Done, Bullet Journal, Trello, and Evernote but more are available.

Some ideas for lists are short-term and long-term things that need to be done, things you’d like to do (films you want to watch, books you want to read etc), and things you don’t want to forget. Some of the online systems will sync with your phone so you can access your lists everywhere.

How are you going to get organised this year?