Fresher to freelancer

With Universities in Wales producing more graduate start-ups than any other home nation in the UK1, the University of South Wales and its entrepreneurial students and graduates sit at the heart of a vibrant self-employment and freelancer ecosystem criss-crossing sectors from Creative Industries to Wildlife Management.

Fresher to freelancer

With Universities in Wales producing more graduate start-ups than any other home nation in the UK1, the University of South Wales and its entrepreneurial students and graduates sit at the heart of a vibrant self-employment and freelancer ecosystem criss-crossing sectors from Creative Industries to Wildlife Management.

USW has a long and rich history of successful graduate entrepreneurs. 

From the specialist energy management company – and former University spinout – RUMM, to Cardiff-based Team Metalogic, providing outsourced IT services to SME’s across the UK. From globally recognised make-up brush brand, Spectrum Collections, to welsh-born US-based fashion designer and stylist, Antonella Commatteo.

While not all enterprises necessarily thrive and survive, new firms are the lifeblood of any growing economy, creating wealth, developing innovation and, most importantly, generating jobs in local communities. Here in Wales, it is no different and the University of South Wales is committed to improving prosperity in local communities through innovative enterprise education and skills training, from fresher to freelancer! 

Meet a couple of our recent graduates who took full advantage of the opportunities and support on offer at the University to help them lift their ideas off the ground and set them on a path to their chosen career after graduation.

USW has enterprise and employability at the heart of everything it does, across all schools and faculties.

Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, Assistant Pro-Vice Chancellor for Enterprise

Name: Fred Badham
Course studied: BSc (Hons) Sound Engineering
Graduated: 2019
Occupation: Freelance Audio Engineer

I began my career in live music during my first year, working as a live sound tech around bars in Cardiff, as well as USW’s Zen Bar where I first engaged with Student Enterprise during their ‘Create and Collaborate’ pitching and networking events. It was great to start networking with creative industry professionals, staff and fellow students.

During my degree I found my interest lay in location audio – recording sound on-set for film, and with the ability to hire out equipment from University I set out to take on any project I could to build my portfolio.  Since then, I have worked across multiple sectors of the entertainment industry including film, TV, theatre and live music.  My services cover location, sound and post-production, to audio-visual and live engineering and I’ve worked for Home Box Office (HBO) and on shows such as Netflix hit, Sex Education.

By my final year I felt I had the confidence, connections and technical experience to start freelancing, but needed help with the business aspect, so in June 2019 I applied to the USW Freelancer Academy. 

This consisted of a week’s worth of business help including digital marketing, business planning, organising finances, as well as insightful talks from graduate entrepreneurs and freelancers in the industry already.  It culminated in the opportunity to pitch for funding. I’m pleased to report that I was successful and so, with some money behind me to buy kit, I made the leap and went full time freelance. Exciting times! At the moment, I’m freelancing as a sound trainee on a high-end TV drama although my ultimate aim is to work up the film hierarchy to become a sound mixer.

On reflection, a large part of going to University for me was about the network and contacts, and both my course and attendance at enterprise events helped me connect with fellow creatives. It really helped build my confidence to go and talk to like-minded people who shared similar goals, and make important relationships with people in the industry.

I’ve learnt a great deal about the slightly less fun (but still important) parts of running a business including doing taxes, copyright law, and managing finances. This knowledge and the skills has made me more confident in running my freelance business and given me the desire to continue into the future.

Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, Assistant Pro-Vice Chancellor for Enterprise

We are proud to be producing the leaders of the future, many of whom have taken advantage of the opportunities we provide for work experience across all of our courses, which then gives our students a competitive advantage in the graduate marketplace.

With graduate entrepreneurship forming a key part of our 2030 University strategy, we will continue to develop those entrepreneurial leaders that will drive forward the Welsh and UK economies.

Name: Charlotte Blackmore
Course name: BSc (Hons) International Wildlife Biology
Graduation: 2020
Occupation: Business Partner in Animal Ed 

During my first year at Uni I attended an on-campus Christmas market organised by Student Enterprise to sell my art prints (a separate side-business).  This is where I first met Emma Forouzan, Student Enterprise Manager. From this point onwards, I benefited from 121 business surgeries that helped me firm up by business idea for an animal education business back home in Hampshire.

Both myself and my business partner, Tiana, have always been passionate about rescuing and educating others in the care of animals.  With a number of rescue animals already owned (including tarantulas, snakes, rats, stick insects and more!) we came up with the idea of Animal Ed.  Animal Ed takes these animals into schools, nursing homes, clubs and other events to show how amazing they are and to teach people about them, their care and the environment. While Covid-19 has curtailed some of our work, it certainly hasn’t dampened our determination!

As a recent graduate, summer 2020 provided the opportunity to hone my idea ready to launch in the autumn and I took full advantage of the various initiatives on offer, including the Summer Start-Up Week, Freelance Fast Track, and Entrepreneur Summer School at the Start-up Stiwdio. They’ve all been very useful for personal support, providing general business information, keeping me motivated and helping me expand my network. I learned so much, but if there was something I need to know more about, I was put in contact with experts who could help me – which was great! 

The support I have received from the University changed my mindset to more of a ‘yes, you can do it and here’s how’ mentality. I’m also no longer afraid of failure, as the skills training has helped me learn how to prioritise and delegate. My confidence has developed too, and I feel I am in a stronger position with a greater knowledge of business in general.

For student or graduate thinking about it, I would recommend diving headfirst into enterprise support – without a doubt! You never know where you may end up.  Starting a business (especially in the middle of a pandemic) is scary and can often feel overwhelming, but the support has made the journey more manageable, fun and even more feasible. I genuinely would have had a much harder time starting the business if not for University support, so thank you all!

Are you interested in enterprise, entrepreneurship and starting your own business? 

Check out University resources available to you as a graduate to help you on your way.

Already active as an entrepreneur or freelancer? 

We’d love to hear your latest, email us to share your story: alumni@southwales.ac.uk