A student entrepreneur

Make money and develop workplace skills

Learn what a side hustle is and how to make it work

Looking to make some extra money while you study? There are plenty of ways you can earn a bit of extra cash while you're at university.

Conventional ways of making money at uni include working part-time at a pub or restaurant or in retail. But more and more students are taking a skill, hobby or something they're passionate about and turning it into a moneymaking 'side hustle'.

At Portsmouth, we have a dedicated Student StartUp Team who can give you support, advice and guidance on setting up your business. Make sure to speak with them before you get started.

What is a side hustle?

Put simply, a side hustle is an activity you do along with your study to earn money, usually on a self-employed or freelance basis. In time, you might even turn into a long-term business.

More people work a side hustle than you might think. Around a quarter of people in the UK have jobs on the side, creating over £14 billion through their work (Centre for Economics and Business Research, 2018).

It's different to more standard forms of employment in that you have more freedom to choose what you work on and when. And it's often a bit more fun to do something for yourself, especially when it's something you're good at or enjoy.

If you're an international student on a Tier-4 Student Visa you aren't allowed to be self-employed or run a business while you are studying. But we can help you develop your startup so you're ready when you graduate.

The positives

Working a side hustle while studying has some great advantages, including:

  • Freedom to choose your projects
  • Opportunities to learn new technical and business skills, or improve your current ones
  • Earning money doing something you enjoy
  • Applying the skills you learn on your degree
  • Choosing how you structure your work hours
  • Building a professional network while you're at uni
  • Any money you earn shouldn't affect your student loans, bursaries or scholarships

The challenges

Along with the positives of working a side hustle, there are also some challenges you might face. Such as:

  • Inconsistent salary, if you're not guaranteed work or sales
  • Set up costs
  • Chasing invoices and waiting to get paid, if you work on a freelance basis
  • Taking on too much work may prove a distraction from your studies

Picking a side hustle

Choosing what to do as a side hustle can be tricky. There are probably thousands of different possibilities of what you could do. 

The important thing to figure out is what you're good at, enjoy doing or are interested in. Once you know this, there are a few questions you need to answer to get the ball rolling:

  • Who needs the product or service I'm offering?
  • How do I deliver it to them?
  • What equipment or materials do I need to get started?
  • Will I have recurring expenses? How much?
  • How much do I need to make to be sustainable?

Types of side hustles

If you're a creative type you could:

  • Become a photographer for local events, publications and weddings if you're handy with a camera
  • Start making and selling goods on local marketplaces, Etsy or Depop if you've got a crafty skill
  • Write blogs or articles for local papers, magazines or publications in an industry you're passionate about
  • Offer your graphic design services to businesses – a great way to practice in a professional setting and build your portfolio

If you're good with people you can:

  • Tutor secondary and college students
  • Offer your babysitting services to families in the local area
  • Teach a language to your peers and other students or find work as a translator
  • Get your qualification and start as a personal trainer, especially if you're studying sport, exercise science or fitness

Looking for some more digital? You could:

  • Run the digital or social media channels for an organisation
  • Design and maintain websites for local businesses

Your uni might have a few opportunities too. You could:

  • Participate in research or focus groups – you can make some cash just for trying something out or sharing your opinion
  • Keep your eye out for jobs posting around campus and at your students' union
  • Ask your lecturers if they're looking for any help with a current project, book or publication

There are locally focused hustles as well. You could:

  • Flip items from local garage or car boot sales for a profit
  • Join a ridesharing app like Uber if you've got a car
  • Earn money and stay fit cycling around town for a food delivery service like Deliveroo
  • Look for odd jobs posted in online groups or buy and sell pages

Advice for freelancers

Most side hustles are on a self-employed or freelance basis. So there are a few things you need to do while working for yourself:

  • Register as self-employed or 'sole trader' with HMRC. You're technically running a business so you need to make sure you're complying with government tax regulations.
  • Keep a detailed log of all your earnings in a spreadsheet to make your tax return easier.
  • Learn how to file your own self-employed tax return. Or consider getting an accountant – you can claim their fee as a business expense next year.
  • Have a signed or confirmed work agreement with each client. It keeps you better protected. And make sure to read through all of it!
  • If you're finding work in a specific field or industry it's worth finding out if there's a union you can join. They can offer you guidance on working with clients and lend a hand if you're in a spot of difficulty.

Ready to get started? Get in touch with our Student StartUp Team who can give you support, advice and guidance on setting up your business.

More money management tips

Getting a part time job at uni

Find out if a part-time job is the right choice for you and how to get one in Portsmouth.

A student smiling
Read more

How to budget at uni

Plan out and stay on top of your student budget.

Female student in southsea
Read more

Money-saving tips

Follow our money-saving tips to help you spend your cash wisely.

Monopoly money and houses on a Portsmouth themed board
Read more