FreelanceStudents: Timothy Mukasa
The FreelanceStudents founder on giving up a steady income to start his own venture
Company name: FreelanceStudents Website:www.freelancestudents.co.uk Founders: Timothy Mukasa Age: 29 Based: London Staff Numbers: 2+ Date started: 16/07/09
Tell us what your business does FreelanceStudents connects businesses and private individuals (employers) with talented, enthusiastic, and ambitious students for one-off jobs and gigs, short-term projects, and internships. From artists and photographers to programmers and writers, many students use FreelanceStudents daily to find their next freelance opportunity.
Where did the idea for your business come from? During the early phases of the recession, I read an article about a recent graduate that couldn’t find relevant work experience in his industry and so he had to visit the job centre. It occurred to me that there were probably many small businesses that required skilled staff, but due to the economic conditions, they couldn’t afford to take on full-time professionals or contractors, so perhaps there was an opportunity to pair bright students with these businesses.
What were you doing before starting up?I did a computing and management degree at University College London (UCL). Prior to FreelanceStudents, I was an IT consultant at a well-known management consultancy in the city. It was very difficult to leave my job, as I had a good salary and I was working on projects with some of the biggest companies in the world.
What planning did you do before you started up?I did lots of market research to ensure that a) there would be demand and b) there was money to be made within the industry. I have a basic business plan, which gets refined regularly. I also found a mentor that been there and done it before, and their advice has proved to be invaluable.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them? The biggest challenge we faced as a start-up was trying to promote our service to all UK students in a cost-effective way. To get around this, initially, we’ve distributed our printed material in London only and we’ve used various social networking websites to extend our reach beyond the capital.
Where is your business based? The business is home based. I live with a couple of friends that are regularly involved in various sporting and social activities and they will often drag me along. So, my friends help me to try and achieve a good balance.
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What about staff? There are no full-time staff. My partner helps out quite often and we’ve used freelancers for the design and development work.
What has your growth been like? Our growth has been steady and students and employers are signing up everyday, so we remain on track to meet our planned targets. Our aim is to be profitable within the next year.
What’s the impact on your home life been like? The hours are much longer then a regular job, so it means I have less time for other activities. However, my friends and family are being very supportive and that makes it easier.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?The greatest difficult has been weighing up when to use professionals (e.g. graphic design and PR). You often take a big hit on your start-up capital when using professionals, but doing it yourself means that you take your eye off developing the core business.
What was your first big breakthrough?The Metro running a full page article about the website. This doubled our database of students.
What would you do differently? I would account for my cost-of-living (e.g. rent, food, and socialising) in my plans, as these quickly eat up your cash when you don’t have a regular income.