How to Self-Fund your PhD

Dr. Chris Pepin-Neff
9 min readOct 23, 2022

This article was first delivered as a talk for October 25, 2022 at the University of Sydney in the School of Social and Political Sciences (SSPS), Higher Degree Research workshop.

The strategy for self-funding your PhD is divided into four categories:
(1) publication strategy, (2) engagement strategy, (3) media strategy, and (4) financial strategy.

This is a layered process because, as a PhD candidate and junior academic scholar, you must establish your expertise as a commodity that can be marketed and sold. We establish our expertise by publishing; then we share our expertise through engagement; we advertise our expertise through the media; and finally, we leverage our expertise to obtain financial support based on the strength of the intellectual infrastructure we have built.

So I want you to think of yourself as an entrepreneur here. While no one does their PhD alone, you are the CEO of your PhD. A PhD student-innovator. And the skills outlined below will serve you even if you choose a trajectory outside of academia as your profession.

Publication strategy (an exercise in establishing your expertise)

1.) Specialize, Specialize, Specialize. Become an expert on a specific topic. There is nothing more important than establishing your individual credentials and expertise on a subject or topic. It can be obscure, narrow, or niche. It just needs to be yours. Think of your PhD like a game show where the contestants all have a speciality that they bring with them. Your PhD is a product of this speciality. This becomes your career asset, a commodity you bargain with.

2.) Use Workshops to Boost your Publishing. To establish yourself in the field, you need to publish in academic peer-reviewed journals. This you already know. However, the best-kept secret of academia is that the best way to boost your publishing credentials is to target workshops that will publish journal articles in a Special Issue.

Dr. Chris Pepin-Neff

Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, with a focus on LGBTQ politics, agenda setting, and policy advocacy. Pronouns (they/them). Opinions are mine.