Research by YouthSight on behalf of PolicyBee revealed that 44% of graduates are considering freelancing – and 56% have already freelanced while studying.

Positive about Self-Employment

The survey of 1002 graduates in the UK indicated that graduates are positive about becoming self-employed, and as many of them have already sampled the freelance lifestyle as a way of financing their degree years, their opinion is based on experience. 21% were ‘definitely’ considering freelancing, 23% were ‘probably’ going to consider freelancing, and no students said they were ruling it out as an option, with the other 36% voting ‘maybe’.

Of the graduates who had freelanced while studying, 45% said they did it predominantly to gain experience, while 22% had used freelancing to earn money and pay their bills while studying.

When asked the potential benefits of hiring freelancers, graduates said that freelancers can offer:

  • Up-to-date subject knowledge (55%)
  • Flexibility (50%)
  • Freedom from limits of inherited processes or systems (49%)
  • An ability to think outside the box (47%)
  • More enthusiasm (46%)

Freelancing; Still Not Presented As a Viable Option?

However, despite their enthusiasm for self-employment, it seems it’s still not being put forward as a valid career path by university careers officers. Only 12% of graduates felt freelancing had been properly explained to them. 62% said that their university careers department hadn’t discussed freelancing at all, and 19% said it was discussed, but not in any depth. These figures have to be taken into context, though; 48% of the graduates didn’t feel their careers department had done enough to prepare them for work generally.

The Russell Group universities in particular, which tend to be older and more tradition universities, were shown to be the least likely to produce budding entrepreneurs and freelancers. Only 7% of graduates attending these universities were happy with the level of advice they received on freelancing and self-employment.

Freelancing Fears

Despite their overall positivity towards freelancing, the graduates surveyed were aware of the potential barriers to choosing self-employment.

  • 53% were concerned they may be unable to cover their costs
  • 44% were worried their experience would be inadequate
  • 38% felt they might not have sufficient familiarity with business processes
  • 37% were worried about a lack of contacts
  • 16% were concerned about the expectations of their parents and peers

So if they can overcome these barriers, where can we expect to see these bold graduates strike out on their own and embrace the freelancing life? According to PolicyBee’s survey, they’re most likely to be in the North West, the West Midlands and the South East.


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