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Graduates shunning regular work for freelancing and self-employment

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Over half (56 percent) of those surveyed said they had undertaken some freelancing during their studies and that 44 percent were considering freelancing or self-employment as a career option.

Only 16 percent said parents’ expectations were a barrier to going self employed. UK graduates are showing a marked interest in freelancing and self employment according to the Next Generation of Freelancers study released today by PolicyBee, an online professional insurance broker. The study of 1,002 recent graduates* found that: Over half (56 percent) of those surveyed said they had undertaken some freelancing during their studies and that 44 percent were considering freelancing or self-employment as a career option.

More support is required from universities to prepare these young entrepreneurs for their chosen career path: 62 percent of graduates said freelancing or self-employment was not discussed at all, even though it was an option for their chosen career. A further 19 percent said it was discussed but not enough information was given. The study highlights that freelance and self-employed graduates have a wealth of skills that can give them the edge over their more mature counterparts. When asked what they thought the main advantages of hiring a graduate freelancer were for an employer, respondents answered: Up to date subject knowledge (55 percent); Flexibility (50 percent). Not limited by inherited processes or systems (49 percent). Able to think outside the box (47 percent).

Kerri-Ann Hockley, who commissioned the study for PolicyBee, said: “More and more people are turning to self-employment to overcome the difficulties of our current economic situation. The study clearly shows that many graduates have an appetite for self-employment and need to make an informed decision about whether this is the right career choice for them. Universities could do more to encourage and support potential freelancers.” Will Calderbank, graduate entrepreneur and founder of Distorted Logic said: “The university careers support available to me was basic, and mainly focussed on getting an internship in my third year. I decided not to do that, fell through the gaps a little bit, and ended up with no support. In my opinion, university careers departments need to think a little less about the one-size-fits-all approach, and help students and graduates consider all the options out there.”

Nearly half (48 percent) of graduates felt disappointed by the support they received directly from their careers department in terms of preparing them for the world of work. Similarly, a third (32 percent) said they felt their faculty or academic department could have done more. West Midlands graduates champion entrepreneurship. Graduates whose hometown is in the West Midlands are the most open to the possibility of freelancing or self-employment. More graduates from this area, in comparison to other areas of the UK, freelanced during their degree (59 percent) and are more likely to consider it as a future career option. Graduates in the North West and South East are second and third most likely to consider freelancing or self-employment as part of their future career.

Other findings from the study: The Russell Group Universities, which incorporates 24 of the more traditional and well-known institutions (such as Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, King’s College, Manchester and Bristol), are least likely to produce budding entrepreneurs, with fewer graduates here having experienced freelancing or self-employment or planning to do so in the future. Male graduates are more likely to go freelance than female graduates. Architecture and Building & Planning graduates are keen to go down this route, as are Creative Arts & Design; Language; Business & Administrative studies graduates. Kerri-Ann continued: “In the past, self-employment or freelancing were only considered options by more experienced professionals. The latest generation don’t see this as a barrier. Thanks to the changing job market and developments in technology, graduates can enjoy greater independence. They no longer need to follow conventional routes into employment if it doesn’t suit them. However, they could still benefit from more support, and universities have an important role to play in supplying this.”