Generation Y grads choose freelance path

Britain’€™s top performing graduates are more likely to be attracted to ‘€˜gigging’ -€“ working independently as a freelancer

That’s according to a new report from Elance, the online work platform, exploring how Generation Y is pursuing alternative career paths.

The study1 of over 1,000 UK graduates found that freelancing is now seen as a highly attractive and lucrative career option by 87% of students with first or second class degrees. This compares to 77% of those with lower class degrees.

Around 21% of graduates with first class honours say they have already chosen to work as a freelancer, suggesting that the so-called ‘gigging economy’ is taking hold among high flying graduates. Furthermore, 29% of all graduates say freelancing is part of their career strategy in the next five years, further spurring on the gigging economy.

The flexibility offered by freelancing is cited as the biggest career draw, with over two thirds (69%) of all graduates saying they feel independent work offers them a better work-life balance. Respondents are also attracted to the earning potential of freelance work (38%), saying they feel they can earn as much, if not more than they could in a traditional job. 

More than 38% of graduates also find the variety of work offered by freelancing appealing. And over a quarter (28%) see freelancing as a way to be their own boss: with the latest data showing one in ten graduates remain out of work six months after leaving university2, it’s perhaps of little surprise that students are keen to take control of their own destiny.

Parental support lacking

Despite 85% of Gen Y graduates seeing freelancing as ‘becoming the norm’ in the next five years, the research reveals parents remain more sceptical. Only 1 in 10 believe their parents would actively encourage them to freelance.Freelancing would be seen as a risky career option by parents according to 41%of graduates with 24% citing their parents’ concerns about the lack of company benefits including private healthcare and company pension.

Kjetil Olsen, Vice-President, Europe, Elance commented:  “If the big issue for Generation X was the end of a job for life, today’s Gen Y graduates appear to be seriously questioning the nature of having a traditional job at all. They are seeing record numbers of employers around the world opting to use online work platforms to fill skills gaps and recognise that they can carve out lucrative careers working independently.”

He added: “The research has far-reaching implications for employers. It’s clear that if they want access to some of the UK’s top graduates, they will increasingly need to tap into the freelance talent pool. Many are doing this already, but those that aren’t should consider putting in place processes for complementing their permanent staff with additional skilled independent workers.”

The full report, ‘Gen Y and the Gigging Economy’ is available to download.

1 Report is based on primary research conducted by Red Brick Research between 26th and 29th November 2013. The research was conducted with 1,032 graduates from the UK aged between 20 and 33. Generation Y is defined as those born after 1980.
2 Higher Education Statistics Agency –


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