From education to employment

How the gig economy benefits savvy students

Joseph Black, Co-Founder of UniTaskr

The pandemic has, in many ways, created the perfect storm for a rise in the gig economy. Figures reported by the Guardian last November indicated that 4.4 million people took up some form of work offered by gig economy platforms, making it a substantial part of the UK’s workforce that is expected to continue growing.

Students are one demographic that are beginning to utilise the opportunities offered by the gig economy, and use them to their advantage. With the knock-on effects of the pandemic meaning more time on their hands to explore other options, combined with the unavailability of traditional “student jobs” such as bar shifts, many students began to see the benefit of this kind of work.

This is unsurprising when you consider the rising cost of tuition fees, with Parliamentary figures indicating the average student debt is around £45,000. If students want to support themselves through university and set themselves up for when they graduate, they must be creative, self-starting and highly motivated, and as more start to take up these new opportunities for work, that is exactly what we are beginning to see. So, how exactly does the gig economy benefit undergraduates?


In many cases, it is necessary for students to take on some form of part-time work to make ends meet, with a 2021 survey from Save the Student finding that 76% of undergraduates were struggling to get by financially. However, a part-time job with rigid shift hours can often limit the amount of time available for study, resulting in increased academic pressure. This presents a very real danger of burn-out, with students struggling to cope with the demands of work and school.

The gig economy offers another way of doing things. This format of work, whether it’s freelance content writing, or assisting with a company with a larger marketing project, offers true flexibility. Not only can students take on work as and when they need to, but they can more easily fit this around their academic commitments.

Competitive advantage

The job marketplace is more crowded and competitive than ever before. Securing a valuable role as a graduate means being able to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. Task and project-based work made available to students through digital employment marketplaces has given students the opportunity to build vital career skills before they even leave university, securing real industry experience alongside studying.

Advances in technology, as well as the rise in gig-based work has made it easier than ever for students to find new opportunities for flexible and freelance work to not only supplement their incomes, but to also contribute to their studies and future careers, and ensure they have that competitive edge when it comes to entering the workforce.

Vitally, this kind of work also allows for students to test out possible career paths before deciding on the direction they want to commit to after graduation. This can pay important dividends in the long-term, with research from job search engine Adzuna indicating that workers who spend between 2-3 years in their first job earn higher average salaries over the course of their careers.

Entrepreneurial mindset

Recent research published by Santander found that 24% of UK students start their own business while they are still at university. This demonstrates the skills and initiative present in undergraduates that has become vital for successfully navigating the financial pressures of further education.

Combining academic study with real-world learning through project-based tasks are fantastic structures for allowing students to recognise their own entrepreneurial skillsets. The gig economy has enabled students to essentially start their own micro-businesses alongside their studies by allowing them to become freelancers in a chosen discipline or industry sector.

Setting up for success

Students today have had to become more adaptable, more flexible, and savvier than ever to successfully navigate the pressures of increased debt, all while managing their studies and setting themselves up for a competitive job market post-graduation.

We have seen undergraduates rise to these challenges by using the gig economy and advances in technology to do all three of these things. Digital employment marketplaces have allowed students to earn extra cash, acquire new skills and gain valuable industry experience, all before they leave university. This new generation are redefining the gig economy, and most importantly, making it work for them.

By Joseph Black, Co-Founder of UniTaskr

Related Articles