The number of contractors and freelancers in the United Kingdom is on the rise and according to IPSE, there are now over 1.9 million flexible workers in the UK. This figure has increased tremendously since 2008, by a staggering 36 per cent. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that the number of graduates turning to ‘gigging’ is on the rise too.

The growing trend of ‘gigging’

The ‘gigging’ trend was reported on by Elance, who based their ‘Gen Y and the Gigging Economy’ study on over 1,000 graduates in the United Kingdom. Elance (an online staffing platform now operating as UpWork) define gigging as “the practice of working independently as a freelancer, as an alternative to pursuing a traditional full-time career.” They found that 87% of students with a first or second class degree agreed gigging is now a highly appealing career option and contractor jobs are particularly popular with the high-flying graduates. Almost 1 in 3 graduates stated that they planned to become self-employed in the future and 1 in 5 had already chosen to contract straight out of university.

But why are more graduates choosing to go contracting?

There are many benefits to becoming a contractor including flexibility and the freedom of being your own boss. These have been cited as the key motivators for graduates electing to become contractors.

Flexibility and independence

Almost 70% of graduates in the Elance study are drawn to contracting because of the flexibility it offers to them. Being able to choose when and where to work is perceived to present a much better work-life balance than a traditional career path. It’s easy to see how going straight into a Monday to Friday office job straight from university is a less appealing option for many.

Industry experience

Ask any graduate looking for a full time position after university if they have hit a brick wall due to their “lack of experience”, and the answer will likely be yes. “1-2 years’ experience required” for a graduate role is a tall order for many. However, graduates have discovered that contracting can be a great route into gaining industry experience. Studies show that graduates use contracting as a smart way to broaden experience and diversify their skills. Working for different organisations can provide university leavers with an opportunity to advance their careers without being limited by a simple employer’s processes, procedures and business ethos. There is also the opportunity to earn higher rates of pay compared with full time employment.

Vibrant working environment

According to Elance, 31% of Gen Y graduates associate contracting with vibrant and shared workspaces. 29% said they would like to be able to meet a variety of different people and experience an assortment of organisations throughout their contracting career. The attractiveness of working on the move appears to be a significant factor pulling graduates into the world of freelancing and contracting, and it’s not hard to see why the amount of shared workspaces in the United Kingdom is incessantly on the increase.

Not to forget the social nature of contracting lifestyle which often leads to establishing a close network of business connections and firm friendships.

What does it mean for employers and graduates?

The shift in the graduate market has far-reaching implications for employers. It is clear that if they want to access some of the UK’s top graduates, employers will increasingly have to tap into the contracting and freelance talent pool.

As for graduates, according to Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and CEO of PeoplePerHour, the market is seeing a growing band of ambitious degree holders who aren’t daunted by the prospect of venturing out on their own and says it has never been easier or cheaper for them to start a business.

So how do you become a contractor?

Deciding to work independently is an important decision but with the right support, the potential for success is huge. We can help you decide whether you should set up on your own as self-employed, incorporating a limited company, or work through an umbrella company. Please call K&B Accountancy Group or Cloud9 Umbrella on 020 7078 0211/0212.


Elance, Huffington Post and IPSE (Magazine #55)