COVID-19 has played a huge role in changing the way businesses, and individuals, operate across the globe, with many company owners opting to permanently walk away from their city center offices in favour of home working, and employees taking time off work due to furlough schemes.
Additionally, in order to save money, several businesses have also had to put a ‘pause’ on recruitment and growth plans due to an uncertain economic climate brought about by the pandemic.
However, there’s a new trend on the rise that’s allowing companies to increase their productivity without taking on the additional costs of new team members: student freelancers.
Business Electricity Prices have taken a deeper look into the accelerated growth of the freelancers market, and how students could be the solution, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How businesses can benefit from freelance resource
Some industries, particularly those impacted more significantly by the pandemic, have sadly needed to reduce their overall spend in order to give them the best chance of staying afloat. This has led to many businesses having to make staff members redundant, and putting a pause on recruitment. Whilst this may seem counter-productive to do so, it has led to a rise in demand for freelancers.
Although the use of freelancers has been steadily increasing for many years, it has seen short, accelerated periods of growth throughout 2020 and the beginning of 2021. Freelancers offer lots of benefits to businesses with ambitious growth aspirations and can be the best solution for dealing with short bursts of seasonality to a business’ operation.
In fact, recent Forbes research found that 90% of companies actually depend on freelancers to augment their professional workforce.
A new surge of student freelancers
Freelancers are fantastic for bridging the gap between large workloads and a lack of staff, but it’s important to remember that if you’re planning to rely on them for a significant number of projects, they can become quite expensive. Not to worry though, as there’s a new ‘pool’ of freelancers taking businesses by storm: students.
Due to the ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) pandemic, thousands of students have been left without their usual part time jobs, and many are also attending significantly fewer lectures. This means they have significantly more time on their hands to take on freelance roles, whilst working towards their degrees, and a need to pay their bills.
Hiring a freelancer student is a win for all parties. Businesses are able to become more productive on short-term projects without paying salaries, recruitment fees, or high freelancer rates, and students are gaining valuable experience before they enter the world of full-time employment. This, in turn, is putting an end to the vicious cycle many students face after university of ‘no-experience-equals-no-job-but-no-job-equals-no-experience’.
Even though there are currently no dedicated student freelancer sites, Save The Student strongly recommends using Upwork to source student freelancers as you’ll likely find some talented students offering their services at great business-friendly prices.
Will hiring a student freelancer work for my business?
Businesses may be skeptical at the quality of work coming from an inexperienced student. But it’s important to remember that students regularly produce highly academic essays and assignments to an incredible standard, while many creatives begin university with a strong portfolio. Not only that, but they’re also hungry for experience within their chosen field, don’t charge high-end freelancer fees, and will often work at a moment’s notice on any fast-turnaround projects.
From a business’ point of view, working with a student freelancer is a very low risk, high reward situation. Taking on freelancers is a great way to offer additional support to internal teams, and many companies think of them as a productivity tap that they can turn on when large projects or busier periods come along, and turn off when they aren’t required.
What does the freelancer market look like?
Large parts of business support functions can utilise freelancers. The rapid advancement and growing acceptance of remote working that’s been accelerated by COVID-19, means that companies are much more accepting of and prepared for employees and freelance contributors to work from any location.
Businesses looking for particular skills are the most likely to seek freelancer help to support their internal teams. For example, Money Super Market found that the most popular sectors for freelancing are Business support (22%), Design (20%) and Writing and Translation (17%).
Furthermore, it is students and graduates that are predominantly driving the growth of the freelancer market, with 87% of the UK’s top-performing graduates seeing freelancing as a highly attractive career option according to Econsultancy.
Pit-falls to Avoid
Taking a chance on a student freelancer, may mean a smaller body of work to examine. If you’ve chosen to use a student for their availability, be sure to vet their skills properly first. A good way of doing this, is to provide a paid piece of work as a test of their talent, which will help you decide on whether to use them for future projects.
As you may remember from your uni days, assignments are not like normal work. It can be a challenge to know how long it will take until you’re in the throws of writing. As a business, it is therefore important to thoroughly discuss availability with your student freelancer if you’re looking to hire them for a prolonged period and leave ample time each side of any assignments they may have to ensure your time-line remains on-track.
Students are expected to have a lot of experience before applying for any job these days, so nurturing talent is a big win for their future job prospects, for the economy and potentially for your own business as their skills develop.
Just try to be understanding that they may not have performed a task before. Taking the time to be patient and teach a talented individual how to perform a task will not only aid in their development, but hand you an employee eager to work for you so that they can continue their personal growth. This could result in the individual picking your project over another in the future and a loyal talented freelancer is nothing to be sniffed at.
The future of business and its relationship with freelancers
Although freelancers are independent in nature, making the most of the added resource means answering their questions, handling any issues that arise, providing them with all the information they need to fulfil their role, and monitoring their work. These are all things that need to be taken into consideration when opting to onboard freelancers, both students and long-standing professionals.
Quite often, leaders and managers will empower their teams to manage freelancer work and use them as and when needed to increase department output.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 2018 saw a 31% annual surge of freelancers in the UK according to Simply Business. The trend has only been accelerated further with increased redundancy during the pandemic and a much more positive attitude towards remote working by business leaders.
There’s a solid and growing place for student freelancers in modern business, especially during times of higher economic uncertainty, and this seems to be going hand in hand with today’s desirable flexible working.