Graduate entrepreneurs lack support from universities

UK graduates interested in freelancing or self-employment feel their university should have done more to support them, according to a new study by business insurance broker PolicyBee.

The study, which surveyed just over 1,000 recent graduates, found that 62% of graduates said freelancing or self-employment was not discussed at all by their university’s career department.

A further 19% said it was discussed but that not enough information was given.

“Universities could do more to support potential freelancers…”

Nearly half (48%) 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%) said they felt their faculty or academic department could have done more.

Kerri-Ann Hockley, who commissioned the study for PolicyBee, said: “Universities could do more to encourage and support potential freelancers.

“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.”

Self-employment on the rise

Self-employment in the UK is rising, and is currently at its highest level for more than 40 years. Fewer people are also leaving self-employment than in the past.

According to Kerri-Ann: “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.”

Over half (56%) of the graduates surveyed in the study said they had undertaken some freelancing during their studies. Of that portion, 44% were considering freelancing or self-employment as a career.

Almost half (45%) said gaining experience was the main reason for pursuing a freelance career, compared with the 22% who became self-employed to help pay the bills.

Unique skill set

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, respondents answered:

  • Up to date subject knowledge (55%)
  • Flexibility (50%)
  • Not limited by inherited processes or systems (49%)
  • Being able to think outside the box (47%)

Graduates also acknowledge that the biggest barrier to entering the world of freelancing is the cost of establishing their company and being unfamiliar with business processes (such as accounting software). Only 16% said parents’ expectations were a barrier.

Kerri-Ann concluded: “The costs of setting up are not as high as some graduates might expect, but this is certainly not the easy option and it won’t suit everyone. However, the rewards of financial independence and flexibility are there for those who have the determination, work ethic and a solid idea.”

Graduate voices

PolicyBee have also interviewed several graduate entrepreneurs as part of their ‘Next Generation of Freelancers’ campaign, which launched earlier this month.

Will Calderbank, founder of Distorted Logic, a software engineering company, 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.”

Mr Calderbank added: “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.”

Self-employment help and support on ByteStart

ByteStart provides help and tips for anybody interested in starting and running their own business. So whether you are a graduate, or someone looking to ditch the 9-5 and launch your own venture, you will find plenty to help you. Start with some of our most popular business start-up guides, which include;

And these will help you to fund your new business;

Bytestart Limited

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