The expansion of freelancing in a ‘gig economy’ has gained traction and attention, both online and in the work market, capturing the attention of students of all ages. Children as young as year 8 have shown an inclination towards self-employment, with some older teens calling for a curriculum that best helps their career prospectus in opening doors towards the freelancer market - yet schools seem slow to react and resistant to change.

A look at a few schools in South London, such as Haberdasher’s Askes Hatcham College and Harris Boy’s East Dulwich shows they do make some attempt at promoting individualism, publicly stating they are in collaboration with “Gatsby”, an organisation committed to helping science and engineering skills. Gatsby also provides benchmarks which aim to create a curriculum that involves “stable career programs, experience with workplaces and even the addressing of the needs of each pupil¹. Despite this, their official website fails to mention the term “freelancing”, and provides minimal information regarding self-employment, contradicting their claims to help the needs of each student. 

Gatsby, and the aforementioned schools, are just a few of many institutions that have acknowledged the needs for entrepreneurialism but are failing to define to concept of freelancing as a viable option, seemingly ignoring the calls for a more diverse career programme. With schools choosing not to take the first step into the world of freelancing, the onus is on us to figure out how we can encourage a positive discourse on what freelancing is and when can we introduce it to students in the most effective way possible.

Finding solutions isn't easy, but the urgency of implementing these changes soon ensures that a culture of self-employment is more widely accepted, and creates further changes that I will discuss in a bit more depth later on. 

A side effect of an unrelated change amongst students, and the growth of many to go down unconventional routes after GCSEs includes the rise of apprenticeships and colleges, rather than traditional sixth forms, the latter generally being more open to notions of freelancing. 

Statistics show “94% of pupils went into education, apprenticeships or employment for at least 2 terms after finishing their GCSEs², highlighting a large populous of students intending to continue an education in some way while highlighting the possibility the remaining 6% could be drawn back into the fold if freelancing was presented as a viable alternative or a programme in conjunction with the school's curriculum. 

Organisations in the freelancing industry could provide apprenticeships, courses or even assemblies following school and governmental policies to help bolster the direction of students into independence. This would not only provide additional information to students already interested in a career path of self-employment but open the conversation to many others who may not be familiar, further expanding discourse on how freelancing could have positive impacts not only on the individual but the economy as a whole. 

If you’re thinking that freelancing is suitable for a select bunch of sectors such as IT, graphics, art and photography, you’d be mistaken. Virtually every career path could now be introduced into the discussion of freelancing, with an emphasis on the importance of the ‘gig economy’ and normalisation of remote work. 

To properly prepare students for the modern world of work, freelancing must ultimately be introduced at minimum, post GCSEs so we can provide the best support possible, otherwise we would be doing them a disservice. Furthermore, a common factor often overlooked when applying aforementioned methods of teaching regarding entrepreneurship, is the preconceived notions of complexity it has. It would be up to schools, in collaboration with freelancing organisations to help break down freelancing into digestible methods of learning, supporting or even creating short-form content across social media normalising the discourse on freelancing. Strip away the business jargon, use existing online influencers and content creators as the starting point, and reverse engineer the concept of freelancing from this juncture. Do you want to be the next YouTube sensation? What students are consuming online may seem effortless but it contains a lot of business happening behind the scenes and this can act as the perfect framework to explain the concept of freelancing. 

Furthermore, doing so will help change the dial on freelancing, replacing the rhetoric of economic insecurity or educational deficiencies that come along with solopreneurship. Once these changes are implemented, the transition to accepting freelancing as a practical career path can begin, further emphasising why freelancing must be introduced to students as soon as possible.


Photography: Rebecca Zaal & cotton bros & 祝 鹤槐