Leveraging the Gig Economy in your student recruitment – Pros & cons for employers

There are lots of strategies out there that employers can utilise when looking to recruit young people to their roles.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how employers can utilise the gig economy and also consider the pros and cons for employers of doing this.

For some of you, it might be an ideal way to attract the young talent you need whilst, for others, alternative recruitment strategies might be more useful.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to recruitment. And, especially if you are part of a smaller set up, you need to work out which strategies give you the most success.  

What is the Gig Economy?

First of all, what is the gig economy with regards to recruitment? 

The gig economy in recruitment refers to the growing trend of companies hiring independent contractors, freelancers or temporary workers on a project-by-project basis rather than going through the process of employing full-time, permanent staff. 

In this model, the people you need are often sourced through online platforms (or apps) that connect them with businesses in need of their services.

Of course, there are other routes you can take in finding freelance staff to do one-off gigs. Online platforms are just one way of landing the people you need.

This gig approach offers flexibility for both employers and students and other young people. There are lots of young people out there doing one-off jobs and this allows your business to access their specialised skills on-demand.

Young people also get greater control over their schedules and work arrangements, making the gig economy an ideal way of earning money for many students. They can schedule paid projects around studies and other commitments.

But, naturally, there are also concerns around the gig economy.

This recruitment strategy raises concerns about job security, benefits and fair compensation for those working on projects. This is because freelancers typically do not receive the same protections and perks as traditional employees.

Depending on the circumstances on young individuals, however, this way of working could have real benefits…

What types of jobs lend themselves well to the Gig Economy in recruitment?

Not every sector lends itself well to recruiting freelancers to complete projects. But your company may be able to benefit from this type of recruitment. 

Let’s take a look at a list of job types that typically lend themselves well to the gig economy in recruitment:

Freelance Writing/Content Creation: Writing is perhaps one of the most popular types of freelance work that people can do. And you should find yourself with lots of candidates to choose from if you need to recruit a freelance writer.

Content writers, bloggers, copywriters and editors often work on a project basis, making this a popular gig economy option.

Students are often required to write for a variety of purposes and audiences, making them a potentially great option for your writing gigs.

Graphic Design: Graphic designers frequently take on freelance projects for clients in need of logos, branding materials, marketing collateral and more.

You could take on young people who are doing graphic design courses, giving them an opportunity to get some valuable work experience and to build up a portfolio.

Web Development / Programming: Web developers, programmers and software engineers can find plenty of freelance opportunities to build websites, applications and other digital solutions. 

There is much skill and knowledge out there among young people and students. If you are an SME, for example, giving an opportunity for someone to develop your website or set up an online presence in other ways is a win-win for both parties.

Digital Marketing: Social media managers, SEO specialists, email marketers and other digital marketing professionals often work on a freelance basis, helping businesses enhance their online presence. 

Whether students, graduates or school leavers, the younger generation has grown up surrounded by online presence. Social media management can suit many young people – and young bloggers will often be in a perfect position to offer valuable SEO tips.

Photography / Videography: Freelance photographers and videographers are hired for events, commercial projects, marketing campaigns and more.

This type of gig role can be perfect for offering opportunities for young people trying to get their break in this field.

Virtual Assistance / Administration: Virtual assistants provide administrative support remotely, handling tasks like email management, scheduling, data entry and customer service.

Ideal gigs for young people looking to work from home.

Translation / Interpretation: Bilingual individuals can offer translation and interpretation services for businesses, organisations and individuals on a freelance basis.

Ideal for language students and those who have grown up in a bilingual – or multilingual – household.

Tutoring / Education: Online tutors and educators offer their expertise in subjects like language learning, academic tutoring, test preparation and professional development.

Older students with an area of expertise can help younger people with exam revision and tutoring or giving extra support in various fields.

Event Planning / Coordination: Freelance event planners help organise and coordinate various events, including weddings, corporate gatherings, conferences and parties.

Delivery / Transportation: Delivery drivers and couriers work with well known platforms and also local independent businesses to deliver food, groceries, packages and other items.

Young people often take on delivery roles like this to earn some extra cash.

Other Services: Freelancers in fields such as cleaning, lawn care, pet sitting and home maintenance can find work through gig economy platforms that connect them with clients in need of their services.

These are just a few examples of the types of roles that lend themselves well to ‘gig jobs’ but the gig economy encompasses a wide range of industries and job types; offering opportunities for students and young people with diverse skills and expertise to find flexible work arrangements.

Benefits to employers

Employers who offer gig jobs can benefit in several ways:

Cost savings

Employers can often save money by hiring gig workers instead of full-time employees. Gig workers are typically paid per project or hour, eliminating the need for benefits such as paid holidays and sick pay.

The employer pays only for the time the project takes to complete. Once that is completed, there is no need to continue paying a salary.


Gig workers can be hired on an as-needed basis, allowing you, as an employer, to scale your workforce up or down based on demand. This flexibility is particularly valuable for businesses with fluctuating workloads or seasonal peaks.

Access to specialised skills

Gig workers often have specialised skills or expertise that may not be available in-house. As an employer, you can leverage the gig economy to access young talent for specific projects or tasks without having to hire full-time employees.

Faster recruitment process

Hiring gig workers can be quicker and more streamlined than recruiting full-time employees. Employers can post job listings on platforms and quickly connect with qualified candidates who are available to start work immediately.

If you are happy with the work completed, you can then use the same person or people again for future projects. 

Global talent pool

Depending on the nature of the roles you have on offer, the gig economy allows employers to tap into a global talent pool, enabling you to find the best candidates for your projects regardless of geographical location. 

This can increase diversity and bring fresh perspectives to the team, benefitting your business.

Reduced overheads

Employers can save on overhead costs associated with traditional employment, such as office space, equipment and utilities, since gig workers typically work remotely and use their own resources.

Innovation & creativity

Bringing in gig workers with diverse backgrounds and experiences can foster innovation and creativity within your organisation. Young people may offer fresh ideas and perspectives that contribute to problem-solving and innovation.

Improvement in productivity

By outsourcing certain tasks or projects to gig workers, employers can focus their time and resources on their core competencies and strategic priorities, improving overall efficiency and productivity.

Full-time staff can get on with carrying out their own duties and responsibilities without having to juggle extra work that is being completed by the freelancer. 

Access to talent that you can hire in the future

Gig jobs can be a win-win for both you and the young people you recruit on a gig basis. If you have possible full-time roles coming up soon, you get access to young top talent and get to test them out first.

You will have an idea as to whether or not they will be a good fit for your company. Your young freelancer will know your company culture and will know whether or not they want to work with you on a full-time basis. 

Overall, offering gig jobs can provide employers with greater flexibility, access to specialised talent, cost savings and the ability to adapt quickly to changing business needs.

The Cons of Gig Economy Jobs for employers

While there are benefits to offering gig jobs, there are also, of course, some disadvantages for employers to consider:

Less control 

Gig workers operate independently and may not always adhere to the same standards or protocols as full-time employees. You may have less control over the quality and consistency of work performed by gig workers.

Over reliance on external talent

Relying heavily on gig workers can make businesses vulnerable to fluctuations in the availability of external talent. 

If your key gig workers are unavailable at the time you need them – or if they choose to work for your competitors – then it could disrupt operations in your company. 

Gig workers are not bound by long-term contracts or loyalty to you as an employer. They could prioritise higher-paying or more interesting opportunities elsewhere.

Build up a good rapport with your gig workers and show them that they are valued so that you have the best chance of using them again in the future.

Potential for disengagement

Engaged staff are essential to the success of companies. Gig workers may not feel as invested in the success of your organisation compared to your full-time permanent employees. 

There is a chance they can prioritise their own interests and opportunities over the long-term goals of your company.

Again, you can combat this by building up good relationships with your freelancers so that they feel invested in the success of your company.

Communication challenges

This can be a disadvantage with any of the remote staff you work with. Working with remote gig workers can present communication challenges; especially if they are located in different time zones or have limited availability. 

Miscommunication or delays in communication can impact on project timelines and outcomes.

Brand reputation risks 

We have written in the past about the importance of employer branding and having a positive employer brand.

As an employer, you could face reputational risks if gig workers deliver subpar work or behave unprofessionally while representing the company.

Negative experiences with gig workers can damage the employer’s brand image and credibility.

Likewise, if student gig workers have a negative experience whilst working for your company, word of mouth means your company could gain a reputation for treating freelancers in a negative way.

Training & onboarding challenges

Employers may need to invest time and resources in training and onboarding gig workers for each project or task. 

This can be inefficient compared to having a dedicated team of full-time employees who are already familiar with the organisation’s processes and culture.

Difficulty building team cohesion

With a revolving door of gig workers coming in and out of the organisation, it could prove challenging to foster a sense of team cohesion and collaboration. 

Building relationships and trust among gig workers can be challenging when they work independently and remotely. Effective company software, online and in person meetings can help to combat this.

Despite these possible disadvantages, many employers find that the benefits of offering gig jobs outweigh the challenges, especially in terms of flexibility, access to specialised talent and cost savings. 

When it comes to employing students and young people, you also get the satisfaction of knowing you are helping them to build a good CV and portfolio. And, of course, if you have openings in the future, you have had access to young talent before your competition. 

It is essential for employers to weigh the pros and cons carefully and develop strategies to mitigate the risks associated with gig work.