An online platform for freelancers has signed a partnership with three London universities to help students commercialise their skills.

UnderPinned says the world of work is changing and students are not given the opportunity to develop a career for the increasingly hybridised workforce.

The partnerships give around 22,200 students – at the University of the Arts London, London College of Communication, St Mary’s University Twickenham, and London Metropolitan – access to its online platform which provides a ‘virtual office’, including tools to build a freelance portfolio, find and manage clients and projects, and produce invoices and contracts. 

Students can also participate in a Freelance Business Accelerator programme, a comprehensive online course with modules helping students learn how to price their work, pitch to clients, and build their portfolio.

According to the latest ONS data, there are 4.1 million self-employed people, meaning those who run their business for themselves, making up around 14.8% of the UK’s workforce. The UK ranks second globally in terms of the proportion of its workforce that is self-employed, ahead of the US, Germany and France and behind only Italy. 

The latest available recent data, however, also shows people under the age of 24 represent only 3.8% of the UK’s self-employed. For comparison, those aged 50-54 make up 13.7% and ages 45-49 make up 13%. 

Analysis shows there is also a significant gender gap – with the self-employed in the UK made up of 65% men and 35% women. 

“The UK is fundamentally bad at professional education. We produce some of the most skilled individuals in the world, but we fail to equip them with the knowledge or tools they need to build a business around their skills,” said Albert Azis-Clauson, CEO.

“Our educational focus on getting people into full time employment is fundamentally damaging the opportunities of young people. Businesses are increasingly turning to freelancers and hybridised workers, but the self-employed are disproportionately older. 

“Whether they go directly into freelancing or into a new form of hybridised employment, young people need to get access to the knowledge and tools to commercialise their skills in the modern world of work if they want to succeed. 

“It’s fantastic that London universities are recognising this fundamental shift away from traditional linear employment paths. The capital is one of the best places in the world to be an entrepreneur, but this is just the beginning – we plan to scale up and partner with universities right across the country to help give students from all backgrounds and of all ages the confidence to become freelancers – and to give companies access to the flexibility and skills of freelancers that could transform their business.”


Mandip Takhar, Placements Manager at University of the Arts London, London College of Communication, said: “Often, students entering higher education are conditioned to think that the goal is to graduate and find employment within a business or organisation, but this isn’t always the case and that’s why LCC’s partnership with UnderPinned is such a valuable one, because we have the same innovative and entrepreneurial way of thinking. 

“The LCC and UnderPinned partnership celebrates the diversity of our students that applies beyond simply identifying their core skills sets: it extends to how best they can use these skills to broaden their appeal as independent creatives.

“Working with UnderPinned has enabled us to promote that the opportunity for our students to seek freelance work – whether during their studies or following their graduation –  can increase their appeal to employers in a way that captures their entrepreneurial drive and combines it with the ability to practise these skills within a ‘professional lens’.

“Not only do students gain a deeper understanding of their value as freelancers, they are also able to gain tangible experience and present this to future employers as a testament to their unique ability to seek out the work that matches their skills. 

“UnderPinned’s offer has enhanced our approach in dealing with how we guide students and graduates into their desired line of work and help them to gain a deeper understanding into their value as creative freelancers in their chosen field of expertise.”