Being a student has never been more stressful than it is today. With high expectations for performance starting as early as elementary school, students are under a lot of pressure. Those academic pressures, combined with trying to navigate social relationships and deciding what career path they want to choose, can make it difficult for students to maintain good mental health.

Mental health is critical for everyone, but especially for kids and young adults who are still undergoing brain development. We are currently in the midst of a youth mental health crisis. Many students struggle with issues like anxiety, depression, and overwhelm.

While every student is different and has differing mental health needs, sometimes having an outlet beyond school pressures can help students stay grounded and improve their overall mental well-being.

Gig work, which has grown significantly over the last decade, has been a great way for students to earn extra money— and even enhance their mental wellness in other ways.

Understanding the Gig Economy

The “gig economy” refers to a growing economy of people who provide services to one another on a short-term or one-off basis. Ride-sharing is one prime example of the gig economy in action— drivers sign up through an online app and provide rides in their own cars to people who use the app in their area. Other examples of gigs include freelance writing or graphic design, delivering groceries, pet-sitting, and selling handmade items.

Gig work is very different from traditional employment. Hours are flexible, and people can choose when and how they want to work. While there’s no steady paycheck with gig work, workers have much more control over their schedules and over what they want to do.

There’s a lot about the gig economy that appeals to people who want to earn money without traditional employment— especially students.

The Benefits of Gig Work for Students

Students have a lot to juggle, and their schedules aren’t always consistent. While some young people do hold down traditional jobs while remaining in school, it can be a huge challenge to make it all work.

The flexibility and autonomy of gig work are extremely appealing to many students. Not only can they work around their class and study schedule, fitting in some work when they have the time, but they can have full control over their schedule. They don’t have to consult with a boss when they need flexibility; they can just turn off any apps they use to get work.

This is extremely empowering for students and can help them learn how to effectively manage their time. Having control over their own schedule can help them gain a variety of skills while still leaving plenty of time for schoolwork.

Gig work also helps students explore career options or pursue their own interests while they attend school. By working in the gig economy, students can gain practical skills and find out what they do and don’t want out of their future careers. They can try out different types of jobs and careers to see what suits them best without any long-term investment or commitment. It’s even a great way for students to start networking!

The other major benefit, of course, is financial. Students can earn money doing gig work, which can help them reduce their debt, get money for personal expenses, invest, or save for the future. Earning their own money is a great way for students to learn basic financial management while getting the mental and emotional benefits of earning their own money.

Gig Work Can Help Students Gain Confidence

Through earning their own money and setting their own schedules, many students experience a major boost in their self-esteem and confidence levels by participating in the gig economy. Gig work can be a factor in a student’s mental well-being just by giving them an opportunity to hone their skills, succeed, and earn some money. Earning money can also help to alleviate stress from taking on student debt to pay for college.

Students who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs can test the waters through gig work and see how they like having endless autonomy in doing their jobs. Many students find it extremely empowering to be part of the gig economy and go on to become entrepreneurs after they graduate.

Overcoming Challenges in Balancing Work and Studies

Although working in the gig economy can have some excellent mental and financial benefits, there are some potential roadblocks that can affect students who want to participate. While many students appreciate the opportunity to practice time management skills, others struggle with it and find that they’re not able to balance their work and studies.

Other students simply don’t take enough breaks and start to experience symptoms of burnout. To avoid these problems, student gig workers need to prioritise their tasks, be intentional about scheduling, and set realistic goals. They also need to be able to take a step back if they notice that things are getting too hectic— school needs to come first, ultimately.

Self-care is important for all students, especially those involved in the gig economy. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, drinking lots of water, and getting regular exercise are all critical for peak physical and mental performance.

Gigs Offer Students Much-Needed Flexibility and Autonomy

Young adults who are still finding their way in the world frequently doubt themselves and their own abilities. Gig work offers them the opportunity to prove themselves in a low-stakes environment so they can build confidence in themselves and prepare for the future.

Students who are interested in exploring gig work should consider giving it a try, as long as they put their academic responsibilities first. Getting involved with the gig economy can help students shape their identity and find out who they want to be. It might be surprising, but something very simple— a flexible job— scan have a huge impact on students’ mental well-being.