In Conversation With Jake Fox, Co-Founder of Paperound

The world of work is changing. People are earning money from increasingly diverse income sources, embarking on more varied careers and learning skills our parents’ generation had no need for.

In this fast-evolving world, aspiring workers and growing businesses alike need solutions that work for them. While big-name grad schemes and long-term placements are viable options for life during or after university, there’s a gap in the market for instantaneous, short-term projects – the kind that students are great at completing, and smaller start-ups need to enable growth.

Enter Paperound, the UK marketplace where small businesses can hire bright, switched-on student talent by the hour, day or more. For students, it’s the place to advertise your skills, get paid and build valuable experience – and for startups, it’s the perfect way to take care of easy-to-brief tasks that hold you back from focusing on strategy. 

Following Paperound’s recent announcement of a Leeds-local marketplace, in which businesses can book University of Leeds students for company tasks on an on-demand basis, I sat down with co-founder and former Lancaster University student, Jake Fox. He told me how the idea for the platform emerged when he experienced both sides of the aspiring student/prospective employer dynamic.

As an undergrad, Jake struggled to find the type of internship he wanted. Despite careers fairs being flooded with big corporate names, the smaller, local businesses – the kind he was keen to learn practical skills from – were nowhere to be seen. Later on, when Jake found himself working for a series of startups and small businesses, he saw the counterpoint to the conversation – smaller businesses struggled to easily access students for flexible work, as traditional job boards didn’t always match their resourcing needs.

Without a functional window between students and startups, big opportunities were being missed. By their nature, small businesses need more ways to get things done, increase efficiency and concentrate on driving their operations forward, and university students – with their modern skillsets and ability to learn quickly – are the perfect people to fill those gaps.

Jake told me how Paperound’s foundation of mutual trust means both of the platform’s user groups can unlock benefits for their futures. With all students paid no less than the national living wage for their services – which can be anything from design, blogging and social media content to research, analytics and more – an atmosphere of respect and professionalism emerges.

Each student, or ‘Tasker’ as they’re known on the platform, is pre-vetted by the Paperound team before they can advertise services on the site – and by only working with students of UK universities, businesses know they’re getting a certain standard of skill and talent. All bookings and payments are handled directly through the site, so students don’t need to worry about invoicing, and employers only pay when both sides are happy that the work is complete.

Since its launch in early 2021, Paperound has already built a community of 40+ Taskers from 20 different universities. The platform has seen the majority of businesses coming back to use the same taskers multiple times, which demonstrates its lasting value and consistency. Jake agrees that the cultural shift brought on by the pandemic has created the right appetite for ways to access immediate, remote opportunities like this. And with mastery  

of new skills and platforms just a YouTube tutorial away for many of today’s digitally-minded student workforce, Paperound creates the perfect way to expand horizons and grow into new areas of expertise.

Not only has the platform’s three-person founding team been thrilled to see several Taskers offered full-time employment by their Paperound employers, they’re also hard at work building partnerships with a range of UK organisations.

Kisoran, Founder of anonymous recognition platform, DESERVEDit, was thrilled with the Paperound platform. “I was so relieved when I was introduced to Paperound!” They said. “Even with the best laid plans, after our launch, my to-do list just kept getting longer and longer. If it weren’t for efficient Taskers, I don’t know what I would have done. All budding entrepreneurs should build Paperound into their plans from early on – Taskers are just a few clicks away when required.”

The very existence of a site like Paperound opens up bigger questions around the future of work, and how supporting real-world skills among students can have wider benefits for the economy. Jake tells me how he and several others recently wrote a letter to Kwasi Kwarteng, asking the government to dedicate more time to working out what today’s gig economy means, and how it will look in the future.

Because in a world where the average career contains not one but multiple jobs and roles – and where opportunities to earn in non-traditional ways increase every day – looking ahead to determine what will really benefit future generations is more crucial than ever.   

Jake Fox

Want to get involved?

If you’re a student and think you might be a perfect fit for Paperound, head over to paperound.com/become-a-tasker, where you’ll be asked to enter some details and set up a call with the team. Once they’re happy you’ve got the skills, aptitude and confidence to become a Tasker, they’ll offer advice for setting up a killer profile, and you’ll be ready to start receiving work requests.

If you’re a Leeds business, all you need to do is sign up with your email at paperound.com/leeds where you’ll be able to filter local student candidates by task, availability and skill – before selecting a student to work on your project.

Kate Ryrie

Kate Ryrie is a professional copywriter and self-confessed Leeds enthusiast. Find her in pursuit of creativity and culture, flavour and fun and magical moments in the city. @kateryrie

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