The Rise of the Freelance Worker

The Rise of the Freelance Worker

Freelance and remote working is on the rise

The number of people working freelance in the UK is growing rapidly. According to a report by the IPSE (The Association for Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), the number of freelancers in the UK rose by 43% between 2008 and 2016. There are now at least 2 million freelance workers, representing 42% of the 4.8m self-employed population, 6% of the UK workforce and contributing £119 billion to the UK economy.

While all major industry groups are represented in the figures, the largest freelance occupational groups are:

  • Artistic, literary and media occupations
  • Managers and proprietors in other services
  • Teaching and education professions
  • IT and telecommunications professions

An estimated 429,000 (21%) UK freelancers reside in London, a rise of 59% since 2008. The significant role of freelancers in the capital is not surprising given that London’s economy is largely based on service industries, which include many occupations that freelancers typically work in.

Benefits of Freelancing:

Flexible hours – As a freelancer, you generally have more control over when you work. Whether that’s by crafting your work day to suit you or choosing jobs or contracts that fit with your schedule; you are able to choose your own hours. You’ll also have more flexibility with when you are able to take time off, this means you are able to fit work around personal commitments and holidays.

Control – Many highly skilled professionals choose to become freelancers as it offers a greater sense of control over their career direction. Innovative and creative minds often thrive in an environment where they are free to express themselves professionally.

Work wherever you want – For freelancers who are location independent, the ability to work from anywhere is a huge benefit. Digital nomads can enjoy working while travelling and exploring the world. Co-working spaces have cropped up many cities across the globe allowing freelancers to co-work to avoid feeling isolated. Coffee shops and other public spaces are also popular with freelancers who enjoy having a buzz around them while they work.

Choice over who you work with – As a freelancer, you have a choice about who you work with which is quite appealing to those who prefer to avoid certain types of work, dread working with particular clients, or would rather outsource tasks they don’t enjoy.

Financially lucrative – Freelancing can be more financially lucrative than a permanent, salaried role which makes it an attractive option for those wanting to boost their earning potential.

Disadvantages of Freelancing:

Unreliable income – Depending on the type of freelance work you do, for the most part, freelancing brings with it an element of instability in terms of regular income. You may experience gaps in employment, changes in contracts or difficulties with timely payment for your work.

No employee benefits – As a freelancer, you won’t enjoy the same benefits as a salaried employee such as sick and holiday pay, paid parental leave, pensions, health care etc. With careful planning, however, you can build these into your freelance career.

Sole responsibility – It’s important to understand the level of responsibility involved in freelance work. You will be responsible for many tasks including invoicing, making sure you get paid, marketing your product or service, managing sales, resolving issues, and customer service.  You will also need to purchase and maintain equipment, arrange workspace, maintain and manage your freelance business’s finances and tax obligations.

The risk of poor work-life balance – There’s always a risk as a freelancer that you take on more than you can manage. This might be by taking on more work than you can handle, or working hard to do your very best to the detriment of your personal life. Monitoring and responding to emails, taking calls and performing work tasks out of hours to keep on top of things is an easy trap to fall into. This can lead to stress, anxiety and burnout.

Consideration of these benefits and disadvantages is essential before launching into the world of freelancing. It’s helpful to speak to people you know who are already working freelance. This will allow you to gain further insight into the realities, opportunities and pitfalls you might encounter.

Picture of Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev,  RCDP, MAC

Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev, RCDP, MAC

Career Coach, EMCC-Accredited Master Practitioner Coach and CDI-Registered Career Development Professional with more than 20 years’ experience helping achieve successful and fulfilling careers.



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