The number of freelance workers has grown by 25% since 2009 and turns over an estimated £109bn a year, according to figures published by IPSE.
Representing 1.9 million of the estimated 4.6 self-employed workers in the UK, freelancers, not to be confused with ‘gig economy‘ workers are typically knowledge-based who provide vital on-demand resources.
Growing 36% since 2008’s financial crisis, freelancing, as a segment of self-employment, has evolved from being a route taken out of ‘necessity’ to that of choice.
As one of the UK’s success stories (freelancing contributes as much to the UK economy as the entire motor sales industry), we look at three reasons why freelancing is positioned for long-term growth.
- Freelancers contributed £119 billion to UK economy in 2016, up from £109 billion in 2015.
- Two million more people are now freelancing, representing 43% growth since 2008.
- The number of female freelancers has increased by 55% from 2008.
- The largest proportion of freelancers fall within the 40-49 and 50-59 age brackets, combining to represent 48% of all freelancers.
- There has been a 79% growth in mothers working as freelancers since 2008.
- Millennials are driving freelance growth, with a 66% increase in the 16-29 age bracket since 2008.
1: It’s present across a diverse range of roles
Freelancers are prevalent in a range of sectors, from writers and artists to science and engineering technicians. IPSE’s research found that 15% of freelancers work in artistic, literary and media roles and since 2008, the fastest-growing freelance occupations have been in the health sector, where there has been a 191% increase.
Whilst the UK is home to some of the most creative freelancers, more than 60% of freelance work is in other areas. IT comprises 15%, with management accounting for 26% and teaching professionals 20%.
2: It’s not just about London
Unsurprisingly, the majority of freelance workers in the UK are based in Greater London (43%). However, growth is evident across the UK. For example, the West Midlands, which has the highest unemployment rate 5.9% (July, 2017) also accounts for 7% of the freelance economy. PeoplePerHour.com cite the cities with the most active freelancers (outside of London) are Manchester (5.7% of UK’s freelance workforce), Bristol (3.3%) and Birmingham (3%).
3: Millennials outstrip growth among the generations
Whilst the largest proportion of freelancers are aged between 40-49 (489,000) and 50-59 (485,000), with almost half (48%) of all freelancers falling into these age groups, the most significant growth is with younger freelancers 16-29, rising 66% since 2008. This blend of changing attitude towards work from a younger generation is balanced with a more mature age group who through a higher level of experience and confidence in their ability make the shift to freelance.
In terms of gender, 302,000 mums work as freelancers in their chosen professions, equal to 15% of all freelancers in the UK. This is an increase of 79 per cent since 2008, nearly double the rate of increase in the freelance workforce as a whole.
There are few signs of the growth in freelancing slowing down anytime soon and the popularity of this choice may increase in the wake of Brexit. Peter Johnson, founder and CEO of Lystable stated in a recent article for Forbes “For leading companies, like Google and ASOS, a full 50% of their UK-based workforce is made up of freelancers” adding that amidst the Brexit uncertainty “freelancers will come to play an even more pivotal role in the British economy than they already do.”