How to sell your brain – the rise of the freelance worker

Who would have guessed back in the days when the boss was in charge and employment meant set hours, set wages and a set of frown lines to match, that freelance working would experience such an unprecedented rise across the UK. There are some that would argue, of course, that the disadvantages of freelance working by far outweigh its advantages but, like it or not, it would appear that freelance work in the UK is here to stay (at least until the next employment trend).

‘The number of self-employed increased from 3.3 million people (12.0% of the labour force) in 2001 to 4.8 million (15.1% of the labour force) in 2017.’

Across the UK, self employment numbers are up but, in a workforce with such diverse experiences, this presents a simplistic picture. For example, in the years between 2001 and 2016, the number of people reporting self employment but working with employees fell whereas the number of people reporting self employment either alone or with a partner increased from 2.4 million to 4 million. We Brits, it would appear, prefer our own company to that of other people.

How much do UK freelance workers earn?

The simple answer to this question is, ‘less than people who are employed’ but again the picture is more complicated because both freelance and employed wages vary over time. When you compare the most common level of earnings (the modal level) of freelance and employed workers, those in employment earn almost double the weekly wage of their freelance friends (2016). Just like employed wages, freelance wages vary across the UK, with London freelancers being the best paid and those in the North West the worst. The rewards of freelance work, it would appear, are not always found in the wage packet.

Do UK men and women both do freelance work?

Both men and women are engaged in full time and part time freelance work in the UK, however the pattern for each gender is different. For example, the numbers of full time, self employed male workers has not increased anywhere near as quickly since 2001 as the number of full time, self employed female workers. Part time self employment is on the increase for both genders. However, as in the world of the employed, freelance males often earn more than their female counterparts.

How old is the UK’s freelance workforce?

You might presume that freelance working is more prevalent amongst the younger working population but, although this group has seen increases, the UK age group that has seen the biggest rise in freelance working is the 65 and above bracket. Thus proving that you are never too old to make a career change.

Which freelance jobs are people doing?

You only have to do a quick internet search to find out the breadth of jobs that are now being undertaken on a self employed basis. Our first search suggested that writers, recruitment consultants, building surveyors, TV casting researchers, animators, event crews and even Christmas lighting engineers are all in demand. For one lucky person, with a varied and very unusual skill set, that could mean a very busy freelance work life!

There is more to tell of course, managing a freelance workforce is not always easy (there are freelance jobs out there that require you to do just that) and we have a lot to learn about work life balance both in and out of self employment. Media coverage of high profile cases such as Deliveroo’s payout to a group of 50 of their couriers and Uber’s temporary regaining of its London operating licence, demonstrate how volatile the legislation situations are around UK self employment. This is a moment in UK employment history to watch… and if you work as a freelancer, you will be able to pick your own moments in which to do just that!

This article is just one example of the type of writing we at Fi Darby Freelance could be doing for your organisation. Quality content is the key to a solid web presence. Take a look at our portfolio to see more of what we do, then get in touch to chat about your requirements. We look forward to hearing from you.

Statistics – ‘Trends in self employment in the UK’ – ONS

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