According to data collected by The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), there are now almost 2 million freelancers in the UK alone.
In fact, the Self-Employed Landscape Report revealed that freelancers make up nearly half (46%) of the country’s overall solo self-employed population.
The same research found that:
- A significant proportion of freelancers live in London (24%) and the Southeast (22%)
- Northern Ireland and Wales experienced the most notable decline in freelancers last year
- London, Scotland and the Northwest saw the largest increase in freelancer numbers during the same time period
- The West Midlands now comprises 7% of the UK’s freelance population whilst the Southwest represents 10%.
So, that’s what the UK freelance landscape is looking like right now – but where is the best place to be a freelancer? Let’s explore.
The world is your workplace
One of the most exciting things about building a freelance career is the freedom it affords you in terms of where you can work. You won’t be required to attend the same office in the same place each week, like you normally would if you were employed.
Important things to consider when plotting out your freelance life on a map include:
- Cost of living and travelling in your chosen area(s)
- Tax implications in those specific places
- Your industry/field of work and the demand for what you offer there
- Time zones – will these impact your ability to maintain client relationships?
- Impact on your personal life and relationships
Of course, if you do fancy living the ‘digital nomad’ life and exploring the world while you work, you’ll also need to think about visas. Popular destinations that offer freelance visas are:
All these locations welcome freelance workers, offering specific visas with time-based parameters or income-related requirements.
With the internet and modern technology, it’s possible to run a successful freelance business from almost anywhere in the world – it’s all about finding the place(s) that support your goals.
Working remotely means you can connect with clients all over the world regardless of your own location – all thanks to the internet removing many geographical limitations.
So, if you’re a UK-based freelancer hoping for international work without needing to travel regularly or stray too far from home, the online world might prove to be your best bet.
As a freelancer working remotely, the best place for you to be is wherever you feel most productive or wherever suits your schedule. This might be from a home office or a local cafe, the airport, or some far-flung exotic country.
That’s the beauty of remote self-employment and being your own boss – you get to choose where and when you work. You can even claim tax relief on your allowable home office running costs and travel expenses.
When it comes to finding work and reaching clients in the online world, freelance websites and social media platforms are going to be your best friends.
There are lots of freelance websites and platforms which are designed to match gig workers with clients. On these types of websites, you will find digital ads calling for freelancers to fulfil jobs, which could be anything from a 30-second video voice-over to a three-month contract for a graphic designer.
These online spaces provide amazing opportunities to reach clients all around the world and the chance to work on projects you wouldn’t be able to access locally. Some popular freelance websites to check out are:
- Fiverr: Easy to use with no joining or subscription fees. Advertise your service and wait for somebody to request a ‘gig’. You get 80% of the fee and Fiverr gets 20%.
- Upwork: Sign up, create a profile and then actively bid on jobs posted by clients. Upwork is free to join and as of May 2023, the platform takes a flat 10% fee of what you earn.
- PeoplePerHour: Clients can post jobs for freelancers to bid for, or freelancers can pitch packages for clients to consider. You apply for an account and once accepted, you get a set number of bids and quotes per month. You can buy credits to increase this allowance.
- Freelancer.com: On this platform, clients list projects that freelancers bid for. The client then selects a freelancer to ‘award’ the job to. Freelancer.com has a selection of subscription bands that give you access to a range of bids and rewards. The platform takes 10% or $5 of the winning bid for fixed-price projects, and 10% for hourly charges, whichever is highest.
However, it is also worth looking in less densely populated online spaces to boost your chances of standing out. Some other great examples of freelance websites where competition might be a little less intensive include Flexjobs, Bark, Toptal, and Guru (which is specifically for voice over gigs).
Their global nature means competition for jobs can be pretty intense on these freelancing platforms, often leading to lower fees and tighter deadlines. Be aware, and ensure you aren’t overcommitting or underpricing your services when negotiating.
When running a freelance business online, using social media to build a client base can be an invaluable tool.
Social media might not be relevant for some freelance services, but it can have benefits for those that it suits. Professional channels like LinkedIn can be particularly fruitful when it comes to connecting with paying clients who need your services.
Here are some top tips to make your social media accounts work harder for you:
- Pick your platforms wisely: Only use the social media channels that are relevant to your industry. For instance, a freelance finance consultant might have more difficulty finding leads on TikTok or Snapchat, so a different platform could be more efficient.
- Search strategically: Use the search feature on social media platforms to find posts and conversations related to freelance opportunities. Target phrases like ‘hiring freelance [insert specialism]’ or ‘freelance job’ and set up alerts for these keywords too.
- Make a good digital impression: Ensure your chosen social media profiles are complete, professional-looking and free of any grammatical errors or typos.
- Be active: Share regular content that is original, engaging and shareable to expand your reach and get your name out there. Posting examples of your work allows your online audience to get a taste of what you have to offer.
- Interact in the right places: Join and follow freelance job boards and groups on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Clients will often post on job boards and social media groups so it’s a good opportunity to snap them up.
Consider your clients’ needs
Another important thing to remember when working as a freelancer is that some clients might require you to work from their base or office from time to time. This could be for ad hoc meetings or on a more structured, regular basis if you’re working under a contract.
Make sure you clearly establish if this is going to be the case from the very beginning so you can manage expectations about how much you can realistically commit to working on-site.
Find more expert advice and resources in our freelancer information hub.