For many people the word ‘freelance’ has been synonymous with the words ‘unemployed’, ‘casual’ or ‘just a hobby’. In other words, someone not to be trusted with creating professional content that businesses are willing to pay for.

While plenty of people call themselves ‘freelancers’ and manage successful businesses under that title, some freelancers advise you to stay away from the word entirely so you don’t put anyone off hiring you.

Well, things are changing. A recent report published by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) shows the extent of the contribution that freelancers make to the UK economy. The report shows the figure at £109 billion, that’s just over the last 12 months and is said to be a conservative estimate. It is estimated to be worth more than the automotive industry. The report added that the likely reason for this contribution to the economy is that freelancers tend to be highly-skilled specialists in their fields.

Anna Soubry, small business minister has said that the government is keen to support freelancers. “Freelancers know their trades inside out and make a massive contribution to our economy, so it is absolutely right that the government does all it can to support them,” she said.


Why are more people going freelance?

In 2015, the amount of people freelancing rose to 1.91 million, up 36% from 2008. 1.65 million of them consider freelancing to be their main job. A further 255,000 say it’s a second job for them.

In total, freelancers are thought to make up 6% of the workforce. This number is growing, perhaps partly because of job prospects. Unemployment is at high rates, particularly for young people who end up making most of the freelancer numbers.

Another reason for this increase is the easy access to instant, global communication and information. The Internet is full of tools, videos, blogs, tweets and courses dedicated to supporting fellow freelancers and encouraging more people into this lifestyle. Businesses are increasingly looking for people to create online content and are turning to freelancers for it.

IPSE Chief Executive Chris Bryce said, “large firms, and increasingly, SMEs are tapping into this growing pool of independent workers who are available on demand, with the specialist skills to hit the ground running.’ He also said that a rise in the numbers of people freelancing is unlikely to slow down any time soon.

There seems to be a greater need for flexibility in work with more companies making an effort to address the work-life balance problem. Some businesses are inspired by Sweden where flexible working is increasing in popularity with many companies now introducing much shorter working days.

Freelancing cuts out the middle man and allows people access to a more flexible, independent method of earning a living. You can choose your own hours and clients. You can turn down work that you don’t want to do, something you usually can’t when you are working for someone else.

It’s seen as an ideal lifestyle for parents with young children. Many parents turn to freelancing, not wanting to be forced back into full-time work straight after having children. Freelance work can fit around parenting and other responsibilities that are hard to fit into the traditional 9-5 office job. IPSE have been campaigning on a number of issues affecting freelancers including parental leave support and other employee benefits that freelancers get little support with.

Do you think opinions on freelancing are improving? What were your reasons for going freelance? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


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