HR 21 January 2016

Exclusive statistics: Busting the myths of freelancing

Freelancers are a great way to maintain a flexible workforce
Freelancers are a great way to maintain a flexible workforce
Simon McVicker, director of policy at the Association of the Independent Professional and Self Employed (IPSE), addresses many of the myths surrounding the work of freelancers in the UK.

Month by month we see ever greater numbers of people becoming self-employed. Have no doubt, this is an overwhelmingly positive and life changing decision, and once done, most never go back to regular employment.

But far too often the freelance community can find itself at the mercy of critics who peddle myths on freelancing in a bid to deter those from taking the leap. Research from an IPSE national survey found that almost nine in ten (86 per cent) freelancers agree they are very satisfied working on a freelance basis.

it’s high time we address these myths and take a look at the real truths.

Myth one Most freelancers have been forced into working this way

One of the main drivers behind the surge in those who work for themselves is sometimes thought to be the lack of jobs available or at least, a lack of worthwhile jobs. It has been suggested that in the absence of conventional employment people are forced to work for themselves instead.

But this is far from the truth. The number of freelancers who started out with no other option remain a minority, just ten per cent. And the satisfaction levels speak for themselves; our research shows only two per cent are now actively looking to become a regular employee. In addition, figures from ONS show fewer people are leaving self-employment than ever before.

A recent report from Citizens Advice revealed over two thirds (67 per cent) of self-employed people are never or only occasionally stressed about their job, compared to 58 per cent of employees. This may explain why self-employed people are more likely to report feeling satisfied with their work than employees.

Myth two The growth in the number of freelancers is just a blip

The number of freelancers has grown significantly since the recession. This has led some to believe that the strength of the sector will be short-lived, and that when were enjoying a strong period of economic growth, things will return to “normal” and many freelancers will move back into permanent roles.

However, this ignores the fact that according to ONS figures, the number of freelancers has been increasing at a steady rate since the 1990s, long before the recession began. Much of this growth is due to industrial and technological changes and demographic trends. For instance, freelancers over 50 account for around half the increase since 2004, while the growing number of women freelancers has also contributed 40 per cent of the freelancing workforce in the UK are now women, up from about 25 per cent in the late 90’s.

Myth three Most new freelancers are in low skilled jobs

Some critics question whether the types of businesses freelancers operate are of a “serious” nature.