Report uncovers the truth about UK freelancers

A new study has highlighted the diverse nature of the UK's freelance population, allowing policy-makers to provide better support for self-employed workers based on their circumstances.

The report by the Centre for Research on Self-Employment (CRSE), in conjunction with the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), has found that the majority of independent professionals are happy working for themselves.

However, a significant group of self-employed workers - including cleaners, drivers, carers, labourers and those in artistic occupations - are struggling with insecurity and lack of control.

The report divides independent professionals into nine distinct segments, defined by variations in earnings, independence and security. Key findings include:

  • Eight of the nine segments of the solo self-employed - those who do not employ anyone - are as satisfied, or more satisfied, than employees doing similar jobs;
  • Over half (53%) of the solo self-employed workforce have high levels of independence and security;
  • However, 15% have little autonomy or control over their work;
  • One in five solo self-employed workers - over 825,000 people - are classified as "insecure".

Simon McVicker, director of policy at freelance body IPSE, said: "This report is a hugely significant step on the road towards securing a fair and decent deal for the UK's self-employed. By properly segmenting and showing the true diversity of the self-employed sector, CRSE and IES have dispelled the myth of uniformity once and for all.

"Now, whenever policy-makers address the self-employed sector, there is no excuse for them to adopt heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all approaches. From now on, they must take a properly segmented approach and give each segment of this vital and burgeoning sector the specific support it needs."

Also this week, new research by IPSE shows that while freelancer confidence is up 12 percentage points compared to the previous quarter, it remains at "worryingly low levels because of Brexit and Government policy".

Suneeta Johal, IPSE head of research, said: "Freelancers again cited Brexit and the negative consequences of Government policy as their primary concerns. This could be linked to worries that changes to the way freelancers are taxed in the public sector could soon be extended to the private sector."

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