The top 5 UK cities for freelancers and the self-employed.

Words, hubbul

With over 4.8million people now working for themselves in the UK, freelancing, contracting and self-employment continues to grow across each city, town and region of Britain. As independent working ingrains itself further into society, and increasingly becomes the new way of working up and down the UK, the debate surrounding which city is best suited for the self-employed inevitably intensifies.

Do typically higher earnings in London counter-balance the cost of living in the capital? Does better quality of life in Manchester for example, make up for potentially lower day-rates? And does living on the coast and working fewer hours make freelancers happier?

Recent research into 5,010 UK self-employed workers carried out by Intuit Quickbooks has revealed all. After asking independent workers about the number of hours worked, financial status, life satisfaction, holiday sacrificed, loans taken out to cover expenses and of course, average income, the top five cities in the UK to be self-employed have finally been announced. 

5. Sheffield

Earning an average of £24,791 from 27 hours of work per week, 85% of self-employed people in Sheffield reported their life satisfaction as the same or better in comparison to a salaried worker. 70% also believe their financial status is the same or better than employees.


4. Brighton

Independent workers living in the notoriously creative city of Brighton on average earn £35,589 each year, and work 27 hours weekly. 81% of freelancers surveyed reported the same or better life satisfaction since going solo, while 65% enjoy the same or an improved income than employees.


3. Edinburgh

People working for themselves in the Scottish capital earn on average £35,285 each year, and work 28 hours per week. 84% say their life satisfaction is the same or better than being a salaried worker, while 70% believe their financial situation is better or at least equal to that of an employee.


2. London

Unsurprisingly, London ranks high in the top UK cities for the self-employed. On average, self-employed Londoners earn £35,779 a year, and work 27 hours per week. 84% report the same or better life satisfaction in comparison to employees, while 66% claim their financial status is the same or better than that of an employee. 


1. Southampton.

The south-coast city of Southampton is, according to this study the UK's top city for the self-employed. With higher than average earnings of £39,024 each year from 26 hours of work a week, 83% of self-employed people say their life satisfaction is the same or better than those working employed. 71% report the same or improved finances compared to life as an employee.

The stand-out benefits for freelancers, contractors and self-employed people in Southampton were; control over their own schedule (79%), greater flexibility to work on their own terms (69%), and being their own boss (68%).


Suneeta Johal, IPSE’s Head of Research, Education and Training, explained that these results prove freelancing and contracting is thriving across the entire UK.

“This interesting and invaluable study shows that right across the UK – from Edinburgh to Southampton – it’s possible to enjoy a high quality of life as a freelancer. Not only that, this study also confirms what our own research has suggested: that wherever they are in the UK, freelancers and the self-employed can enjoy a level of financial security and life satisfaction that is at least as high as – and in many cases higher than – salaried employees.” 

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