Will freelancing make you happy?

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The UK workforce has evolved dramatically in recent years, as millions of us take the brave leap into self-employment. As it stands, these entrepreneurs make up 15% of the entire UK workforce - a record 4.8million freelancers, contractors and independent workers who have changed the face of the labour market forever.

And the advantages and disadvantages of working this way are well known. Self-employment versus employment is the debate that has been done to death. So who better to tell us about the day-to-day challenges of freelancing and contracting than a group of independent workers themselves?

‘To be or not to be a freelancer’, a study from IPSE, dives deep into the realities of self-employment. In addition to shedding light on the link between freelancing and life satisfaction, the overall findings are clear – independent workers are people who desire control over careers. Even with its difficulties, working for yourself can have a significantly positive impact on your wellbeing.


84% of freelancers are satisfied at working this way, with a reported three out of five independent workers actively choosing to go self-employed. The study suggests that those who chose freelancing went solo to strike a better worklife balance, to have greater control over their work and for the opportunity to maximise their earnings.

It speaks volumes about the benefits of self-employment that 70% of the two out of five people who did not actively choose to work independently are satisfied nonetheless.

Added risk and responsibility is unavoidable for freelancers and contractors. And the stress that comes with sourcing new clients, lack of security and managing finances could understandably get the better of some. That said, a telling 95% of freelancers and contractors agree that they can typically handle these challenges.

With regards to their work, 91% of independent workers are proud of the projects they’ve completed, with 69% feeling inspired. At 67%, the vast majority of freelancers are motivated when they wake up in the mornings too.


When it comes to the financial side of freelancing, 54% feel financially secure, with just over half of respondents stating their confidence in the availability of work in the marketplace. Continued efforts from Government to shut-down tax avoidance with radical changes to the tax system has, in many respects, reduced the benefits of self-employment. This hasn’t stopped 64% of freelancers from stating that they aim to continue working this way for the foreseeable future. 29% will carry on working independently for the short-term but have not ruled out employment in the future, while just 3% of freelancers surveyed are actively seeking an employed role. 

For the majority of UK freelancers, independent working is clearly considered a long-term and viable way of working. And despite the inevitable and unavoidable challenges, research suggests that freelancers are happy working independently.

Are you happy working freelance?

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

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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.” 

Where in the UK do you freelance from? Join the conversation...


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Freelancers most confident of striking better worklife balance.

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45% of UK freelancers and contractors have revealed they are most confident about striking a better worklife balance over the next 12 months, research by contractor tax adviser, Qdos Contractor has highlighted.

“The potential to strike a better worklife balance is one of the many reasons people choose to work independently. Working for yourself is not a decision based solely on financial gain, far from it in fact. That freelancers and contractors are most confident about striking a better balance between work and play shows that in many respects, they have their priorities in order,” Seb Maley, Qdos Contractor’s CEO explained.

The research also reveals that despite ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit, not to mention the self-employed’s lack of faith in Government, 71% of independent workers are either confident (34%) or balanced (37%) about their business performance over the next 12 months.


“That 71% majority of freelancers and contractors are either feeling confident or balanced about their business performance over the next 12 months is also positive news, particularly given recent tax changes and controversial public sector IR35 reform. Freelancing and contracting is alive, well and strong, regardless of recent and potentially incoming changes to the sector."

The research, which was put to over 700 UK freelancers and contractors also highlighted that 35% of contractors surveyed are most confident of an increase in demand for their services over the next year. Interestingly, this figure comes at a time where The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) highlighted a 12% drop in demand for contractors across the board.

Regardless of this, 13% of independent workers stated they are most positive about successfully raising their day-rates in the coming year, no doubt spurred on by the marginal growth in rates the independent workforce have experienced in the past 12 months.

The remaining 6% of freelancers are most confident in other aspects of their business, such as greater variety of work and the prospect of maturing their business.


Despite the general confident mood among freelancers and contractors, 29% are concerned about their business prospects in the next 12 months – which isn't surprising, explained Maley.

“It is entirely understandable however that 29% of contractors are concerned about their business prospects in the next year. Brexit uncertainty continues, and the independent workforce has long-standing concerns about how pro-freelancing the Government actually is. What’s clear is that the recently formed Government does now have a fresh opportunity to win back the support of the UK’s independent workforce with friendlier legislation to prove to freelancers that they are on their side.”

Which aspect of your business are you most confident in?


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