UK freelance workforce reaches over four million

Number of businesses hiring freelance support has hit a 40 year high, more than doubling year on year

The freelance workforce has risen 14.7% to a 40 year high of 4.6 million according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), with a growth of 150% in the number of firms hiring freelancers.

According to research released by PeoplePerHour, work in design witnessed the biggest demand for freelance support (36%), followed by web development (23%) and writing (14%). However the most dramatic change is the growth in companies hiring outsourced support in software development (197%), social media (196%), and translation (168%).

Released to tie in with National Freelancers Day today, the report identified the range of skills which have experienced the fastest growth: research writing topped the list, followed by manual and academic writing skills, then IT support, custom website design, social media and blog development.

In regards to specific skills employers are looking for from the freelancing community online, the top 10 were design, website development, web development, identity design, writing, business support, web design, logo design, WordPress development and web writing.

Although the number of people choosing self-employment looks set to continue to grow, ONS’s figures also reveal that financial management needs to be considered as the average income has dropped 22% since 2008/9.

Rich Preece, VP and country manager of Intuit UK, emphasised how technology can help:

“Going it alone can be scary and this is often borne out of the stress of managing finances and ensuring HMRC compliance.

“For example, using cloud-based accounting software gives access to cashflow and profit and loss statements instantly, which saves time searching through piles of documents. Freelancers can now have a complete overview of the numbers on their smartphones, tablets or laptops instantly, enabling fast and informed decisions.”

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