UK freelancing ‘on track for a shot in the arm from cost of living crisis’
The cost of living crisis could do for freelancers what covid didn’t -- actually boost the numbers of self-employed.
Paul Farrer, chairman of recruitment firm Aspire made this bold suggestion in an interview with FreelanceUK, after he revealed a three-fold increase in the number of wannabe freelancers.
Pointing to data on the firm’s database, Farrer said the number of workers searching for freelance roles leapt from 9.6% at the start of 2022, to 31.3% in the year’s second half.
'Growing demand for flexible project workers'
The growth is at odds with the overall volume of self-employment seen in the UK during the last national crisis – the covid pandemic, when sole trader numbers actually dipped.
Usually in times of economic and financial pressure (which lockdown and other restrictions resulted in) people tend to ‘go it alone,’ either due to redundancy, squeezed wages, or desire.
While that spike in entrepreneurship failed to emerge during covid, Farrer yesterday said his firm saw “growing demand for flexible, project workers” at 2022’s close, due to jittery hirers.
'Freelancers essential during lean periods'
“In economic uncertainty, the agility and skills of freelancers are essential in helping businesses ride out lean periods and capitalise on growth opportunities,” he told FreelanceUK.
“You only have to look back at past recessions. Economic uncertainty has acted as a catalyst for freelance work, with businesses relying more than ever on the flexibility and skills of temporary workers, as they look to navigate peaks and troughs in demand.”
Self-employment in the UK totals some 4.7million according to the 2021 census released on December 8th 2022.
The 4.7 million total includes 748,000 self-employed sole traders who operate with employees, and 3.8 million self-employed sole traders who operate without employees.
'More people taking on second jobs and side-hustles'
Yet based on what Mr Farrer’s creative, digital and media agents are currently seeing, the solo self-employed population is primed for growth.
“The rising cost of living….is seeing more people take on second jobs and start side-hustles,” the agency chairman said.
His firm’s new “Workplace Trends Report” corroborates, showing 28% of Aspire candidates to have had a side-hustle at the end of 2022, and an extra 20% say they want a side-hustle.
“This suggests there will be a rise in people taking on freelance work to supplement their income,” the trends report is due to say, when it is released later this month.
'Don't rule out early retirees'
But having founded the agency back in 1992, the 59-year-old now believes that members of his own generation could be about to provide freelancing with a fillip.
“Don’t rule out the return of early retirees to the freelance jobs market,” Farrer told FreelanceUK last night.
“The cost of living crisis is eating into the savings of those who had carefully budgeted for an early retirement and so, for these people, freelancing and consulting roles provide the perfect opportunity.”
Last month, Indeed.com said it too was seeing signs of workers aged 50 and over “returning to the labour force”.
While the job site did not specify whether the returnees might favour freelance opportunities, it did say that the influx would need to be sustainable if skills shortages are to abate.
“That trend will have to continue in order to help ease hiring challenges across the economy in any material way,” said Indeed’s economist Jack Kennedy.
'Retraining could be key'
“The number of inactive people aged 50-64 still stands over 300,000 above where it was on the eve of the pandemic.
“[Nonetheless], offering older workers the information, retraining opportunities, support and flexibility to re-enter the workforce [could] be key”.
A marketing, digital and creative industries employment agency Major Players, says that its stock of candidates aged 45+ has increased by 2.2 per cent.
Measured in June 2022, the annual increase was disclosed alongside data showing “a trend towards turning freelance [between] the ages of 35-44”.
The agency also found that while more than a quarter of candidates went freelance at this mid-thirties-to-mid-forties juncture, new freelancer representation by the “over-45s” was even higher -- 37 per cent.
From Aspire’s offices yesterday, its global managing director Terry Payne said: “[Our database] shows that the number of people considering freelance roles has tripled over the course of 2022 -- from around 10% to 30%. We expect this trend to continue growing in 2023, as people look to boost their income at this difficult time”.
6th January 2023