According to a recent project funded by PCG (Professional Contractors Group) and EFIP (European Forum of Independent Professionals), high skilled self-employed workers have been the fastest growing group in the EU labour market in the last decade. They increased by 45 per cent in the EU over the period 2004-2013, and even faster in the UK (63 per cent).
This project collected robust evidence and hoped to answer some of the key questions about these independent professionals, their working lives and their contribution to the creative digital economy.
The results showed that the CDIT freelancers in Brighton:
- are prosperous
- use a range of different business models in their work
- exploit cutting-edge technologies
- diversify their offer, promoting themselves in different ways to different markets
- derive their income from local, London, UK and international markets
- display unusually high levels of innovation, similar to Brighton’s CDIT firms.
Freelancers by choice
We find that few freelancers are ‘forced’ into this mode of work, but prefer it to regular employment, and intend to continue and expand their freelance activities. A small minority freelance through necessity, although many more do so to earn higher pay. Typical drivers for choosing to become a freelancer include to:
- realise personal business ideas
- achieve more flexibility and autonomy
- better manage family life
- invest time in side-projects alongside freelance work, either for product development, research and development (R&D), or passion-projects for artistic or philanthropic purposes.
There are contradictions and puzzles arising from the research relating to what we have discovered about superfused behaviour and to freelancers’ relationships with location and networks. The dynamics of clustering for freelancers appear more complex than is sometimes assumed in theories of creativity and place, based on evidence from this project.
Challenges and recommendations
In spite of their general prosperity and levels of satisfaction and wellbeing, which we compare with national averages, freelancers face barriers and challenges in their working lives, regarding finance, the practice of freelancing, and skills acquisition. We argue that this mode of work is a positive phenomenon in the CDIT sectors, not a second best to employment as is sometimes claimed, and we observe that there are aspects of law and policy that currently penalise freelancing. We offer policy recommendations aimed at facilitating and stimulating this growing and entrepreneurial category of self-employed workers.
For more information, read the full report.