After the last few years, we’ve all had a moment to sit down and face life’s toughest questions, and for many people, this has meant changing careers and taking the leap into freelancing. The number of freelancers in the U.K. is now growing at an unprecedented rate - recent surveys tell us that we are experiencing the largest surge in decades of people turning to freelance work, whilst thousands have begun registering their own businesses, which in turn has made the U.K. the second fastest-growing freelancing market in the world. And the freelance work on offer is varied - whether it is people turning their hobbies into a profitable business or workers who have a renewed confidence in their skillset and are ambitious enough to step away from company employment to seek independence.
With so much of the cultural conversation centring around mental health and a healthy work-life balance, through freelance work people have finally begun investing in themselves and are now embracing the huge benefits of self-employment. This is high time for us in the U.K., as we’ve wrongly viewed freelancing as a risky form of employment when, in reality, freelance work can be empowering and a means for skilled workers to make a fair wage and work the hours that suit them.
Freelancing before the pandemic
For years freelance jobs have been looked at with a degree of caution, and we have all heard the arguments as to why we should avoid freelancing. Whether it be to do with job security, the struggle in finding clients, or concerns over pensions - these negative ideas about freelance work have been circling for decades. On top of this, freelance work was generally considered to be a temporary solution - it was ideal work for travellers, students, or stay-at-home parents who could squeeze in a couple of hours of work between caring for children. For students, freelance work was sought out as a means to pay the bills whilst keeping enough time free for studies; freelance work was considered part-time work, and freelancers were thought to make far less than even a full-time minimum wage job. In short, we thought of freelancing work as lesser than full-time employment.
Company employment, however, has become seen as a ‘safety net’. If freelancing can’t offer job security, pension, and paid leave - employment in a company can. Yet we all know that being employed in a company has its downsides too - whether it is being overworked, underpaid, or the difficulty in getting paid time off. But these are all things that freelancers have control over. Freelancers control their workload, pay-rate and dictate their working hours, meaning no declined holiday requests!
We’ve all had gripes about working for a company - whether it's staying behind and having to work overtime, covering for a sick colleague, or having issues with a boss who is out of touch with their workforce - this list could go on and on with the possible clashes. But as soon as the topic of self-employment comes up, many of us are quick to forget our issues with company employment and revert back to a positive view of the ‘safety net.’ Our negative view of freelancing has almost become a reflex.
Embracing the change
With more and more people beginning to freelance in the U.K., it’s time that we shift the conversation and start to embrace the positives of freelancing. Self-employment has many benefits that are too often forgotten, and at the top of the list is the ability to keep a better work-life balance. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we crave more time at home and with our families than the 40-hour week allows. Many people feel restricted by rigid working hours. We know that everyone is different, so why should we all have to work the assigned working hours given to us by a company? It’s time to accept that not everyone fits into a 9 to 5 routine, there are early birds who would be better suited working from dawn or night owls who work better well after office hours.
Freelancing gives the worker the luxury of choosing their own hours. This means that workers can create a working timetable that suits them. Night owls need not be forced into work in the morning - early birds can be up and working at dawn and be finished by lunch, free to enjoy the rest of the day off.
For workers who experience burnout, they can work intensely for one month and then reduce their hours the next, making room for hobbies, social time, and holidays. Parents can use freelancing as a means to work around their children’s routine - this means that they can work and be at home to enjoy time with their children.
But freelancing work in the U.K. is not only for stay-at-home workers - Brigad makes freelancing a real possibility for workers in both the hospitality and healthcare industries. This means that people working in these industries can share the benefits of freelance work that previously have only been available to people who work from home. Both healthcare and hospitality work is difficult to balance with home and family life - both industries mainly operate in unsociable hours - but Talents are free to choose the hours that suit them and find a better balance. Using Brigad, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is easier than it has ever been for workers in these industries. A healthy work-life balance means a healthier and happier worker. What’s not to like about that? But this is only one of the unique benefits of freelancing available to hospitality and healthcare workers - there are countless more, including the ability to better connect with peers, and the opportunity to meet mentors - to learn more about this, check out our previous article here.
Who is turning to freelance work in the U.K.?
According to recent surveys, those switching to freelance work are overwhelmingly young, with the majority being Gen-Z or Millenial. But this is no surprise - the tech-savvy generation is better equipped with online platforms, and this is where the majority of freelance work is found. During the pandemic, with so many workers losing their jobs, many people who took up freelancing found that they could make a far better hourly rate from the alternative economy to their previous employment.
The average hourly rate for a freelancer in the U.K. is £14, nearly five pounds higher than the current national living wage. Freelancers who can showcase that they are skilled workers can find higher pay rates. This is a clear benefit, and there is a bonus satisfaction in being able to make a profit off of ourselves and our skillset; freelance work is personally rewarding, and so freelancers find more self-worth and accomplishment in self-employment. But we do not need to be of the tech-savvy generation to be able to profit from freelance work, and Brigad is a great example of this. The Brigad app is extremely easy to use to find great freelance work, and if you have any problems our support team are always at hand to help you.
Freelancing, a temporary form of employment? Not anymore.
The popular view of a freelance worker is of the student or the traveller - somebody looking to make ends meet while they find full-time employment. Because of this, freelancing in the U.K. has come to be seen as a temporary form of employment - a phase. But this is a myth - After all, many successful businesses started out as freelance endeavours. We forget that some of the biggest business success stories are simply of skilled people ambitious enough to market their skill set and make a profit out of it independently. In other words, these people are freelancers.
The belief that freelance workers make less money than full-time company employees is also a myth. Data shows that freelancers in the U.K. earn on average £50,000 a year! And whilst the average may have been skewed by freelancing millionaires, there are many, many hard-working, ordinary people who use freelancing full-time and make as much, if not more, as they would under company employment. People can use Brigad to find regular, secure work.
Moreover, freelancing is only as temporary as any other form of employment. In any new job we first have to get a sense of the role and whether it’s the right fit for us - whether this is to do with working hours, location, pay, or a number of other factors - and if the job isn’t the right fit, we leave. This could be within a month, a year, or even a decade. People often go through many varying roles at plenty of different companies throughout their lives - but do we consider these jobs as ‘temporary’? No. At least, not in the same way we view freelance work as temporary. But freelance work is only as temporary as any form of employment - if we make freelance work a success and it’s the right fit for us, then it is permanent.
Freelancing is the future.
The pandemic forced us all to reconsider the traditional working model. With so many industries forced to close, and so many working from home, many businesses had to undergo significant changes. Hospitality businesses had to find ways to meet COVID-safe regulations, for some businesses this meant radically changing the way they operated - whether it be developing outdoor eating or moving to a delivery service.
And yet, through all of these changes, we survived, and we began to reassess how we worked before the pandemic. With so much time spent at home, many workers realised just how unhealthy their work-life balance had been prior to COVID. More than ever, workers are becoming dissatisfied with the traditional way of working, and then it is no surprise that so many people are leaving company employment after discovering all the benefits of freelance work.
On top of this, the younger generation is reconsidering what it takes to build a career, with many workers seeing the value in building a professional - independent - reputation. This means that people want to be recognised for their work, as an individual professional.
In the freelance world, you are your brand. This scares many of us, especially in the U.K. when we are often shy, lacking in confidence and underselling ourselves. Self-deprecation is a classic British trait, and it is this negative view of ourselves that has stopped many from pursuing freelance work for years. Within self-employment there is no company to hide behind - and yet whilst this might scare some people - those of us who are passionate about delivering high-quality services will see the potential in being the face of our own work.
Freelancers who work hard and deliver time and time again will build up a respectable and professional reputation, perhaps even more so than if you were employed by a company. A reputation means consistent work, and consistent work means that you can have all the benefits normally associated with being employed by a company; consistent work means you can allocate sick days, pay into a pension and pay for a number of costly insurances.
Freelance work is for people who are passionate about their profession, as freelancers get out of work exactly what they put in. This means that hard-working, professional workers will be rewarded profitably and, most importantly, fairly. The freelance model tilts the scales and gives both value and control back to the worker.
Freelance with Brigad
The future really is freelance - and this is being understood by clientele, too. Surveys reveal that 64% of employers plan to outsource more work to freelancers in 2021. It is time for us to stop seeing freelance as lesser than company employment. Freelancing is empowering and teaches us a valuable lesson in self-worth. We at Brigad know that it is the hard-working, passionate people that make our industries so successful - this is why we are working to support the freelance model, as freelancing places value and control back into the worker’s hands.