Whichever set of figures you look at, there is a clear consensus that the Independent Professional sector in the UK is experiencing rapid growth. Whether people operate as a sole trader, limited company or as part of an umbrella company, they are classed as an independent professional.
Many people start by earning money for freelance work alongside a day job, before taking the plunge and being self-employed on a full-time basis. Others try self-employment after redundancy or redeployment.
People Per Hour – a portal offering small work opportunities for freelance workers – has predicted that it could be as soon as 2020 that more than half of the UK’s workers are Independent Professionals. So what is driving this continuous growth in the sector?
As recently as 20 years ago, many people only used technology at work and had little or no hardware of their own at home. Nowadays, a typical home might have several computers. Someone considering going freelance probably has a good enough computer already, and even upgrading to a new one is not prohibitively expensive.
Better still, bandwidth speed and availability of internet services has increased continuously in recent years. It’s often possible to get a faster connection on a 4G mobile device than would have been possible on a fixed internet connection in the early 2000’s. This makes remote working and even activities like Skype video calling significantly easier.
In many sectors – particularly IT and Marketing – more of the work that needs doing revolves around distinct projects requiring very specific skills. In those instances it makes no sense for a company to employ a highly-skilled person on a permanent basis. This creates an opportunity for an Independent Professional to earn relatively high rates of pay for short-term projects
The minimum wage, living wage and pensions auto enrolment have made it more expensive to employ permanent staff in the UK. This has meant that businesses are more open to the idea of working with external freelancers and contractors. Although they may be more expensive in the short term, they only need to commit to working with them for as long as they are needed, without expensive redundancy payments.
Many people choose to work independently for lifestyle reasons. This sometimes conjures up images of a freelancer sat on a beach with their laptop, but the reality is that most people choose freelance work not because it will be easy, but because it gives them more flexibility. Typically they end up working just as hard as in their previous job – or often even harder – but get greater flexibility over where and when they do the work. For example they might pick their children up from school during the working day but then complete any unfinished work on the evening when their children are in bed. This same level of flexibility is rare in an employed role.
Another reason that companies are more open to employing Independent Professionals is that they need to be more flexible in order to find the right people. Because unemployment has been low in recent years, employers can’t afford to be quite so picky as to how they get certain work done. Also in some sectors – and IT is again a prime example – most of the people with particular skills and knowledge prefer to work independently anyway.
So clearly, the Independent Professional sector is thriving and it looks likely that the sector will continue to offer significant opportunities for those who enter it. If you’re an Independent Professional or you’re thinking about becoming one in the near future, we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the risks as well as the opportunities so you can make sure that you enjoy the many benefits of working independently.
Contact us if you’d like to discuss insurance for your work as an Independent Professional
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