The UK freelancer revolution


On 15 June, the BBC warned of the possible dangers of freelance work, highlighting how Britons are increasingly carving out a marketable niche in their own industry.

BBC journalists reported in the Guardian how many now earn three times as much by working on freelance projects rather than making TV programmes or specialising in other beats.

Freelancers also own their own jobs now, taking personal accounts on bank cards and doing their own taxes.

The freelance revolution is taking place alongside the rise of the information worker, who now oversees 85% of the world’s population in terms of exposure and reach.

As one of the main drivers of this growth, the Government is rightly paying more attention to the opportunities freelance work presents, as well as the dangers.

The online news business, with more than 18 million readers, represented a third of the UK’s online audience in 2014 and now is expected to make £500m (US$628m) of revenue for publishers in 2016.

But take-up of freelancers is also low, with just 30% of bloggers earning more than £5,000 per month, compared with the high 80% that earn more than £10,000 in the finance sector.

Only around 5% of the population is currently freelancing (with the global figure being much higher), but as technology changes, trends are emerging that suggest freelance work will eventually become much more common.

It may not happen overnight, but the medium of work will increasingly become “self-employed”, with an increasing number of people choosing to be sole traders rather than part of large corporations.

Paradoxically, large corporations are themselves turning to self-employed contractors to make up for what they see as a dearth of skilled workers.

The Jamboree Trust found that large employers are spending twice as much on freelance workers as they do on internal teams.

Under the “micro-salary” category, people are increasingly able to make contracts that are smaller and more flexible than those they used to sign up to.

Previously, many who made freelance arrangements were forced to undergo lengthy procedures and restricted periods of employment in the belief that long periods of economic uncertainty would mean they wouldn’t be able to come back into employment.

However, many graduates are being educated for the job market by numerous providers.

This opportunity is also making the formalisation of freelancing less important.

In the UK and many other countries, employers are opting to create simple contracts that can be freely renegotiated, so freelancers no longer need to have a structure in place with a long-term contract.

This makes the growth of self-employment even faster.

The growing popularity of freelance work also means that many new companies have no formal business structure.

We are witnessing a completely different way of doing business in the digital age, where many new and small companies don’t rely on formal financial institutions to make their money.

These, by allowing the creation of no-shops, allow freelancers to take a far more flexible approach to how they are paid – and some may be treating themselves to a flat fee instead of percentage of sales.

The new reality is both exciting and frightening for traditional business and work.

Freelancing is empowering in many ways, and represents a real way for people to make money and build a career.

There are many millennials who want to work as freelancers in order to explore new work avenues, and freelancers are also being created in equal numbers to help businesses that are struggling to find skilled workers.

The future of work looks very different from the way we usually think of work, but it is also expanding at a rapid pace.

Freelancers are enriching both the medium and the language of work, and redefining their job as a lifestyle choice rather than a requirement.

Although many employers will be seeking to secure employees with a long-term career structure, the potential new way of doing business for clients and organisations is producing exciting and innovative new ways of working.

As companies search for new ways to reduce costs, the nature of the freelance work market is also attracting new players.

The idea of a DIY workforce and of “pay as you go” could change the entire economics of the market, forcing to take serious note of the potential the new market presents.

However, it is important to bear in mind that the market is always shifting. The new flexibility could be perceived as a negative, but could also open up new opportunities for a young working adult.

There is no doubt that the changes in jobs in recent years have had a big impact on people’s world and how they work, but technology is changing everything.

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