Recent data has revealed that freelancers and the self-employed will contribute more than £125bn to the economy in 2021. There are more than 5 million self-employed workers in the UK, making up 15% of the country’s workforce. Despite contributing substantially to the economy, freelancers have been neglected through the pandemic.
Millions of freelancers were unable to claim grants under the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). This included the newly self-employed, who did not file a 2018-19 tax return, company directors, or those who earned more than £50,000 or had less than half their income from self-employment.
So, how have freelancers survived the past year? Unfortunately, the lack of resource allocated for freelancers has caused them to go back in-house and seek permanent employment; the ONS estimates that almost 300,000 workers changed their status from self-employed to employee between the second and the third quarter of 2020, the highest number since 2005.
Other freelancers have pivoted or altered their service offering, adapting to the new ways of working that have emerged with the pandemic. The ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, the new rules and regulations from Brexit, and the combined financial turbulence of the past year mean that many firms are struggling. This is the ideal time for businesses to bring in expert but temporary talent, helping to integrate a new, more flexible ethos to firms who are looking to bring in new business models and cater to business models.
With the freelancer sector proving so important to the economy and recovery, Avalyn Kasahara, co-founder of Future Strategy Club urges the government to make the self-employed a priority for pandemic recovery:
“Freelancers often get overlooked by the government. This year has been particularly tough for freelancers, with many not eligible for financial support. It’s crucial that the government rethinks support for self-employed individuals, and extends SEISS to all freelancers until the end of the pandemic.
“Freelancers are a vital part of our economy, with more than five million self-employed people in the UK, representing 15.3% of workers. Freelance talent is particularly important at the moment, as short-term, outside talent can bring a fresh perspective to businesses who are struggling, and integrate a new, more flexible ethos to firms who are looking for the best way to accommodate new business models and legislations. In a time of economic turmoil and uncertainty, funds and resources may be low, utilising freelance talent also allows firms looking for specific talent to find it quickly and without breaking the bank.”