The growth of self-employment in the UK economy is often interpreted negatively, with claims that this is a second-class status, unstable, and enforced through necessity. But new research focused on the creative and digital industries demonstrates that freelancers enjoy good incomes and are satisfied with their employment.
With creative industries accounting for a growing proportion of the UK economy – greater than construction, advanced manufacturing, and financial services – this research is significant in showcasing the stability of self-employed individuals. Britain’s digital economy is already one of the strongest markets in the world, with the UK creative industries generating £71bn in revenue each year and supporting just under two million jobs.
Freelancers earn a median income of £42,857 (FTE) and work an average of 38.2 hours per week. Their wellbeing is in line with national averages, and they enjoy this mode of work and its autonomy. Indeed, the majority prefer to be self-employed (94 per cent), rather than being an employee.
“Freelancers achieve good results in terms of earnings and growth rates, showing, at the same time, a high level of wellbeing. Freelancing emerges as both a lifestyle and a working-style choice, a viable option to combine a fulfilling professional career with other aspirations, such as the personal, familial, altruistic, or artistic,” say Dr Roberto Camerani, co-investigator on the project and a research fellow at the University of Sussex.
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In addition to London and local business, international revenue is important to nearly a quarter of the research’s respondents (24.7 per cent). Many aspire to develop products and services and see running a company with employees in their future. Over 40 per cent already have registered Ltd companies.
“This research shows that self-employment is not a second-best mode of work for these creative-digital-IT freelancers,” says Dr Jonathan Sapsed, principal investigator on the Brighton Fuse project and research fellow at CENTRIM in University of Brighton’s Business School.
“The overwhelming majority prefer this status and are looking to expand their self-employed activities. Many freelancers simply dream of greater and greater independence and choice in how they spend their working lives.”