State of self-employment in the UK

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As the landscape of self-employment continues to evolve in the UK, this report takes a considered look at the current challenges and prospects facing the self-employed sector in the UK.

As societal needs and professional expectations evolve, the demand for flexible and highly specialised services continues. This places considerable demands on self-employed business owners and freelancers to adapt and innovate in response to changing market conditions. Amongst these challenges, freelancers and self-employed workers play a crucial role in meeting the diverse needs of their clients, delivering tailored solutions that help them to stand out and thrive in the economy.

In this comprehensive report, Markel presents a nuanced exploration of the intricacies and opportunities in the self-employed sector. It also draws upon insights from industry experts taken from a survey of freelancers, as well as a plethora of industry data. Together, this provides an in-depth view of the self-employed and freelance landscape and explores the various factors that can impact the future of freelancing.

Fundamental to this report is an understanding of the indispensable contributions freelancers and the self-employed make to our economy across various sectors while grappling with a range of challenges. This includes everything from financial constraints and access to benefits to the need to adapt to an increasingly competitive marketplace. However, even facing these types of pressures, freelancers remain resilient and driven to succeed in their respective industries.

Over the past year, self-employment rates in the UK have had a noticeable increase of 2% from April to June 2022 to the same period in 2023. This growth has been driven by various factors, including the need and desire for flexibility and independence.

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Executive summary

Self-employment plays a crucial role in driving economic growth and innovation. It creates a dynamic and flexible workforce, allowing individuals to create their own opportunities and contribute to the economy. However, the landscape of self-employment in the UK continues to evolve, reflecting shifting economic trends, challenges faced and changing work preferences. This comprehensive report provides a detailed analysis of the current state of self-employment, exploring challenges, opportunities, and demographic breakdowns within the freelance workforce.

According to the ONS, as of January 2024, the number of self-employed workers in the UK stood at 4.33 million. And while this is a sizeable figure, the numbers have fallen from an all- time peak of just over 5 million in Q4 of 2019.

However, the demand for flexible and specialised services from hiring businesses continues, placing considerable demands on freelancers to adapt and innovate in response to changing market conditions. While the cost-of-living crisis continues to cause challenges for most people, freelancers are also feeling the pinch, with over half (51%) citing that they are experiencing irregular income due to economic issues. In fact, in the list of top 10 challenges freelancers and self-employed people face, half of them are finance-related worries. This topic is explored further in this report.

Additionally, certain industries have seen significant shifts in self-employment rates. Notably, sectors such as public administration and defence, information and communications and finance have all seen growth, which can reflect the growing demand for specialised skills and services in the digital age. Moreover, analysis of demographics reveals interesting trends, with women increasingly participating in traditionally male-dominated industries such as construction and transportation, while men are leaving the industry for other options such as real estate.

We looked at not only the issues and daily complications that come with freelance work, but also the benefits that come with it. And even with the financial insecurity, 92% of those questioned in the survey would still opt for the freelance life over the traditional 9-to-5.

To predict the way self-employment is going, we also reached out to freelancers and self- employed individuals to see what they expect for the future of freelancing.

Self-employment in the UK is characterised by both challenges and opportunities and is a dynamic environment for freelancers to navigate. While financial instability, limited access to benefits and rising living costs remain significant hurdles for many, there are plenty of growth opportunities and many Brits have been seizing them.

As a freelancer or self-employed person, working to navigate these challenges, and importantly leverage growth opportunities, it is essential to prioritise risk management and protection in the long run.

But what is public liability insurance?

Public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance can be crucial safeguards, offering financial protection against unforeseen liabilities and legal claims. Public liability insurance covers businesses against allegations of personal injury and property damage claims made by members of the public. Professional indemnity insurance protects against claims of negligence or errors in professional services.

By investing in comprehensive insurance coverage and adopting strategic initiatives to tackle the challenges identified in this report, freelancers can safeguard their businesses and capitalise on emerging opportunities.