CEO Update May: shaping IPSE membership, tackling late payment, supporting new freelancers and more

Although the news may have seemed a little slower over the last month than the tumultuous start of the year, it’s a hugely important – and uncertain – time for the self-employed sector. Not only is the impact of the changes to IR35 rippling through the contracting sector; the financial impact of the pandemic is still keenly and disproportionately felt among the self-employed. And, although there may be a roadmap to recovery, with the damage the sector has suffered and the structural shift from the IR35 changes, there are serious doubts about whether freelancers will be able to take full advantage of the opening up of the economy.

CEO update from Derek

Research: understanding is everything

In this uncertain time, when different forces are rumbling below the surface and reshaping the self-employed sector, it is more important that we get a clear sense of our members’ and the wider sector’s concerns.

This month we are running our Membership Survey, to understand the needs, desires and situation of our members and, above all, what they want from their membership. It’s a relatively short survey, and completing it is vital for us to understand what our members want – in everything from key issues to campaign on to benefits and events. If you are a member, I urge you to take it now.

As the country moves through the steps of the government roadmap, we are also trying to understand the impact this will have on freelancers: whether the sector is ready for the opening up of the economy and how much factors like IR35 will hold it back. It’s a one-minute survey – for members and non-members – and, again, it helps enormously with our research and understanding.

The impact of IR35

At the start of last month, the changes we have persistently campaigned against for the last 4 years and more came into effect. As I mentioned in my last update, we are also doing more than ever to support members through these changes. And, whether you are a member or not, I would urge you to check our newly updated advice pages. In the media, too, we are working to advise and support freelancers as much as possible through this period – at the start of April, with our Policy Director Andy Chamberlain doing an extended advice segment on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Now, as the impact of the changes ripples through the contracting sector, we are monitoring the situation closely, continuing to support freelancers and working to ensure we give our members the support they need however the situation settles. In the longer term, we are also now working up research on the impact of tax rules on the self-employed sector to drive our campaign for a root and branch reform of the self-employed tax system.

More issues, more impact

While we are still pushing hard on a fairer freelance taxation system, we are also doing more than ever on many other crucial policy issues. This last month, for example, we were asked to join the government and the Small Business Commissioner’s Prompt Payment Code Board, to help tackle the serious problem of late payment. Our research shows that freelancers who are overdue client payments are owed an average of £5,140; and, in the pandemic more than ever, this is money freelancers simply cannot afford to wait for. The new Board and our seat on it will go a long way to tackling this damaging problem.

This last month also saw our Policy Director Andy Chamberlain giving evidence to the House of Lords Youth Unemployment Committee on the many problems facing young freelancers after the pandemic: from the rise in late and non-payment to debt and lost job opportunities.

We are also working to have a direct impact in this area, with the launch of our new Incubator. It’s a 12-month startup programme to guide new freelancers through the challenges of launching out on their own – not just for young self-employed, but anyone launching into working for themselves). If this applies to you or anyone you know, find out more here.

NFD and the freelancer community

The situation is still difficult for many freelancers right now – not only because of the disproportionate financial damage from the pandemic, but also because of government-made problems like IR35. In these circumstances, we believe it’s more important than ever to bring freelancers together. After the great success of last year’s award winning virtual National Freelancers’ Day, NFD 2021 will be online again – so you can come together with the rest of the UK freelancer community wherever you are in the country.

This year NFD’s focus is preparing your business for the post-pandemic world. Things are still difficult for many freelancers, but by bringing together self-employed people from across the country for expert advice and guidance, we hope to help you get ready to make the most of the opportunities to come. If you haven’t got your tickets yet, find out more and sign up now.

This last month saw the launch of another way to bring freelancers together: our new IPSE Member Meet-Ups. Capped at 35 attendees, these are a new way to bring our members together, encourage peer-to-peer advice and generally maintain and build the IPSE community. If you are a member, find out more in our events pages.

With the challenges still arrayed against the self-employed sector, things are by no means as sunny as they could be for freelancers as the government rolls on with its roadmap. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some rays of optimism for the sector: above all through freelancers continuing to come together and support each other. We will continue to find new ways to not only bring this about, but also push to make the policy, tax and business environment better for freelancers – post-pandemic and beyond.

Membership Survey

If you're an IPSE member, please complete the survey by following the link below and share your experiences of IPSE, what you value and what you feel could be improved. It’s the members that make IPSE, so we want to make sure your views are at the centre of all of our decisions.

Membership Survey

IR35 Hub

For 20 years, IPSE has been not only campaigning against IR35, but also advising contractors and the self-employed on how to navigate it. Learn more about IR35 and how it may affect you by visiting our IR35 Hub.


National Freelancers Day

National Freelancers Day is IPSE’s biggest event of the year – a celebration of all things freelance, and an opportunity for self-employed people across the country to look to the year ahead.

Learn more


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