UK economy benefits from £119 billion freelance contribution


Freelancers’ contribution to the UK economy soared to £119 billion in 2016, an increase from £109 billion in 2015, according to new research published by IPSE.

This economic contribution is driven by a highly skilled, flexible workforce of two million freelancers – a 43 per cent increase since 2008.

Freelancers, who make up 42 per cent of the wider 4.8 million self-employed population, continue to be the fastest-growing segment of self-employment with a collective economic output comparable to that of the entire motor sales industry.

The full report can be viewed here.

Key findings include:

  • Freelancers contributed £119 billion to UK economy in 2016
  • An increase to two million freelancers – a 43 per cent growth since 2008
  • Numbers of female freelancers increased by 55 per cent from 2008, compared to a 36 per cent increase in males
  • 79 per cent growth in mothers working as freelancers since 2008
  • Millennials driving growth following significant 66 per cent increase of freelancers in 16-29 age bracket since 2008
  • The largest proportion of freelancers fall within the 40-49 and 50-59 age brackets – combining to represent 48 per cent of all freelancers
  • Those over the age of 60 account for 20 per cent of all freelancers.

Chris Bryce, IPSE CEO, commented: “At a vital time when the economy needs to be dynamic in the face of growing uncertainty, freelancers are providing on-demand resources to businesses allowing them to be flexible in response to change. The vast majority of freelancers love what they do, so it’s no surprise that increasing numbers of people are turning to this way of working.”

Occupational Profile

Freelancers have a highly skilled, specialised and widespread presence across all professional groups and this too was represented in the findings. The largest single freelance group in the UK are those within artistic, literary and media professions making up 15 per cent of all freelancers.

The fastest growing occupations since 2008 are health professions which have seen a significant 191 per cent increase. Artistic, literary and media roles and sports and fitness professions have also seen a 103 per cent increase respectively.

Chris Bryce, IPSE CEO, continued: “It is exciting to see that the younger generation has been enlivened by the prospect of working for themselves. The reality is increasing numbers of people want to work this way across every sector. It’s important their choice is recognised and policy makers support this trend rather than maintaining an older, less flexible employment model. We’re not living in the 20th century anymore.”

Emmeline Pidgen, Lancashire-based illustrator, added: “Freelancing has been perfect for enabling me to explore my creativity, challenge myself, and discover what it is that I love to do. It can definitely be tough to run your own business, but I love learning from everything I go through, and using that fire to drive my illustration work, and my business, to be the best that it can be.”

Meet the author

Tom Hayward

Senior Press & PR Officer