The self-employed landscape

The solo self-employed landscape has been growing rapidly over the last ten years. However, with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic we are starting to see declines in the sector.

At IPSE we strive to understand the sector as much as possible through our research programme. Each year we conduct research with Kingston University to understand the demographics of both the overall solo self-employed sector and the highly skilled subset of freelancers. Through this research we also look at changes from the previous year and since 2008, when we released our first report.

In addition to our annual research we also run projects to understand why so many people are choosing to go freelance, how they work and where they work. You can find all of our reports looking at the who, the why and the how of self-employment in the sections below.

Key findings



There was a 5% drop in self-employment between 2019 and 2020

£316 billion

The solo self-employed contributed an estimated £316 billion to the UK economy in 2020



The number of self-employed men has dropped by 7% since 2019



The key reasons people go freelance are for the flexibility (88%) and control over work (88%) it offers.

The Self-Employed Landscape Report 2020

What's in the full report?

This new report looks at the demographic and occupational trends of the solo self-employed sector in the UK in 2020 with a focus on highly skilled freelancers. It highlights some of the key changes over the last year and since 2008. The report was developed using data from the Labour Force Survey extracted by Kingston University.

The Self-Employed Landscape Report 2020

Recent reports 


The Self-Employed Landscape Report 2019

As self-employment continues to grow in size and significance, it is vital that we strive to better understand this section of the UK working population. That is why IPSE and Kingston University produce an annual report on the demographics and characteristics of the solo self-employed.

Self-Employment in the Modern Economy in 2018

This report provides a demographic snapshot of the entire solo self-employed sector in 2018 and sheds further light on the makeup of the crucial highly skilled freelance workforce. This edition also focuses on the key changes and trends in the sector over the last 10 years.

IPSE Report: What Makes a Freelancer?

‘What makes a freelancer?’ explores some of the key reasons that the UK population are increasingly turning to freelancing. It also highlights some of the challenges they encounter in self-employment and the areas where freelancers need more support.

The True Diversity of Self-Employment

The True Diversity of Self-Employment has been produced by the CRSE in conjunction with the Institute for Employment Studies. The research found that there are nine distinct segments which make up the UK’s solo self-employed population, defined by their economic wellbeing, independence and security.


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