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

 

5%

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

 

7%

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

 

Flexibility

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

Taking stock: Assessing the impact of IR35 reforms in the private sector

What's in the full report?

The report examines the impact of the changes to IR35 across the self-employment sector by evaluating how engagements have changed since the introduction of the reforms, how companies are making status determinations and the impact that the changes have had on freelancers and their incomes. The report also explores levels of satisfaction for those now working through umbrella companies on a range of different aspects and highlights some of the areas for concern.

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Supporting the self-employed: Assessing the concerns and support needs of the sector

What's in the full report?

The report examines how concerns have changed in light of the pandemic and IR35 reforms and what further support and benefits freelancers now require to make a success of their businesses. It also reviews the extent to which freelancers feel supported by the UK government and concludes with a series of recommendations on how government and industry can better support the sector.

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Lockdowns and support gaps

Counting the cost of the pandemic on self-employment

This report examines the impact of the pandemic, over a year on from its onset, on freelancers’ businesses and income whilst also reviewing the approaches taken by freelancers to mitigate against the pandemic and their plans for the future. The report also focuses on how the pandemic and gaps in economic support have influenced freelancers' attitudes towards government.

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Opening of the UK economy

Opening of the UK economy

As we enter the next stage of the government's roadmap out of lockdown, we examine the impact that the lifting of restrictions has had on freelancers. This report also seeks to understand how long freelancers predict it will take before their businesses are operating at pre-pandemic levels and what concerns they have as they start to rebuild. 

Opening of the UK economy

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

The Self-Employed Landscape Report 2019

Looking back at 2019

Last year's report looks at the demographic and occupational trends of the solo self-employed sector in the UK in 2019 with a focus on highly skilled freelancers. It highlights some of the key changes between 2018 and 2019 and since 2008. The report was developed using data from the Labour Force Survey extracted by Kingston University.

The Self-Employed Landscape Report 2019

What Makes a Freelancer 2020

What's in the full report?

‘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.

What makes a freelancer? January 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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