Freelancing - a £200bn question
Who wants to be a freelancer?
It would seem that the term freelancer was first coined in 1819
by Sir Walter Scott in his novel Ivanhoe.
Scott describes Italian and French mercenaries as “freelances,”
meaning they were free men who offered their services (in this
case, their skill with a lance) to wealthy land owners.
Today the term conjures up all sorts of images but usually all
A freelance artist or journalist, say, is generally perceived to
be a free agent, a creative person who can ply their trade
unfettered by the narrow imagination of a gallery owner or an
Free and unfettered they may be, but like all self-employed
people there are, of course, the pros and cons familiar to all
those who operate without any kind of safety net to earn a
What do we know about the contribution freelancers make to the
Well, for many individuals, it has been the silver lining of
these times of austerity, as gifted people the length and breadth
of the county – finding themselves made redundant or worse – have
had to re-invent themselves into something new, all the experience
garnered in their previous working life now forged into something
As I write, according to the Office for National Statistics
(ONS), there are 4.2 million people working as freelancers in
Britain – that’s 14% of the workforce.
Seventy per cent of these earn more than the average salary. In
fact, the average salary of a freelancer is £50,820, some £25k more
or thereabouts than average for an employed worker.
However, before all of you who work in the public sector or for
large corporations rush out and hand your notice in, consider the
A quarter of freelancers do not take any annual leave and those
who do continue working while on holiday (and as a freelancer
myself, don’t I know it!).
Furthermore, one in four freelancers accepts that they will not
be in a position to retire until after the age of 70 and a sizeable
proportion work in excess of 50 hours a week.
The ONS estimates that last year freelancers contributed a
staggering £202 billion to the British economy.
Yet unlike other sectors like banking, insurance or publishing,
they have no collective voice – nobody shouting their story from
Thr Chinese Year of the Snake, starts on February 4, 2013.
We don’t need any more snakes in British business so I would
like to suggest that we make 2013 the British Year of the
Freelancer so that this under-recognised, hardworking category of
entrepreneur is rightly lauded for their epic contribution in
pulling Britannia up by the bootstraps and out of economic