Freelance sector “flatlining” in Brexit run-up

Research by IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) has shown that the freelance sector is “flatlining” because of Brexit.

The latest Freelance Confidence Index, published each quarter by IPSE, shows that not only do freelancers have little confidence in the economy; their confidence in their own business performance is also low.
Earnings have also stagnated for freelancers, in contrast to research published on Tuesday, which found that this summer employees have received the biggest pay rise in more than 11 years.

Freelancers are struggling to find work

Freelancers’ earnings have increased by just 0.1 per cent this quarter. Freelancers are also not able to find as much work as they were at the end of last year. In the final few months of 2018, freelancers were on assignment 79 per cent of the time, but this figure has dropped to 75 per cent in the last quarter, and remains the same now.

Confidence in the wider economy is also starkly low. Although freelancers’ confidence in the economy has risen slightly, they remain deeply pessimistic about the performance of the economy over the next 12 months.
Ryan Barnett, IPSE’s economic policy advisor, commented: “Back at the end of 2018, Brexit uncertainty gave freelancers a boost as it drove clients to them instead of taking the risk of hiring permanent staff. This quarter, however, we are clearly well past that phase.

“The chaotic uncertainty of Brexit has now settled on freelancers. Confidence in business performance and in the wider economy is stuck in firmly negative territory. Pay, too, has dropped sharply from the Q4 2018 surge, as has the amount of work freelancers are getting.”

Brexit holds back business confidence

The vast majority (70%) of freelancers predict their business costs will increase over the coming year.

The main reason for this seems to be Brexit. Freelancers cite Brexit as the biggest factor holding back their business performance, closely followed by government fiscal policy relating to freelancing. Freelancers also seem concerned about government policy relating to hiring freelancers, such as IR35 legislation.

Ryan Barnett continued, “The level of prolonged and profound uncertainty we are experiencing is uncharted and dangerous territory for freelancers. It’s led to the sector flatlining across a range of measures. But there is still a risk that things could get worse.

“80 per cent of freelancers are opposed to a no-deal Brexit because they know the immense damage it could do to their businesses. What the freelance sector needs from government now, like the rest of business, is a way out of this chaos that does not lead to the disaster of a no-deal Brexit.”