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Surprising Freelancing Statistics UK Edition [2024]

Ever thought about going freelance? Sounds tempting to be your own boss, doesn’t it? But what if it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

Did you know that in 2021, there were 1.9 million freelancers in the UK, but the number decreased by 11% compared to 2020? Contrastingly, the number of self-employed people has actually decreased by 5% that same year.

If this caught your attention and you would love to inform more on the freelancing statistics UK, check out these highlights we’ve lined out, before continuing with the article.


Top 10 Freelancing Statistics UK

  • Around 1.9 million people were freelancers in the UK in 2021.
  • The most popular UK freelancing sector in 2020 was Business Support.
  • Freelancers contributed £147 billion to the UK economy in 2021.
  • The average age of freelancers in the UK in 2020 was 48 years old.
  • In 2020, 54% of freelancers in the UK were men, and 46% were women.
  • 69% of surveyed participants said that the UK’s demand for freelance work had decreased due to COVID-19.
  • Artistic, literary, and media were the most popular freelance occupations in the UK in 2021.
  • Captivating almost half of all freelancers in the UK, London and the South East were the two most prominent UK regions in 2021.
  • The best city for UK freelancers in 2020 was Manchester, with 125,690 Wi-Fi Hotspots and low property costs.
  • 276,000 freelance moms accounted for 15% of the total freelancer population in the UK in 2021.

Now, let’s dive into a more detailed report.

Freelancing Statistics UK: by Occupation

How many freelancers were there in the UK in 2021?

In 2021, 1,863,981 people were freelancers in the UK

The number of freelancers in 2021 decreased by 11% compared to 2020.

Since freelancing is a subdivision of self-employment, let’s see how many people were self-employed in the UK in 2020.

In 2021, 4.1 million people were self-employed in the UK

Interestingly, in 2021, the number of self-employed people in the UK has decreased by 5% compared to 2020. 

Flexible working hours is one of the most significant benefits of freelance work. It is entirely up to the freelancers to divide those hours throughout the week, giving them the opportunity to use their time more efficiently. Check out how many hours do freelancers work in the UK:

On average, UK freelancers work 27 hours a week

Alongside flexible working hours, another notable benefit must be the fact that you can choose where do you want to work from. You can work from home, a local coffee shop, even from your friend house if you like, it is totally up to you. 

79% of respondents, based on HubbleHQ’s survey, have said that the most beneficial thing related to working from home is that there is no commute

We presented the top five freelancers’ occupations in the UK in 2021 alongside the number and percentage of people who did these freelance jobs.

Occupation Number of freelancers % of freelancers Change from 2019
Artistic, literary, and media 310,791 17% Decreased by 3%
Managers and proprietors in other services 121,542 7% Decreased by 44%
Teaching and educational professionals  136,922 7% N/A
Functional managers and directors 99,764 5% Decreased by 26%
Sports and fitness occupations 97,953 5% Rose by 2%

We can notice that the most popular freelancing jobs accounted for almost half of all UK freelancers.

To see which freelance roles are most in-demand, check out the following table. It presents the freelance skills that earned the most significant amount of searches in 2019 in the UK, revealed by microbizmag.

Searched phrase The average number of monthly searches
Freelance Graphic Designer 2400
Freelance Web Designer 2000
Freelance Web Developer 1700
Freelance Writing 1700
Freelance Photographer 1500
Freelance Copywriter 1400
Freelance Designer 1000
Freelance Accountant 870
Freelance SE0 700
Freelance Marketing 660
Freelance Translator 520
Freelance Social Media Manager 470
PPC Consultant 390
PPC Freelancer 270
Freelance SEO Consultant 260
Freelance SEO Expert 250

Money SuperMarket’s research revealed the most popular freelancing sectors based on regional freelancing data in the UK.

  • The most popular sector was Business Support contracting 22% of freelancers in the UK, followed by Design and Writing & Translation with 20% and 17%.
  • Sales and Marketing accounted for 13% of all freelancers in the UK.

Somewhat surprising are the percentages of Digital Media sectors – Video, Photo & Audio as well as Website Development with 9% of UK freelancers each. Following suit are Software, Development and Mobile accounting for 6%, followed by Social Media with 4% out of all UK freelancers.

Freelancing Statistics UK: Market Size

Before getting down to how many freelancers contributed to the UK economy, let’s look at how much self-employed contributed to the UK economy in 2020?

  • Solo Self-employed contributed £303 billion to the UK economy in 2021.
  • Freelancers contributed £147 billion to the UK economy in 2021.

Freelancers have a significant role when it comes to their contribution to the UK economy. They present almost 50% of the contribution generated by self-employed personnel.

If you consider becoming a freelancer yourself, you will be interested in knowing some of the most popular freelance platforms in the UK in 2020:

Upwork, PeoplePerHour, Guru, Freelancer, Contently, Aquent, and 99designs.

Freelancing Statistics UK: Demographics

We will start with UK freelancer demographics by age in 2021. 

Freelancers between the ages of 40-49 and 50-59 years were the most prominent age groups in 2021, with 409,000 and 493,000 freelancers, respectively. Together, these two groups accounted for 48% of all freelancers in the UK

Since 2020, the number of freelancers in every age group has decreased, the only exception being the 16-29 age group which has increased by 3%. The 30-39 age group had the largest decrease compared to 2020, falling by 11%. All of this leads to the average age of freelancers in the UK in 2021 being 48 years old.

Let’s see some freelancing statistics UK by gender.

In 2021, 54% of freelancers were men, while women accounted for 46% of freelancers in the UK

Since 2020, the number of highly skilled freelance women has decreased by 6%, which is about 58,000 people. Simultaneously, the number of freelancing men decreased by 14%, equating to around 169,000 individuals.

Freelance work is gaining popularity among working mothers in the UK.

  • The number of freelance mothers decreased by 14% compared to 2020.
  • 276,000 freelance moms accounted for 15% of the total freelancer population in the UK in 2020.

It is unsurprising that freelancing is gaining traction among moms, undoubtedly due to the coronavirus pandemic and partially because they want to spend more time with their children.

If you consider becoming a freelancer yourself, the following freelancing statistics UK should interest you as they are related to the best cities for freelancers in the United Kingdom.

  • According to Money SuperMarket, Manchester was the best city for freelancers with 125,690 WiFi Hotspots and low property costs.
  • Brighton & Hove came second, with one of the highest numbers of startups in the UK (14,765).

Edinburg offered nearly fifty thousand WiFi Hotspots and a high hourly rate of almost £30, while Belfast got the best grades for life satisfaction and provided about 44 thousand WiFi Hotspots. London was ranked fifth, even though it offered a high average hourly rate of £30 and had more than half a million startups.

These were the top five best homes for freelancers, but what about actual freelancers’ geographical distribution in the UK in 2020.

Between 2019 and 2020, the number of freelancers in the UK increased in:

Region: Increase percentage:
Wales 44%
Northern Ireland 5%
Yorkshire and Humber 3%

On the other hand, freelancer numbers decrease between 2020 and 2021, was seen in:

  • West Midlands, where this number dropped by 26% or 43,000 people.
  • Scotland, where the number of freelancers dropped by 21%, is equal to 31,000 people.
  • East Midlands and London with decreases of 18% and 16%, respectively.

Captivating 45% of all freelancers in the UK, London and the South East were the two most prominent UK regions in 2021.

Comparison of UK Freelancers With Regular Jobs

As we already mentioned, one of the most significant benefits of freelancing is flexible working hours and escaping 9-5. If you are a night owl, you can work at 2 or 3 am and sleep until noon. You got a doctor’s appointment at 3 pm; it’s not a problem since you can work whenever you please.

We can all agree flexibility is an excellent freelancing trait, but how many hours freelancers spent working compared to regular employees in the UK?

  • As we previously stated, UK freelancers work 27 hours a week. 
  • Over the years, full-time employees have worked approximately 37 hours a week on average.

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, since as a freelancer, you are not legally entitled to a paid holiday.

Employees are entitled to at least 28 days of paid vacation leave a year, while self-employed people don’t have these rights

As a freelancer, you can get as many days off as you want., but keep in mind that it’s a kind of double-edged blade – those days will be unpaid.

Regular employees don’t have to worry about the consistency of their salary. However, freelancers do, as their work is usually irregular, and the same can be said about their paycheques.

A logical question imposes itself – How much do freelancers in the UK make compared to employees?

The average salary for full-time employees in the UK in 2020 was about £31,500, while for freelance jobs, it was around £65,000

You should keep in mind that this freelance average is based on 1,179 respondents and that the overall average is most likely slightly different. 

The following table presents the highest paying freelancing jobs in the UK in 2020.

Jobs / Positions: Annual income:
  • Lawyer 
  • Investment Consultant
  • Software Developer
  • Architect
  • Music teacher
  • Business consultants
  • Yoga Instructor
  • Accountant
  • Interior Designer
  • Web Designer

Freelancing Statistics UK: COVID-19 Impact

For all of us, coronavirus is a troublesome matter. It’s not only a health crisis but an economic one as well, which has a majority of freelancers concerned.

91% of UK freelancers in IPSE’s survey conducted in March 2020, reported they are worried about the COVID-19’s impact on their jobs

Worryingly, 81% thought that their income would reduce in the next three months, 12% expected it would remain unchanged, while only 3% assumed it would rise.

The following freelancing statistics UK from the same survey are also not bright and promising.

69% of participants said that the demand for freelance work in the UK had decreased due to COVID-19, 53% reported that the decrease was extensive

On the other hand, 19% of respondents said that the demand for work has remained stable, while only 7% said it had grown. As such, we can see that a rather small portion of freelancers in the UK wasn’t negatively affected by the pandemic.

Check out other risks that freelancers in the UK thought COVID-19 would bring.

  • 74% of respondents believed they would be at risk of experiencing contract delays or cancellations.
  • 68% of participants in IPSE’s survey feared they would utilise nearly all of their savings, while 60% of freelancers worried about losing their clients due to COVID-19.

It would seem the global pandemic stirred up quite a bit of trouble in the freelancing world, making some ponder whether their freelancing careers would survive the economic impact that is yet to follow.

Wrap up

2020 was expected to be a good year for freelancing. However, it would seem like the coronavirus had other plans. Will its impact reflect on freelance trends in the future, and how significant will its impact be?

We will closely monitor future freelancing statistics UK and keep you updated. But for now, we hope we provided you with all the information that you needed.

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