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Why senior women choose the freedom of freelancing


3 min read Partner content

Over the last 10 years highly skilled women have driven a massive rise in freelancers working in the UK. These are not people who are just starting out in their career, they are experienced, knowledgeable and highly skilled, says IPSE.

Over the last 10 years highly skilled women have driven a massive rise in freelancers working in the UK. This 63 per cent increase represents a group larger than the population of Nottingham and takes the number of senior-level women freelancing in the UK to 863,000.

These are not people who are just starting out in their career, they are experienced, knowledgeable and highly skilled. Most are over 40 and the number of mothers in the group has jumped by 80 per cent.

So what is driving this trend? It doesn’t seem to be a lack of opportunities in traditional workplaces. Numerous pieces of research into the reasons for choosing self-employment show that nearly everyone who makes the leap does it for positive reasons.

IPSE speaks to people in this group every day and what shines through is that they have taken control of their lives in every respect. They can move around, sharing their knowledge and views with what are often still largely male-dominated companies and boards without the politics, greasy pole or glass ceilings. More than that, they can pick and choose how they work, when they work and who they work with. In fact, the data shows that self-employed people are happier with their work than employees.

What is in no doubt is that freelancing is a feminist issue. Women are flooding into self-employment because it works for them. It also works for the UK economy.

Freelancers and the self-employed are natural innovators, many start their own microbusinesses because they have a creative idea or new perspective that they feel gives them, and any client they work with, a competitive advantage. Professor John Kitching from Kingston University’s Small Business Research Centre, which produced the research, describes the rise in self-employment as “…one of the key competitive advantages of the modern UK economy.”

The rise is part of the general trend in the UK towards more modern ways of working as the self-employed population has risen to 4.8 million. That is one in seven workers, and they add a total of approximately £275bn to the UK economy – enough to fund the NHS twice.

All of this is good news but there are real challenges that the self-employed that need clients, government and the sector to work together to address. There is a pensions crisis brewing for the self-employed, particularly for women. The Small Business Commissioner was a positive step on late payment but he needs more teeth. The tax system for the self-employed is a mess with HMRC struggling to adapt to modern working practices and instead trying to push people back into employment, if only for tax purposes. Tellingly, in IPSE’s last survey of freelancer confidence government policies outside Brexit were considered to be more of a drag on their business than Brexit.

IPSE is ready to help deliver an economy that is modern, better for women and better for the UK as a whole. We urge the Government to join us.


The full Self-Employment in the Modern Economy Report can be seen here

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