Freelance Trends and Today’s Self-Employed Workforce

The average age of a UK freelancer is 47 and self-employed Mums are on the rise, according to a recent report from The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) and Kingston University.

Self-employment still on the rise

The report reveals that between 2008 and 2017, the number of the solo self-employed increased by 34%, an increase mainly driven by the expansion of the highly skilled freelance sector. The solo self-employed now constitute 14% of the UK workforce and brought £271bn to the UK economy in 2017.

The highest proportion of the UK’s solo self-employed work in the construction and building trades (487,000), followed by artistic, literary and media occupations (320,000); there were also high numbers of road transport drivers (292,000), managers and proprietors in other services (236,000) and people working in agricultural and related trades (210,000).

Men still dominate self-employment overall, and 65% of the solo self-employed are men. Half of self-employed people are between 40 and 59, and the average age of a self-employed person is 46.

The face of freelancing

The report defines freelancers as solo self-employed people working in the top three highly-skilled occupational categories and estimates that they contribute nearly half (46%) of the £271bn contributed to the economy by the self-employed. Coincidentally, freelancers account for 46% of the 4.4 million-strong solo self-employed population – just over 6% of the entire UK workforce – and their numbers have risen by 46% since 2008.

The largest freelancer occupational groups are artistic, literary and media occupations (16%), managers and proprietors in other services (12%), functional managers and directors (7%), teaching and education professionals (7%) and information technology and telecommunications professionals (5%).

The rise of the freelance Mum

IPSE found that the gender divide is much less marked among freelancers. 43% of UK freelancers are women and their numbers have risen by 67% since 2008, while the number of freelance mothers has doubled. In contrast, the number of male freelancers has risen by just 33% over the same period.

Corinne Stuart, IPSE’s head of commercial development, said: “In the last eight years, more women than ever before have recognised how invaluable the flexibility of self-employment can be, allowing them to both earn an income and spend time with their children. For many, it is also a vital means of moving back into the workforce.”

She said the Government needed to recognise how “liberating and beneficial” self-employment can be and ensure self-employed mothers have the assistance and support they need, including making them eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay.


In 2017, freelancing mothers represented 14% of the overall UK solo self-employed, with the majority working in two of the three highest occupational categories: associate professional and technical occupations (137,000) and professional occupations (125,000). There are also approximately 123,000 self-employed mothers working in caring, leisure and other service occupations, e.g. childcare and travel services.

It’s obvious that more and more skilled women are finding freelancing can provide a different way to continue their career alongside raising a family, offering a flexibility that few employed roles can match.

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