New research from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) shows almost a quarter of freelancers (24%) report their businesses returning to pre-pandemic levels, while nearly a third (29%) predict the easing of restrictions on Monday will give an added boost to their businesses. A fifth (19%) said their businesses had been largely unaffected by the pandemic.
The research tallies with IPSE’s latest Confidence Index, which found highly skilled freelancers’ average earnings had risen 20 per cent in the last quarter – back to pre-pandemic levels. It also showed their confidence in the performance of the UK economy over the next 12 months had risen dramatically in the last quarter to the highest level since Q4 2015 – before the EU referendum.
IPSE’s latest research also showed that of those freelancers whose business performance had not returned to pre-pandemic levels, one in five (19%) expected it to do so within the next six months.
Of the significant proportion of freelancers (57%) whose business performance was still adversely affected by the pandemic, however, 40 per cent said they feared it would take over a year to return to pre-pandemic levels. The ongoing damage to their businesses may be compounded by other factors, as nearly four out of five (79%) said they were concerned about the impact of IR35 on their business and over a third (37%) said they were still worried about the impact of Brexit on their business.
Freelancers also had many continuing concerns about the impact of the pandemic, with 51 per cent saying they were worried about finding work or clients, over a third (37%) saying they were worried about reduced demand for their services and one in five (21%) expressing worry about increased competition from other freelancers. Over a third (36%) also said they were concerned about the possibility of a third wave. Just under a quarter (24%) said they were worried about the health impact of having to commute to client premises, almost a fifth (17%) said they were worried about the level of on-site protection available and a further fifth (20%) said they were concerned about stress levels and their mental health as the economy opens up.
Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE, said: “This research shows that despite the remaining challenges, many freelancers are seeing a big boost to their businesses because of the Roadmap and the opening up of the economy. Always at the leading edge of the economy, many freelancers are raring to go and ready to drive the recovery.
“It is not an entirely positive story, however, as there are still many freelancers whose businesses have not only not yet recovered – but are being held back and undermined by the changes to IR35. And, as we have seen in recent news, this has pressed many into working through as yet still drastically underregulated umbrella companies. To unleash the full economic potential of the sector, there is a clear need for government to look again at the damage done by the pandemic – particularly the issue of debt relief – and also the impact of the IR35 changes, and consult on a long-term plan for the future of the freelance sector.”