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2021 tipped as ‘year of the freelancer’

The gig economy is expected to go into overdrive this year on the back of higher employer demand, more opportunities and the potential for freelancers to earn more money.

Almost half of UK businesses increased their use of freelancers in 2020 – and six out of ten business owners plan to use more freelancers in 2021, according to a nationwide survey carried out by online jobs marketplace PeoplePerHour.

The most popular reason for using freelancers was to introduce skills the business didn’t have in-house (67%). A total of 42% said they took advantage of flexible talent to speed up projects, while only a third (35%) said the reason they had used freelancers was to save money. Interestingly, and perhaps as a response to Covid, 28% said they had turned to freelancers to help move their business online.

The survey involving 500 business owners and 1000 freelancers found that 65% of freelancers expected their earnings to increase in 2021 and 40% felt the climate was right to increase their rates.

The PeoplePerHour website has experienced a big increase in interest, with freelancer registrations up 111% year-on-year.

However, despite the pandemic pushing one in six people out of work and into freelancing, unemployment was by no means the primary reason for choosing to make the switch in 2020. The vast majority (48%) started freelancing to become their own boss, while 43% said they wanted to gain more work-life balance.

A fifth of freelancers reported taking on more contracts in 2020. However, as the opportunities have grown, so has the strength of the market. According to the research, 57% of freelancers have seen more competition for work since March 2020.

“2021 really could be the year of the freelancer,” said Xenios Thrasyvoulou, Founder of PeoplePerHour. “Businesses are increasingly experiencing the benefits of using a more flexible workforce and people are taking the opportunity to take control of their work-life. Our research and recent performance clearly indicates there is every reason to believe that the freelance community will continue to grow over the next few years.”

“However, to be successful, it’s critical that people looking to make a success of a freelance career understand their skills and strengths and find the right company fit if they want to succeed in an increasingly competitive market. Freelancers offer true value, speed, and flexibility to organisations they assist."

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