In this article we delve into freelance statistics in the UK to find out which careers are most popular amongst freelancers and which types of freelance skills are the most in demand in 2020. We also have a chat with some successful freelancers to find out why they chose to go down this career route and what they enjoy about most freelancing.
UK Freelance Industry Statistics 2020
- Graphic design and web design are (based on Google search data) the most in demand freelance skills.
- There are currently over 2 million Freelancers in the UK
- For the majority (1.77 million), working on a freelance basis is their main occupation, whereas for others, taking part in Freelance work tends to be part of a secondary job role.
- Freelancers are extremely valuable members of the UK workforce, currently contributing approximately £125 billion to our economy.
Which freelance roles are most in demand according to search statistics?
To find out which types of freelance skills have the most demand in the UK, we conducted some keyword research to find out how many searches are made each month for a variety of freelance skills. To do this we used the tool Keyword Finder which allowed us to see the average number of monthly searches for each term over the past year.
The table below shows the freelance skills that received the highest volume of searches over the last year.
|Search term||Average number of monthly searches (UK)|
|Freelance Graphic Designer||2,400|
|Freelance Web Designer||2,000|
|Freelance Web Developer||1,700|
|Freelance Social Media Manager||470|
|Freelance SEO Consultant||260|
|Freelance SEO Expert||250|
As you can see from the table, the most in demand* skills from freelancers are held by Graphic Designers followed by Web Designers, Web Developers and Freelance Writers. Freelance photographers, copywriters and designers followed closely behind, receiving over a thousand monthly searches each. Certain skills, we reckon, are likely to retain their place on this list! As more people look to get side hustles and online businesses like ecommerce stores started, designers and freelance web devs are likely to be in demand for the long haul.
*We’ve based this research on the assumption that many of the people searching for these terms are likely to be in the process of looking to hire a freelancer with the required skill.
And of course, none of these even accounts for the phenomenally fast growing area of gig workers.
So why are these skills so popular and in such high demand?
Rapid advancements in technology (particularly those since the turn of the century), appear to have created the perfect windows of opportunity for many workers to go solo. Accounting software, wifi, file sharing services, video calls, and more, are beginning to make running your own business, or going Freelance successfully, a much easier venture than it once was.
A recent report from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) has also observed this correlation, identifying a significant growth in the number of highly skilled freelancers over the past decade, with the number of Freelancers in the UK increasing by 46% from 2008 to 2017.
The IPSE’s policy development manager Jordan Marshall comments, “Being self-employed allows young people, in particular, to work on the projects they are truly passionate about, when and where they want. Technology has made this all so much easier, whether finding work through online platforms or even being a ‘digital nomad’ – travelling the world while doing remote freelance work”.
What are the most popular roles amongst freelancers?
A study conducted by the price comparison site MoneySupermarket has found that the most popular sectors for freelancing in the UK are:
- Business Support (22%)
- Design (20%)
- Writing and Translation (17%)
- Sales and Marketing (13%)
- Video, Photo and Audio (9%)
- Website Development (9%)
- Software Development and Mobile (6%)
- Social Media (4%)
As you can see from the list above, the most popular sector amongst Freelancers in the UK is Business Support (22%), closely followed by Design (20%). Writing and Translation is the third most favoured area, accounting for 17% of all Freelancers in the UK.
Is going freelance worth taking the risk?
As with any career option, there are many benefits and potential drawbacks to becoming a Freelancer. We spoke with professional photographer Simon Pendrigh, who has worked on a freelance basis for the past 15 years after taking redundancy from a regional newspaper group in the UK.
Why did you go Freelance?
“I decided to become a Freelance Photographer at a time when a lot of the newspapers were having to let go of their staff. I found that the opportunities that came with going freelance were far greater than working for someone else.”
Were there any drawbacks of setting up on your own?
“I did worry about not having a steady income, but I had 30 years experience behind me, and a large network of contacts so I soon realised that wasn’t going to be a problem. When it came down to it, I was willing to work really hard to build good relationships with current and potential clients and I’m passionate about what I do, which is most important in my opinion.”
So how did going Freelance affect your personal life?
“I was much less stressed without having deadlines looming over me, staff to manage, etc. It really benefited my health, and it meant that I could spend more time with my family, and work on my own terms, which really made a difference for me.”
We also had a chat with Hana Bednarova who spoke to us about her experience in becoming a Freelance Digital PR Specialist.
What made you choose to become a Freelancer?
“I always wanted to do my own thing. I worked for some great agencies and I enjoyed every minute of it, however, I always wondered what it would be like to be my own boss and to be the sole decision maker when it comes to work that I do and for whom. I went freelance back in 2017 and I would do it again over and over. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Do you find Freelancing challenging?
“It can be difficult at times, you are the only one, so it can get lonely and also very busy and frustrating. But it’s also very rewarding. You are in charge of your workload, income and time.”
We hope this article has provided you with a good insight into the world of Freelancers in the UK in 2020. For more industry statistics surrounding different types of career paths, head over to our recent post on Micro Business Statistics in the UK.