While the wider economy experiences a dip, (was it something to do with the weather Chancellor?) the outlook for the UK’s freelancers and contractors looks somewhat brighter, according to recent research from freelance jobs portal Office Cavalry.

In fact, Office Cavalry have come to the rescue of many poll hungry writers lately, with a number of interesting survey findings. So, we thought it might be a good idea to sift through the numbers and percentage points to reveal what it all adds up to for the freelance workforce.

The following results come from a survey of 1,000 SMEs:

93% consider freelancing as the real alternative to employing permanent staff

This is arguably the biggest headline grabber and shows how businesses recognise the benefits of hiring freelancers in difficult economic times. Employing a full-time workforce is a big commitment and necessitates a more rigid business structure. In difficult economic times it pays to be more flexible.

95% are feeling good about the future of the economy – and 20% expect their business to expand

SMEs are a huge employer of freelancers (in fact they provide 60% of all private sector jobs), so the fact that they’re feeling positive is surely good news for the flexi-workforce. With 20% looking to expand, this will surely open up more opportunities for work.

38% plan to use freelancers as a means of meeting skills shortfalls

As SMEs look to expand, they are still wary of overspending on staffing levels in order to fill skill gaps. Freelancers and contractors have the expertise to meet these needs whilst enabling businesses to cut or increase staff spend without any major legislative or administrative burden. It’s a slight surprise the number isn’t bigger.

55% say freelancers are key to company growth

This is particularly positive because it signifies that freelancers are more than just a stopgap during in a turbulent economic climate. Instead freelancers are a key component of growth.

52% claim freelancers will “make a significant contribution to their workforce over the next five years”

In support of their credentials as growth drivers, freelancers will be an important part of the workforce beyond the short-term.

OfficeCavalry’s founder Andy Turner said: “SMEs are changing the way they operate. Together with improved access to finance and initiatives to do business with the public sector, we are seeing SMEs opt in favour of a more flexible way to do business – one that is cost-effective and scalable.”

Amongst the small businesses and contractors who use Crunch, we also have many freelancers who do their accounting with us. Read what some of them say about us here.