It’s a question that’s asked regularly, and one with no concrete answer. That’s largely due to the fact that calling yourself a “freelancer” is a matter of self-identification, rather than a formal legal status. A freelancer can be:
Likewise, a person who identifies as a freelancer might also choose to call themselves:
- A contractor
- A consultant
- Any number of sector-specific titles.
So arriving at a concrete figure for the number of freelancers in the UK is an impossible task. However, there are various data sources we can use to get a rough estimate.
Office for National Statistics Labour Market Stats
Released monthly, the Labour Market Statistics report records the makeup of the UK’s workforce through sample surveys. Self-employment data was included in the report from 1992 onwards.
As of August 2018, the LMS estimate that 4.77million British workers are currently self-employed, though it’s a little less clear how many consider themselves freelancers.
Companies House workload statistics
Every month, Companies House publish how many new limited companies they form. According to their report released in April 2018, the total number of registered companies surpassed four million for the first time ever. But again, it’s impossible to know how many of these identify as “freelancers”.
IPSE and Kingston University regularly issues reports on the number of freelancers in the UK, arriving at an estimate by tallying numbers of workers by sector and employment status. In 2019, they estimated the number of solo self-employed workers in the UK had reached 4,425,000 – over double the number of self-employed workers in 2016.