How competitive is freelancing in the UK?

The exact number of freelancers in the UK is tricky to accurately predict as the number is constantly changing. It can also depend on how freelancers are defined or counted, or how many are entering and leaving the market at any given time.

According to a report by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), there were almost 5 million self-employed people in the UK in 2020, and it’s likely that the number has continued to grow.

This figure includes UK freelancers who are sole traders and encompasses other types of self-employment.

Another study projected that the gig economy would grow substantially through 2022 and put 7.25 million people under the ‘UK Freelancer’ banner.


What jobs are available for UK freelancers?

Jobs in the UK freelance market span many different industries and all kinds of skill sets. Some examples of common freelancing jobs in the UK include:

Writing and editing

Freelance writers and editors are in high demand in the UK, and can work on a variety of projects, including journalism, content creation, copywriting, and proofreading.

Graphic design

Freelance graphic designers can work on projects such as logo design, brochure design, and website design.

Web development

Freelance web developers can work on a wide range of projects, including website design and development, e-commerce development, and mobile app development.


Freelance photographers can work on a variety of projects, including events, portraits, and product photography.

Digital marketing

Freelance digital marketers can work on projects such as search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, email marketing, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.


Freelance consultants can work in a variety of fields, such as finance, human resources, and IT.

Translation and transcription

Freelance translators can work on projects such as translating documents, websites, and software and transcribe them into written copy.

Virtual assistant

Freelance virtual assistants can provide a range of services, such as scheduling appointments, managing email and social media accounts, and data entry.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are many more jobs available for freelancers in the UK depending on the skills and expertise needed.

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How can I get started as a UK freelancer?

For those who are considering embarking on a new career, working as a freelancer in the UK may be a viable option. You will need some sort of marketable skills, and a reasonable amount of self-motivation.

Organisational talents will come in useful as will some basic understanding of business accounting – UK freelancers are responsible for paying their own taxes and National Insurance contributions. While you can hire an accountant to manage the details, you will still need to be aware of legal requirements.

Provided that you are determined to move ahead, there are several steps you can take to get started as a freelancer in the UK:

Identify your skills and experience – Determine what skills and experience you have that can be offered as a freelancer. Think about what type of work you want to do and what services you can offer to potential clients.

Research the market – Find what services are in demand and what rates are being charged by other freelancers in your area. This will help you to set competitive rates for your own services.

Create a portfolio – Develop a portfolio of your work that showcases your skills and experience. This can be used to attract potential clients and demonstrate your capabilities.

Network – Attend networking events and join online communities to connect with other freelancers and potential clients. This can help you to build relationships and find new opportunities.

Create a website and social media accounts – Create an online presence for your freelancing business. This will make it easy for potential clients to find you online and learn more about your services.

Register as self-employed – You will need to register as self-employed with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and inform them of your intention to start trading as a freelancer. You will then need to submit a self-assessment tax return each year.

Get insurance – Consider getting insurance such as Public Liability Insurance and Professional Indemnity Insurance to protect yourself and your business. If you are working from home this may not be relevant, but if you are planning to have an office or business premises where you meet with clients, you might need to look into it.

Market your service – Gain potential clients by reaching out to them directly, through networking, or find work through online platforms like LinkedIn, Upwork, and Fiverr.

It’s worth noting that starting a UK freelancing career can be challenging and takes a lot of hard work, but once you have established your client base it can also be very rewarding. With a clear plan, good time management, and a willingness to work hard, you can turn your skills into a successful UK freelancing business.

What pitfalls and challenges do UK freelancers face?

A typical UK freelance career will follow an arc. This typically begins with an individual starting out as a freelancer, working on smaller projects, and steadily building a portfolio of work.

As they gain experience and a reputation in their field, they may start to take on larger and more complex projects, and may also begin to build a network of clients and collaborators.

As a UK freelancer progresses in their career, they may also begin to take on more management and administrative responsibilities, such as invoicing and bookkeeping. Or alternatively, they may choose to outsource these tasks to an admin person or virtual assistant.

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Pitfalls and challenges faced by freelancers in the UK include:

  • Difficulty in finding steady work and consistent income
  • Challenges in building a reputation and network of clients
  • Struggling to set and negotiate rates
  • Trouble managing finances and keeping track of expenses
  • Hard to maintain a good work-life balance
  • Problems in getting paid on time and dealing with late payments
  • Difficulty in keeping up with changing laws and regulations related to UK freelance work.

It’s also worth noting that freelancers in the UK do not have the same legal protections and benefits as traditional employees, such as sick pay, holiday pay, and pension contributions.

UK freelancers will have to take care of their taxes and National Insurance payments, but there are also things like health insurance and pension contributions to consider.

Finding work as a UK freelancer

One of the biggest hurdles that a UK freelancer will face is of finding and attracting good paid work. Finding jobs and clients can be managed by having a clear plan and understanding your target client. Once you know WHO you are marketing to, it will be easier to target them.

There are several ways to find jobs as a UK freelancer and one of the most obvious options is searching online job platforms.

Freelance marketplaces such as Upwork, PeoplePerHour, and GigLeads are great places to find freelance jobs. These platforms connect UK freelancers with clients, some from all over the world others focus primarily on the UK, and each offers a variety of job opportunities in many different fields. Websites like ProBlogger and Freelance Writing Jobs are specifically designed for freelance writers and other creatives and are great places to find freelance work in those fields.

Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can be great places for UK freelancers to connect with potential clients and find work. Networking, or sending cold pitches to introduce you and your services to potential clients can help freelancers in the UK to build a strong online presence and help you find new work and opportunities.

One of the most powerful ways to find work as a new UK freelancer is by word-of-mouth. Ask friends, family, and colleagues if they know of any opportunities, and don’t be afraid to ask your previous clients for referrals, reviews, or testimonials.

Many towns and cities have job fairs and career events that may have some opportunities for UK freelancers and joining a professional association related to your field can be a great way to connect with other professionals and find freelance work.

Finding work can take time and persistence and it can be a frustrating process for many UK freelancers. It’s a good idea to have a strategy in place to market your freelance services effectively and to be prepared to follow up on leads and opportunities.

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