Freelancing has flatlined over 2019, according to a new survey, with Brexit cited as the main factor holding back businesses.
The freelance sector is “flatlining” because of Brexit pressure, with 80% saying they are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, according to research from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed and PeoplePerHour.
The latest Confidence Index from IPSE and PeoplePerHour shows that not only is freelancers’ confidence in the wider economy stuck in deep negative territory, but their confidence in their own business performance is low and their pay has fallen since last year.
Freelancers’ pay fell by 17 per cent in the first three months of 2019 and remained almost unchanged this quarter, according to the Index.
Freelancers are also finding less work than they were at the end of last year. In Q4 2018, freelancers were on assignment 79 per cent of the time, but this fell to 75 per cent last quarter and has remained completely unchanged.
Confidence in the wider economy is also stuck in deep negative territory, says IPSE. Although freelancers’ confidence in the economy over the next three months rose slightly, from -36.3 to -27.4, they remain deeply pessimistic about the performance of the economy over the next 12 months (-38.0). One reason for the difference between the two scores could be the belief that there is likely to be some movement on Brexit soon, says IPSE.
Freelancers’ confidence in their own businesses is marginally positive in the short-term, but low in the longer-term. Confidence in business performance over the next three months rose from -0.7 last quarter to 3.5 this quarter. Confidence in business performance over the next year, however, dipped slightly from -6.1 last quarter to -6.7.
Moreover, 70 per cent of freelancers predict their business costs will increase over the coming year. Freelancers cite Brexit as the biggest factor holding back their business performance, closely followed by government fiscal policy relating to freelancing. The third most important negative factor was government policy relating to hiring freelancers.
Ryan Barnett, IPSE’s Economic Policy Advisor, said: “The level of prolonged and profound uncertainty we are experiencing is uncharted and dangerous territory for freelancers. It’s led to the sector flatlining across a range of measures. But there is still a risk that things could get worse.
“Eighty per cent of freelancers are opposed to a no-deal Brexit because they know the immense damage it could do to their businesses. What the freelance sector needs from government now, like the rest of business, is a way out of this chaos that does not lead to the disaster of a no-deal Brexit.”