The invisible independents

There’s been an explosion in the number of people who are choosing to work freelance, and yet, when official employment figures are published, freelancers and independents manage to fall off the radar. Why is that?

It’s simple. The way that the government monitors this information is out of date. According to the number crunchers, employment is binary: you’re either an employee (employed) or you’re unemployed. Actually, government has a vague term for what they think is in-between, ‘self employed’ or ‘part time’, neither of which describe our tribe.  Worse than that, the term ‘small business’ is often used.  This is often inappropriate, as some independents and freelancers don’t consider themselves to be businesses in the strict sense of the word.

And the media?  They are obsessed with pointing out that the rise in numbers of self-employed reflects the fact that people can’t get full time or ‘proper’ jobs. For a long time, the establishment has dismissed our sector as negligible, because we don’t employ anyone and because we aren’t as visible. Though that’s not completely true. Whilst we might not directly employ people, we create projects, outsource, associate and build teams.   We work in a way that is fluid, without binding overheads and fixed costs.

Why does this matter?

Why don’t we just carry on doing our thing?

1. We count

Without knowing how many of us there are, and who we are how does the Government create meaningful policies that enable growth and sustainability?  How do larger businesses find us in order to trade?  How do communities help us develop, and how do we build bridges with them?

2.  Inequality

We still live in a ‘them vs. us’ culture, where freelancers are at best seen as a stop-gap for when times are tough, and at worst a black economy.  Without proper measures, freelancers have no power, making it difficult to show evidence that the world of work has changed, or to encourage employers towards a more fluid and innovative workforce.

We simply don’t have the same access to incentives as small businesses: unless we pigeonhole ourselves as such.  It is almost impossible to get a loan, or mortgage if you are self employed. And yet, freelancers and homeworkers use the transport system less.  They still spend, but often in a less damaging way to the environment, online and choosing to work at times that is more sensible for them and their clients.

3. National well-being

Forget work/life balance.  That suggests that the two are incompatible.  If you freelance, work from home or consider yourself an independent, research shows you are likely to be happier, despite the uncertainty.  Freelancers and independents are mutually supportive and there is a strong sharing, reciprocal economy amongst us.

Many freelancers and homeworkers play an important role in their local economies too.  There is enormous potential to marry the requirement for desk space and facilities for entrepreneurs and the freelance population with the way we think about our high streets.  The knock on effect of this would that they spend with other retailers in the local economy.

We have an ulterior motive of course. We’d like a new way to measure the size of the sector and contribution that we make to the UK economy.

We’d like tax & other incentives to encourage growth, and we’d like the government to encourage local authorities to provide much needed facilities to bring homeworkers together for peer support and reciprocal exchange.

We want to correct the imbalance in our working economy.  We want to help create a workforce where freelancers, freethinkers and independents have equality. That’s why we’re petitioning government. We want to help the government connect with this thriving group and make working for yourself something that you aspire to.

You can sign the petition here. It might just be the first step towards making working for yourself equal again.

Who is Alex Butler

Hello, I'm Alex Butler and I founded the KindredHQ community and blog back in 2011 after I re-started a freelance career. I LOVE freelancing and I wouldn't swop the freedom, control and joy of working for myself for anything. But I realised how much I missed the company and energy of other people - of having a team around me. So, I got a few people together one day with our laptops, a jar of coffee and some jelly babies and we sat and worked together one afternoon. We've been doing that every week in London, UK since then! I am still 100% freelance and I like to share the everyday highs and lows of being a freelancer here on the blog.

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