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These are the 10 best cities in the UK for freelancers

5-minute read

Sam Bromley

Sam Bromley

23 March 2018

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There are currently more than 1.4 million freelancers in the UK, who enjoy benefits such as being their own boss and picking which projects to work on.

With flexibility a big freelancing perk, there’s a huge range of possibilities open when choosing where to live and work. Recent research from MoneySupermarket has revealed the top 10 cities in the UK for freelancers – if you're thinking about making a move or just want to compare your city, discover which hotspot took number one below.

The research ranks cities based on factors like the number of start-ups in the city, hourly rate for freelancers, and even looks at the number of coffee shops and BT WiFi hotspots available to flexible workers. In the list you’ll find capital cities, seaside towns and cultural hotspots. Could it be time for a move?

Which is the best city in the UK for freelancers?

According to the research, Manchester is the best city in the UK for freelancers. It boasts a huge number of start-ups and has the highest number of freelancers advertising outside of London, at 1001.

Check out the full list below.

The best cities in the UK for freelancers

1. Manchester

Manchester’s famed for its creative industries. Recently, it was revealed that it has the fastest growing creative industry outside of London, with 7,475 more jobs in the sector than there were just two years ago.

According to the research:

  • Manchester has 21,815 start-ups to work for. The average hourly rate is £30
  • The cost of living in Manchester is reasonable. If you were to rent a property, on average it would cost £949 per month. If you were buying a house, you could expect to pay about £185,000
  • There are 225 coffee shops and 125,690 BT WiFi hotspots in the city

2. Brighton & Hove

Over the last few years, Brighton has emerged as a vibrant tech hub. It’s had an active web community since the early days of the internet, and according to a Tech Nation report, there was a 91% growth in new digital companies incorporated in Brighton between 2010 and 2013.

According to the research:

  • Brighton has one of the highest numbers of startups in the UK per capita at 14,765. A freelancer can expect an average hourly rate of £26.50
  • Brighton does come in as a pricey place to live, with rent costing on average £1200 per month
  • But with a great life satisfaction score of 7.6/10, the perks of working in Brighton speak for themselves. There are 172 coffee shops and 22,079 BT WiFi hotspots in the city

3. Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s home to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which is the world’s largest arts festival. In 2016, Edinburgh secured more investment than any other UK tech cluster outside of London. Freelancers should find Edinburgh a vibrant place to find work.

  • With 20,260 start-ups in the city and an average hourly rate of £29.50, Edinburgh is an attractive option for freelancers
  • The average cost of rent is £995 and to buy a property, it may set you back around £260,000
  • There are 184 coffee shops and 48,560 BT WiFi hotspots in the city

4. Belfast

Out of all the places on the list, Belfast comes top for life satisfaction, with a score of 7.65/10. In late 2017, Northern Ireland ranked as the most contented region in the UK, so freelancers looking for a happy life could do worse than Belfast.

  • A research highlight is Belfast’s affordable cost of living – the average cost of rent is £550 and the cost of buying a property is £129,950
  • There are 10,590 start-ups and freelancers can look forward to an average hourly rate of £20
  • There are 209 coffee shops and 43,810 BT WiFi hotspots in the city

5. London

Rounding out the trifecta of capital cities is London. London needs no introduction – you’ll find most major industries represented there, from media to technology to manufacturing, but it’s London’s financial sector that dominates.

  • London has 541,310 start-ups in the city, with more than 6000 freelancers advertising online
  • Freelancers command a high average hourly rate of £30
  • There are 771,191 BT WiFi hotspots and 1,288 coffee shops, but the cost of living in London is high – the average rent per month is £1,876

6. Leeds

Leeds is committed to developing a bustling tech community. The council has set up the Leeds Tech Hub Fund, a £3.7 million pot to help its digital economy. Leeds is also home to exciting creative and media industries.

  • Leeds has lower property prices than southern cities, with the average cost of rent at £845 and cost of buying a property at £160,000
  • With a lower cost of living, freelancers can still command an average hourly rate of £30
  • There are 28,905 start-ups, 409 freelancers advertising jobs and 170 coffee shops in the city

7. Glasgow

Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city. It has great cafes, swanky co-working hubs (check out Rookie Oven), and to top it all off, it’s an affordable place to rent or buy a property.

  • Glasgow has 20,235 start-ups and 358 freelancers advertising jobs
  • The cost of rent per month is £598 and the cost of buying a property is £173,647
  • Freelancers can expect an average hourly rate of £25 and look forward to working from a choice of 234 coffee shops

8. Bristol

Business in Bristol is thriving. A 2017 study placed Bristol as the eighth fastest-growing city in the UK, ahead of London and Manchester, so freelancers can expect booming industry.

  • Bristol has the highest average hourly rate of any UK city at £37.50
  • There are 6,810 start-ups in the city and 482 freelancers advertising
  • Bristol also has a good life satisfaction score of 7.43/10

9. Nottingham

This East Midlands city has an attractive number of start-ups, as well as a good hourly rate for freelancers. Its central location means that those freelancers who need to make client visits are well placed, no matter where in the country they need to go.

  • Nottingham has 9,485 start-ups to work for. The average hourly rate is £25
  • The city has reasonable property and rental prices. The average cost of rent per month is £910, and the cost of buying a property is £175,000
  • There are 122 coffee shops and 46,472 BT WiFi hotspots in the city

10. Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle continues a northern theme in this list. It offers freelancers a lively city lifestyle without the costs of the capital, and some of the lowest average property and renting prices found in MoneySupermarket’s research.

  • The average cost of rent is £789 and the average cost of buying a property is £130,000
  • There are 8,695 start-ups in the city and 267 freelancers advertising jobs
  • Freelancers can look forward to an hourly rate of £20 with 179 coffee shops to work from and 48,958 BT WiFi hotspots

The best cities from number 11 to 22

The research also listed 12 other cities that freelancers might enjoy working in. These include three major cities in the Midlands as well as Hull, 2017’s City of Culture.

  • 11: Leicester
  • 12: Plymouth
  • 13: Bradford
  • 14: Cardiff
  • 15: Coventry
  • 16: Liverpool
  • 17: Sunderland
  • 18: Sheffield
  • 19: Birmingham
  • 20: Wakefield
  • 21: Hull
  • 22: Derby

So, how about it – have you been conviced to make a move? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sam Bromley

Written by

Sam Bromley

Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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