Revealed: 31% annual surge in UK freelancers

The UK economy is becoming increasingly reliant on the freelance workforce’s contribution to a range of different industries, according to new Simply Business data.

As one of the UK’s biggest business insurance providers, we know the UK’s freelancers and self-employed are the backbone of the economy. That’s why we’re celebrating National Freelancers Day 2019 – and why we’ve delved into our data to reveal trends in the UK freelancer market, recognising the vital contribution they make.

The results are fascinating. The Midlands tops the list of regional hotspots, while emerging lifestyle businesses are driving a huge surge in freelancer growth.

31% annual rise in people looking to go freelance in 2018

First thing’s first – there’s been a big overall surge in people looking to go freelance, with a 31 per cent annual rise.

But while major trades like IT support and consultancy remain reliant on freelance support, the real growth in this space is being driven by a wave of emerging lifestyle and creative businesses. This suggests that more people are attempting to turn their hobbies and passions into businesses.

  • for example, more and more people were looking to become dog walkers in 2018, with a 60 per cent year-on-year increase in requests for insurance

  • beauticians and home bakers are two industries also seeing phenomenal growth, demonstrating 159 per cent and 68 per cent annual increases respectively

  • yet more freelancers are keen to take their services to their customers – there’s been a 51 per cent year-on-year increase in mobile beauticians looking for insurance

  • finally, the creative industries are also enjoying a freelancer boom. There’s been a 24 per cent increase in freelance photographers (and an incredible 91 per cent growth since 2016)

The UK’s regional freelancer hotspots

The new data also reveals that the Midlands is a freelancer hotspot, with more people feeling inspired to go it alone there than any other:

Position Region
1 The Midlands
2 East Anglia
3 North East England
4 North West England
5 South Central England
6 London
7 South West England
8 Scotland
9 Wales
10 Northern Ireland

And breaking this down by profession, it’s clear that it’s the UK’s regions driving freelancer growth in the emerging lifestyle industries.

This is because London’s most popular freelance trades still include traditional private sector roles such as project managers, accountants and consultants – whereas the story in the Midlands is different:


Position Trade
1 Accountant
2 Teacher/tutor
3 Project manager
4 Caterer (excluding mobile vans)
5 Graphic designers

The Midlands:

Position Trade
1 Hairdresser
2 Teacher/tutor
3 Mobile hairdresser (including renting a chair)
4 Dog walkers
5 Courier

Similarly, the North East of England’s top three freelance growth industries are hairdressers, dog walkers and mobile hairdressers. Northern Ireland’s top four industries include booming sectors such as make-up artists, beauticians and photographers.

There are now 4.8 million self-employed workers in the UK

The new data chimes with figures from the Office for National Statistics, which show that the number of self-employed workers has increased from 3.3 million in 2001 to 4.8 million in 2017.

In total, it’s estimated that the self-employed market contributes £275 billion to the UK economy.

Bea Montoya, COO of Simply Business commented: “On National Freelancers Day 2019, we wanted to take the opportunity to shine the light on this crucial sector, celebrate its continued growth, and dig deeper into the individual professions that are behind the trend.

“Our data highlights the stark increase in the number of people turning their hobbies into their livelihood. It’s truly great to see so many people pursuing their passions, whilst also driving the success of countless other businesses.”

Our data is highly anonymised and based on analysis carried out in June 2019.

What do you think of these freelancer trends in the UK? Let us know in the comments below.

Looking for self-employed insurance?

With Simply Business you can build a single self employed insurance policy combining the covers that are relevant to you. Whether it’s public liability insurance, professional indemnity or whatever else you need, we’ll run you a quick quote online, and let you decide if we’re a good fit.

Start your quote