It might sound a crazy idea, an independent freelancer needing the help of an agency; after all, they’ve shunned the ‘normal’ way of working, they’re Independent. Well, it’s no real surprise that freelancers do actually need recruiters and agencies, more-so than ever before.
So what is a ‘Freelancer’?
Defined in the latest report published by IPSE (The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed):
“Freelancers are a sub-section of the wider self-employed workforce. There is no official, legal or commonly accepted definition of freelance status which exists in the UK. The term ‘freelance’ is, therefore, a customary one used to describe a transient type of worker or work relationships in particular occupational or industry settings”
In this report, freelancers are defined as: “Self-employed workers without employees working in a range of managerial, professional and technical occupations”
There’s quite a few of them too.
IPSE’s research into the number of freelancers in the UK details that in 2016 there was a record number, 2 million freelancers comprising of 1.77million who worked in a freelance capacity as their full-time job and a further 234,000 who ‘freelance’ in a 2nd job. This made up 42% of the self-employed population of 4.8 million and a healthy 6% of the UK workforce.
How financially important are freelancers in the UK?
In 2015 it was calculated that freelancers contributed £109Billion to the UK economy, in 2016 that rose to £119Billion. Not small numbers at all. With an increase of 43% since 2008, freelancers in the UK are the fastest growing working population.
Do freelancers need agencies and recruiters?
When I took my first freelance role it was from word of mouth, in fact, many of the gigs, projects, and clients I have been involved with come from word of mouth referrals and chance meetings. However, word of mouth only stretches so far and before long I was trawling the job boards filtering ‘Contract only’ looking for work. 50.2% of freelancers use agencies. That’s over 1 million on your websites and Job boards looking for freelance roles, and here’s the issue.
There are only a very select few agencies/job boards that cater for freelancers. Some agencies advertise themselves as recruiters for freelancers and then only have ‘contract roles on their pages’. Some agency sites don’t even have a filter on the job search defining freelance roles.
A true freelancer, (using the defined terms above) will never fall foul of IR35, due to the nature of how they work so they shouldn’t be managed like a traditional contractor. Freelancers are a flexible asset to any company, not just those that hire them.
Freelancers NEED recruiters, there is no doubt, with over 1 million turning to job boards and agencies to find work, the demand is there. Freelancers will invariably stick to an agency or recruiter that got them the last position as long as the experience was a positive one and that the roles are there. They will also be registered on multiple sites to maximise their chances. This offers a great opportunity for recruiters to lend a little focus on freelancers.
What can you do?
Make sure your website is freelancer-friendly. If you have a recruiter or team that specialises in freelance recruitment then shout about it, create a specific page on your site.
Do you have freelance roles as well as contract roles? if so, make sure they are defined separately. And probably the most important bit, get to know your freelancers and why they chose to go freelance, add a note to their candidate record if it helps. Understanding this could be very helpful in finding them a suitable role.
Freelancing is growing and it’s not going to stop growing. Recruiters and agencies can do 1 of 2 things. They can ignored this trend and focus on the Perm/Temp/Contract markets or embrace the challenges that freelancers bring and help grow this ever expanding workforce.
Written by FCSA Business Partner, Network Freelance.