Posted on May 8, 2014

Clients of the Guildford accountants of Sherwin Currid may be interested – if unsurprised – to read of a 6.3 per cent increase in the number of people in the UK working as self-employed consultants since the credit crunch, according to the global management consultancy Von Essen. This compares to the mere 2 per cent rise in overall employment that has been seen since that time.

The firm said that its findings reflected an increasing need for what freelancers can offer – expert skills that companies can make temporary use of as they see fit – at the same time as many people are choosing consultancy as a career.

The figures might be met with more shock among the counterparts of the freelancers using Sherwin Currid’s Guildford accountants elsewhere in Europe, where the 15 leading economies have seen a 3.2 per cent decline in freelancing numbers. Even that isn’t the trend in the European economies that see the very highest wages, however, with self-employment having increased by 42 per cent in the Benelux countries between 2009 and 2013.

However, independent consultant numbers have fallen by 12 per cent on average in those EU countries to have emerged from the credit crunch with high unemployment and a sovereign debt crisis, including Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.

Von Essen partner Lydia Marref observed: “On the whole, northern European countries are typically bigger users of self-employed consultants. They are also the countries that have tended to weather the Eurozone crisis best, and while that’s not just because they have large populations of consultants, it definitely helps.”

The news comes amid a separate recent study in which three quarters of freelancers complained that they still weren’t being treated with the same level of seriousness as big businesses, while also generally adding that they wouldn’t leave freelancing for an in-house post.

“Pyjama wearing” was deemed the most common misconception about freelancing by respondents, cited by 35 per cent. This was followed by a belief that “freelancing is a job for people who can’t find full-time work” (27 per cent) and a perception that “freelancing is a stop-gap to a full-time career”, as suggested by 20 per cent of those polled.

This is despite the latest ONS figures suggesting that 14.8 per cent of the UK’s total workforce now consists of one-person businesses, with 4.5 million people able to describe themselves as self-employed.