Freelancers positive about long-term market opportunities

14 May 2024 Consultancy.uk 5 min. read
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Despite the challenging economic conditions, seven out of 10 highly educated freelancers are confident about their outlook. Freelancers who know how to distinguish themselves have enough work, dare to increase their rates and consciously choose self-employment over fixed contracts. That is according to research from Malt.

The European freelancer platform surveyed more than 5,000 freelancers in six European countries how they view their work and the market. This shows that they are predominantly positive: about the profession, their opportunities and own development, income and more.

Across all six countries, an average of 69% of freelancers say they are confident about their long-term outlook. Freelancers in some countries, like Germany and France, have a more positive outlook than the average.

PROPORTION OF FREELANCERS FEELING CONFIDENT ABOUT THEIR LONG-TERM FUTURE AS FREELANCERS

Source: Malt, Freelancing in Europe 2024

In fact, there are major differences between the countries studied. For example, 86% of German respondents had a positive outlook, while for British respondents it is 65%, and only 57% for Spanish respondents. Besides economic and cultural differences, this variation is also due to country-specific developments in the freelance market, according to Malt.

“In Germany this probably has to do with tax benefits and other incentives that the government has recently implemented. The new legislation there makes it easier to be self-employed and creates a favourable working environment that helps freelancers to be successful,” the researchers noted.

“New legal measures have recently been introduced in Spain and the UK, making it more expensive and complicated for freelancers to operate. Fees related to self-employment have also increased.”

PROPORTION OF FREELANCERS FEELING CONFIDENT ABOUT THEIR LONG-TERM FUTURE AS FREELANCERS (BY COUNTRY)

Source: Malt, Freelancing in Europe 2024

When it comes to differences between sectors, freelancers in technology and data are the most positive across the six countries, while freelancers working in the art and design field have the least confidence in the future. Business consultants are quite positive, although significant differences can be observed between the different consultancy fields.

Still plenty of work

The positive sentiment from freelancers could be because many freelancers tend to hardly notice the uncertainty in the market. More than half of all respondents (52%) indicated that they receive as many or more project proposals than a year ago. A total of 54% of freelancers see no difference in the time customers take to sign a contract.

As for negative outlooks, just over a third (36%) reported having less business opportunities this year. This applies to a greater extent to freelancers who are active in the fields of marketing and communications, creative professions, and the art world.

PROPORTION OF FREELANCERS HAVING AN IMPRESSION OF SLOWDOWN DUE TO ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT

Source: Malt, Freelancing in Europe 2024

Rates increasing

The report also shows that more than half (55%) of freelancers have increased their rates in the past year, in response to inflationary pressures. Inflation is affecting most countries in Europe, with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine continuing to cause instability.

Freelancers in Spain were the most likely to charge more, with 75% of freelancers introducing increases. This percentage was significantly higher than in previous years and is due to the introduction of a new law that has made self-employment a lot more expensive.

PROPORTION OF FREELANCERS WHO INCREASED THEIR DAILY RATES DUE TO INFLATION

Source: Malt, Freelancing in Europe 2024

The researchers noted that strikingly large percentage of freelancers have not passed on the higher costs of living to their clients. “This may be the result of price sensitivity, the fear of losing customers, or the desire to show solidarity with each other in more difficult times.”

Building a strong bond with customers appears to be an important objective for freelancers from every field. 70% of self-employed professionals make it a priority to build lasting relationships with their clients, regardless of the size or duration of a project. More than half also say they are willing to invest extra in a lasting relationship.

Back to full-time employment?

According to the Malt study, the average freelancer has a relatively large amount of experience. Before freelancers step into self-employment, they will have typically gained around seven years of experience as a full-time employee.

PROPORTION OF FREELANCERS LOOKING FOR A FULL-TIME EMPLOYMENT

Source: Malt, Freelancing in Europe 2024

Nearly two-thirds of freelancers surveyed are not actively considering returning to full-time employment. Indeed, the survey shows that only 10% are actively seeking a salaried position.

So, what makes freelancing so attractive? The majority of respondents point to more freedom, autonomy in choosing activities, and a higher income. A total of 72% of professionals reported they earn more as a freelancer than they previously did in a fixed position in a company.

Malt is the largest platform for the freelancing sector in Europe, with 700,000 affiliated freelancers. More than 70,000 customers – from SMEs to large corporates – use the platform for hiring contractors.