We surveyed over 1,300 UK based-freelancers across 50 different sectors about their views on Brexit. We’ve highlighted below some of the key points from PeoplePerHour’s Brexit survey on freelancers.
Our Brexit survey results presented some interesting findings about the industry. The government is currently unable to come to an agreement on the type of Brexit the country will face. There is no consensus from politicians, and talks between the Conservative and Labour Parties and Theresa May and the EU have reached a stalemate. Parliament has held a series of indicative votes about the type of Brexit it would find acceptable, and it has been unable to reach a conclusion thus far.
Freelancers’ income down by 29%
During March 2019, PeoplePerHour saw a drop-off of up to 29% in freelancer’s income on the platform, coming mostly from days where there was big Brexit news (votes by MPs, European Summit etc). This was, of course, the biggest period of uncertainty during the Brexit process, so this is why the worst affected days were the 13th and the 21st of March when the MPs voted against a no-deal Brexit and the EU Summit officially decided to allow the delay. Unfortunately, It is obvious that the uncertainty of not knowing how the UK will leave the EU has led to the small business community tightening their purse strings. It is therefore crucial for freelancers and the self-employed in general, that Theresa May and her government are able to find a solution as quickly as possible.
72% of the freelance community that voted, chose to remain in the EU
Unsurprisingly, the industry is dominated by remain voters, as 72% of those who voted from the freelance community voted to stay in the EU. This is reflective of the wider business community, with the majority of businesses both in the UK and across the EU wanting to remain in the EU.
Of the 28% of freelancers who voted to leave the EU, 67% said they would prefer a no-deal Brexit out of the current options. As you would expect, this greatly contrasts with Remain voters, where only 5% would prefer a no-deal Brexit. However, given negotiators from both the UK and EU desperately want to avoid a no-deal Brexit, it is doubtful the UK will leave like this. See the preferences of all freelancers in the graph below.
Brexit concerns and opportunities
Looking at the results from the Brexit survey, we know there are concerns about all aspects of business, from losing clients, having VAT changes and concerns about clients relocating to the EU. The Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement ends the free movement of people and will remove the UK from the single market for services. If the Agreement is passed, goods will still be able to pass relatively easily between the UK and the EU, reassuring freelancers involved in trading goods and in the manufacturing industry.
End of free movement the biggest Brexit concern for freelancers
The statistics on freelancers shows that the biggest concern around Brexit is the end of free movement, as 35% of respondents saying this was their top concern. A quarter said their clients decreasing their budget was their biggest fear. Supply chains and the provision of services in the UK are heavily interconnected with the EU, so freedom of movement and concerns clients may have to focus their spend on other expenses such as complying with another set of regulations etc., are understandable fears for the freelance community.
Brexit uncertainty could lead to higher use of freelancers
The 2019 Brexit survey did show that some freelancers see opportunities from the UK’s departure from the EU. Companies may need more support to navigate through extra sets of regulation and understand new procedures in order for business with the continent to continue. 23% of those surveyed said they think freelancers can take advantage of the added uncertainty of Brexit and provide extra services to clients, to help them navigate post-Brexit Britain.
However, 22% of freelancers believed that no benefit at all will come out of Brexit.
80% of freelancers have made no adjustments to prepare for Brexit
The government has been urging businesses to prepare for a no-deal Brexit since late 2018. It published technical notices advising on what various regulatory frameworks will look like post-Brexit. It has also undertaken a huge communications campaign to ensure that businesses and individuals in the UK make themselves aware of how Brexit will impact them.
Despite these preparations from the UK government, the PeoplePerHour Brexit survey has revealed that only 13% of freelancers believe enough measures have been taken to protect freelancers specifically post-Brexit.
In addition, 80% of freelancers said they have not made any adjustments to prepare for the post-Brexit economy. This correlates with the report from the Department for Exiting the EU who revealed in February 2019 that over 80% of businesses are not prepared for a no-deal Brexit.
At this moment in time, It remains uncertain what the future holds for Brexit. The government has not made it clear what it seeks to re-negotiate with the EU, and many are now beginning to question whether Brexit will ever actually happen. Prime Minister Theresa May even offered Parliament a deal, saying that if MPs passed her Withdrawal Agreement, she would resign as Prime Minister. Moreover, business organisations have started to make bold claims, such as calling for the revocation of Article 50 if no compromise can be found.
91% are not satisfied with Theresa May’s handling of the Brexit process
When asked if they were satisfied with how the UK government has handled the Brexit process, predictably 91% of freelancers said they were unsatisfied at the Theresa May’s management of the issue.
Interestingly, the most popular choice for the future from the freelancers surveyed was to revoke Article 50, with 30% wanting it repealed. It is worth noting that Article 50 can be re-invoked under special circumstances once revoked, for instance, in order to give the UK more time to find a new deal or hold a general election.
26% of respondents to the Brexit survey have said they would like to see a second referendum. There is currently no majority in Parliament for a second referendum, as this would present various issues. Referenda take at least 6 months to organise, which would require another extension to Article 50. Also, politicians are unsure of what the question on the ballot paper would be – would it give UK citizens the option of staying in or out? Voting for the withdrawal agreement or no deal? Would there be rules stating that the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland must all have a majority for the same response, in order for it to be valid? With in-depth constitutional questions like these, it is likely it would take between 6 months to one year for a second referendum to be organised.
Almost half of freelancers have already felt a negative impact from Brexit
The PeoplePerHour Brexit survey on freelancers asked if they had already felt any effect of Brexit. 43% of those surveyed said they had already experienced a negative impact because of the UK’s departure from the EU. This is a staggering number for the freelance industry, and incredibly concerning as freelancers will see their profits hit, and continue to lose out from uncertainty. The next deadline is 31st October, so the business community has temporarily avoided a no-deal Brexit for now.
The message is clear from the freelance community, they believe being part of the EU is crucial to the UK economy. Although Article 50 is unlikely to be revoked, freelancers want the UK to continue to cooperate with the EU following the inevitable divorce.
If you’re a freelancer and you’re concerned about how Brexit will impact you, check out PeoplePerHour’s Brexit guide for freelancers here.
How are freelancers preparing for Brexit?
Although 80% of freelancers surveyed said they have not made any preparations for Brexit, what arrangements have the 20% made to increase their security? Let’s take a look at some of the ways that freelancers have started their preparations for the post-Brexit UK economy.
“Taking on less longer to medium term contract work in favour of short term one off assignments due to uncertainty surrounding ability for client to commit to longer term projects.”
M. A. (Writing/Translation)
“I’ve opened foreign currency (EUR and USD) accounts to mitigate against GBP currency fluctuations; acquired a second EU citizenship to maintain my freedom of movement and establishment rights in the EU; plan to transfer my company’s .eu domain name ownership to a nominee in Dublin; and am considering establishing a subsidiary company in Estonia for my EU clients to contract with.”
A. W. (Business Support)
“Target client locations outside of Europe.”
D. L. (Design)
“Saving more & building a stronger rapport with my European clients”
B. W. (Software Development & Mobile)
“Switching from a principle client base dependent on recession risk markets like retail to the healthcare technology market.”
M. C. (Sales & Marketing)
“I’m having to diversify and acquire additional skills and certifications and explore other options of income generation.”
P. Y. (Writing/Translation)
“Set aside money and costs. Maintain stronger relations with current clients.”
F. B. (Video, Photo, Audio)
“Made sure I have a good selection of clients outside of Europe in case of Europeans boycotting Brits.”
L. J. (Writing/Translation)
“I have registered myself as an Irish National, thanks to my Father’s birth.”
J. K. (Software Development & Mobile)
“Have made more contact and contracts with non-EU members”
R. M. (Sales & Marketing)
“I’m not expanding my business further as this would require money, and I need to hold this money back as I’m unsure of the impact Brexit will have on the economy and people’s purse strings.”
R. L. (Consulting)
“I have developed my brand further and now allow clients to pay in Euros as well as Sterling.”
M. L. (Writing/Translation)
“Seeking other clients within the UK in the instance that I lose my two largest clients.”
V. H. (Business Support)
Other Freelance statistics you should know
- There are a total of 4.8 million self-employed workers based in the UK
- Freelancers contribute £300 billion a year to the UK economy
- Across the European Union, there are a total of 33 million self-employed
- 35% of workers in the creative industries are self-employed
- In Q4 2018, freelancer confidence in the performance of the UK economy over the next 12 months dipped to the lowest level since the IPSE and PeoplePerHour Confidence Index began
Other Brexit surveys you shouldn’t miss
- YouGov survey on how the public perceives a no-deal Brexit
- What UK Thinks: EU poll on a second referendum
- BMA Brexit survey about the health industry
- The CIPS Brexit survey of procurement and supply chain professionals
- EY Brexit survey on foreign direct investment
- Channel 4 survey on how the UK would vote now
- ORB International Brexit confidence tracker
The survey was conducted between 1st-20th April 2019 and collected the answers of 1,380 freelancers who live in the United Kingdom, coming from 51 different sectors. The questionnaire included 11 closed questions and 2 free response questions.
The financial data was directly extracted from PeoplePerHour’s platform, which is the leading freelance marketplace in the UK and hosts more than 1.5 million freelancers in total.