Freelancers: skint and lonely, yes, but happy?

Britain's 1.4m freelancers are more likely than most to be happy - unless they're camping outside offices in winter to chase cheques...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

According to a poll commissioned by the Professional Contractors Group, almost three quarters of freelancers have made the deliberate decision to work outside the bounds of the traditional nine-to-five day, and that decision has made them happier than the average worker.

The group asked 1,600 people to score how happy they are generally on a scale from 1 to 5. Freelancers scored 3.79 for general happiness, while those who are too weak to break the shackles put on them by the Man (our words) scored 3.6.

The findings suggest that freelancing isn’t a way of working that’s being forced on people, i.e those having to find some alternative form of work thanks to the state of the economy. Indeed, the poll found that 73% of the country’s 1.4m freelancers had chosen to do so as a long-term career option.

‘If the person across from you this morning on the bus, train or tube looks happy and content, the chances are he or she is a freelancer,’ the organisation said. Seems a bit of a sweeping generalisation, given the freelance breed scored only 0.19 ‘happier’ on the survey. That contented traveller could easily be retired, minted, sexually prolific, or simply really chuffed about the flood of commemorative royal plates they’ll be able to buy in the run-up to April. Or, dare we say it, simply someone who enjoys their day job.

But there’s no arguing with the power of the freelance, and it’s not just about lifestyle choice. It works the other way too: 60% of the 600 businesses polled in a separate survey saying that running their companies without freelancers would be ‘difficult’. And that’s part of what makes freelancing such an attractive option right now – if people are sufficiently motivated to take the plunge. While it may seem counter-intuitive to jack in your job at a time of economic peril, a lot of companies are actually now in a better position to take on 'flancers', as it’s better for the budget than committing to long-term contracts.

There are of course downsides to freelancing: the loneliness, the stalking of members of the corporate accounts team to get them to finally cough up the cash, and so on. Perhaps for these reasons today has been designated National Freelancers Day. If that’s news to you, it’s probably even more so to the very people it’s supposed to celebrate, who are probably too isolated to notice. At best the celebration will be marked by 1.4m privately-squeezed stress balls at desks across the country.

David Cameron has continued his fanning of the country’s entrepreneurial flames by praising the freelancers’ contribution to the economy, describing his ‘admiration’ and their ‘courage’. The survey also happens to tap into his other main love - happiness, a subject he's finally latched onto just as the academics had all got bored of it. 

Back to the freelancers, the PM has also asserted that ‘this Governmnet is getting right behind them.’ We can imagine them getting closer than that: if Cameron’s cuts keep going the way they are, he’ll soon have the running of the country freelanced out. Imagine chasing up payment for that job…

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