Four out of ten European freelancers plan to stay freelance long-term

27 November 2018

Brussels, 27 November 2018 - As freelancers continue to represent an increasingly significant proportion of the workforce people are increasingly seeing this way of working as a career choice, not just a short-term, convenient option. Almost four out of ten (38.8%) freelancers plan to remain so in the long term and only 8.6% of those currently working in this manner want to work as an employee again in the future.

These results come from the latest survey conducted across five European countries by the Payroll and HR services provider SD Worx and the Antwerp Management School.

Freelancers are spending time developing their skills

There are clear reasons why this is proving to be an effective career choice rather than just a short-term fix. Primarily, freelancers prove to be very progressive with regards to their own career development. Of the freelancers surveyed, 41% actively spend time developing and adding to their own skills. This allows them to build competency across a range of activities and become a real asset to organisations. However, those in the UK are the least likely (29.9%) to dedicate time to acquiring new skills, with the Netherlands (36.6%) and Belgium (38.3%) next on the list. The countries where freelancers are most likely to do so are Germany (46.6%) and France (42.9%).

Secondly, freelancers are often highly engaged employees due to the core qualities that come with the sense of autonomy that they have, such as being able to manage workloads effectively and being in control of personal development. This results in freelancers feeling competent in their jobs, with 84.7% of respondents stating that they feel they are doing well in their job while only 14.1% have doubts about whether they can do their jobs properly.

How freelancers are equipping themselves to build a positive career

Despite four out of ten freelancers spending time developing their own skills, there are clear deficiencies to be addressed. Only 27.7% of freelancers actually use professional or personal networks for support, something that is particularly rare in the UK, with only 22.4% of respondents doing so, compared to 35.5% in Belgium and almost one in three (31.1%) in the Netherlands.  Additionally 57.7% of freelancers never look for support on commercial advice, qualities that are increasingly important for professionals across any industry vertical. Freelancers are, however, keen to look for support when it comes to new competencies, with 52.2% of freelancers stating that they have done so.

“It’s easy to think that people freelance as a temporary solution, possibly to bridge a gap between different jobs or because they need extra flexibility due to family commitments,” said Hilde Haems, Chief Human Resources Officer at SD Worx. “Clearly, there are many more significant factors behind why people are seeing freelancing as a long-term career choice though. As a freelancer, people have the flexibility to be in control of their personal development and as a result, they tend to be highly engaged in the workplace. However, that flexibility isn’t necessarily restricted to freelancers only.

We are seeing a trend towards a personalisation of the employer-employee relationship. The focus is increasingly on the individual. Their choices are connected with factors such as age, gender, stage of life, employment contract, family situation, commuting requirements and culture. The extent to which employers meet these requirements largely determines their success: companies that allow their employees more flexibility, be it in time, place, job or reward, often gain on employee engagement, productivity, retention and happiness at work.”

For more information, please contact

Katie Evans/Laura Lovejoy
T: 020 7680 5500

About the survey

SD Worx and AMS surveyed a representative sample of 1874 independent workers in the following five countries: Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. It is part of the research agenda of SD Worx and Antwerp Management School (AMS) for the SD Worx Chair on 'Next Generation Work: Creating Sustainable Careers'. As a result of this chair, research has been conducted since 2011 on the changing career context and what this means for organisations and their staff. The chair uses annual surveys and quality studies to keep track of the challenges people experience in this context of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, the changing career and talent policies of organisations in response to these challenges, and how individuals approach their careers.
Potential respondents were contacted via an online panel and the samples were based on size and industry. The full survey is available here.

About SD Worx

As the leading European player in payroll and HR, SD Worx provides worldwide services in the areas of payroll, HR, legal support, training, automation, consultancy and outsourcing. It focuses on customer centricity, fully embraces digitisation and is committed to international growth. More than 65,000 small and large organisations worldwide have currently placed their trust in SD Worx and its experience of more than 70 years.
The 4,150 employees at SD Worx operate in ten countries: Belgium (HQ), Germany, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Austria, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. SD Worx calculates the salaries of some 4.4 million employees and achieved a turnover of €443 million in 2017. SD Worx is co-founder of the Payroll Services Alliance, a global strategic network of leading payroll companies that together provide 32 million payroll calculations.
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