Work hubs across Devon have been celebrating European Freelancer Week all this week (16-20 October).
The number of freelancers in the UK stood at 1.9 million in 2022, which represents roughly 46% of the self-employed population.
Previous research by IPSE, (The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), has shown that freelancers make an extremely important contribution to the economy with estimates being close to £1.39 billion in 2022.
The number of people who are self-employed in the UK has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels and those who have remained self-employed are still suffering from a loss in income, an increase in stress levels and greater cashflow problems as a result.
Following the pandemic, IPSE reported that 57% of freelancers declared they could imagine staying self-employed for the rest of their lives due to the freedom and flexibility it provides, whilst 17% stated they would consider working for someone if the opportunity arose and 8% were actively seeking an alternative to self-employment.
One of the main reasons why freelancers were thinking about leaving self-employment immediately or in the future was because they miss the workplace camaraderie and human interaction offered by employment.
With an estimated 11 million freelance workers in Europe making up 5% of the total workforce #EF Week, co-ordinated by The European Coworking Assembly, strives to empower and unite the freelance community, giving freelancers the opportunity to speak with one voice, and creating an environment where they can create a more sustainable future.
The Devon Work Hubs network has 24 member venues offering office space, coworking options, meeting room access, and a thriving business support community. Self-employed workers, freelancers and small businesses are welcomed into the work hub network along with start-ups and hybrid workers.
“We find freelancers use our space to give them a break from working at home,” says Claire Lewis from The Hub at The Bookery in Crediton. “Coworking centres provide a distraction-free environment to get some serious work done, but also a unique opportunity to meet and chat with other professionals over a coffee!”
Riina Lehtoviita is the Community Manager at Generator Hub in Exeter. She says: “As community manager of the Generator Hub, I am continuously inspired by the incredible contributions of our freelancer community and the positive impact they have on both our organisation and the broader community. We recognise that many of our freelancers are genuinely at the forefront of the new economy, driving innovation, and shaping the future of work.
“During #EFWeek, we want to emphasise our commitment to supporting and nurturing this extraordinary community – being a freelance member of the Generator Hub isn’t just about working at a cowork space; we offer a vibrant hub of creativity, collaboration, and inspiration and take pride in being the bridge that connects freelancers, fostering a sense of belonging, and providing the necessary resources to help them excel.
“Together, we can make a profound difference in the world of independent work and continue to contribute to improving our local and further-a-field communities. The Generator Hub is honoured to be a part of this journey and to witness the freelancing community’s invaluable contributions first hand.”
IPSE’s Self-employed Landscape Report 2022 states that the number of working mothers in self-employment has increased by 55 per cent since 2008, now accounting for 13 per cent of all solo self-employed people (549,000 individuals).
Stacey Sheppard is founder of The Tribe, a coworking space in Totnes for female entrepreneurs. As a freelancer herself, Stacey understands all too well how challenging it can be to work for yourself when faced with periods of economic uncertainty and just how important it is to build yourself a resilient support network.
“Working as a freelancer has so many benefits, both personally and in terms of the contributions we make to the wider economy. But it doesn’t come without its challenges and the current landscape that we find ourselves working within is particularly onerous. Working within the confines of a cost-of-living crisis whilst contending with the continuing impact of the off-payroll working (IR35) reforms certainly isn’t easy,” says Stacey.
Suffering herself with loneliness and isolation as a freelancer even before the pandemic and recognising her own need for a supportive community is what led Stacey to open her own coworking space.
“I was facing many challenges as a freelancer and these challenges were further compounded by the additional obstacles that we face being women in business,” explains Stacey. “I had recognised the potential of coworking to help freelancers and small business owners to find that support network and to create that sense of community that is often missing when you work for yourself and don’t have your own team to work alongside. Loneliness and isolation can be a real issue. I opened The Tribe specifically to help women who work for themselves, and more recently those who are hybrid workers, to navigate the many challenges that come with this career choice.”
Lucy Scanlon, who runs Roots + Wings, a charity management consultancy, is a regular at The Tribe and has found many benefits from using a coworking space. She says: “As a freelancer working from home, I often feel really isolated. The clients I work for are all lovely, but it’s not the same as having a team of colleagues. I love co-working at The Tribe because I find I’m far more productive. The accountability of being in a room with other people who are focused on their work is so motivating. I also love the chance to have random chats throughout the day– both work-related and totally unrelated!”
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, says:
“I hope freelancers and other self-employed people have taken the opportunity of #EF Week to explore the benefits of coworking. Coworking spaces in Devon’s Work Hub network can help to support business development and growth. They can help you create new business networks, find collaborators and clients, upskill, and even expand your social circle.”
You can visit your local Devon Work Hub to network with and find support from your local business community. For more information go to the Devon Work Hubs website.
"A fabulously stylish space which smacks of contemporary creative muses, coupled with all the comforts an office should have - coffee, tea, fridge, WiFi and a working printer. Its a warm, light space in a delightful part of the village with plenty of space in the car parks and very easy to travel to."