With its rise in popularity from 3.3 million people in 2001 to 4.8 million in 2017, the exponential growth of self-employment has led to the umbrella term becoming a defining feature of the UK labour force; with two key jobs falling under this category being the freelancer and the contract worker.

Part of what makes this industry of workers so exciting is that the ability to work as a freelancer in particular has resulted in all nature of business ventures popping up offering everything from digital marketing services to juice cleanses in London and the UK. Although similar in job description however, there are slight differences to their definitions that should be established before exploring both of their various benefits.

  • Freelancer - a freelancer is defined as a self-employed worker, typically working from their own home or personal office. They tend to work for several different clients at once, typically on a per-hour/day basis
  • Contract worker - a contract worker is also defined as a self-employed worker, however unlike the freelancer, they typically work for one client at any given time on a full-time project for any allotted space of time detailed in a given contract. In addition to this they also tend to work on-site with their client

What are the benefits of becoming a freelancer/contract worker?

Although both jobs hold distinguished differences, as both are under the term of self-employment, they also share multiple benefits, such as those detailed below:

  • Control over jobs/clients - a great advantage of being either a freelancer or contract worker is the control had over jobs and clients. Whilst working for someone else can present difficulties such as being forced to work on undesirable projects and clients that you don't mesh well with, self-employment gives you the freedom to pick the jobs you do want and pass on the ones you don't
  • Flexible hours - although differing slightly dependent on both jobs, overall, the freelancer and contract worker have more control over their work hours in comparison to working for someone else at the typical pace of 9-5 weekdays. The freelancer having more immediate control over their week-to-week work schedule whilst the contract worker can decide how much time they want off between contracts, and has the control to pick contracts based on how long they are therefore organising their time/work schedule in this sense
  • You are the boss - unlike those who work for someone else, both freelancers and contract workers are their own boss, giving them all the freedoms as listed above in addition to having complete, exclusive control over the job. This includes not having to answer to any higher authority - you are the higher authority. This ultimately means less pressure, and therefore stress, fixating on promotions and over-time. Those under self-employment can work in a relaxed, and therefore more productive, environment, secure in the knowledge that they are their own boss
  • Larger pay-day - both freelancer and contract worker are usually paid more per hour than the equivalent employee, meaning a larger net pay than would typically be earnt working for someone else at a flat rate; the larger the project the bigger the pay. In addition to this the tax status that self-employment falls under means those within its job description are enabled more net pay

What advantages are unique to freelancing?

Although both job descriptions share a multitude of the same benefits, there are however advantages unique to both. Those of freelancing being as follows:

  • Working in your own personal space - one significant advantage freelance work has is that it typically means you can work from home, whereas contract workers tend to be bound to on-site work for each particular client. Advantages of working from home include the ability to work in your own personal space, which gives for a more relaxed, quiet and therefore more productive environment
  • More control over hours - although both types of self-employment offer more control than the average employee working for someone else, the freelancer has significantly more control over their time than the contract worker. The contract worker is typically with one sole client for many months (sometimes years), and only has control over their time whilst in-between jobs. Whereas the freelancer has week-by-week control over their work schedule

What are the advantages unique to contract work? 

Whilst the freelancer does hold some enticing benefits there are also counteracting advantages unique and equally as appealing to contract work, for example, both freelancers and contract workers will need to adhere to IR35 Employment Legislation which is likely to require them to sign up with a UK umbrella company which will ensure they remain tax and employment law compliant.

Although likely to have multiple clients on the go on a per-day/week and your own personal space to work are all great benefits to freelancing, contract work provides an element of freedom in being able to pick and choose different clients whilst also, once a job has come along, having a strong component of stability.

With contracts typically lasting at least a few months, the contract worker has the best of both worlds; able to pick their own projects whilst also having the stability of knowing this job will sustain them for at least a good few months

Overall, both freelancing and contract work have an abundance of benefits for self-employment workers to reap. It is no wonder that this job category is growing increasingly visible in the labour market of today.