Freelancing Boom Could Lead to Growth in UK Workspace Demand


London currently enjoys the spoils of a coworking boom in the UK. But new research shows a surge in new freelancers in the North of England – could this point to a rise in demand for more regional coworking spaces outside of the capital?

Officing Today has been reporting on the growth of coworking and flexible workspace over the past year and more. We’ve seen a rise in coworking spaces and communities across the globe, driven by an increase in mobile workers and by the start-up and small business community. Flexible, low-cost workspace such as coworking particularly appeals to freelancers who are keen to escape the monotony of working alone from home. It serves as more than office space – it’s also a social community designed to create an inspirational environment that fills the lonely void of homeworking.

So new figures just launched by freelancing job site People Per Hour, which shows a dramatic rise in new freelance businesses in the North of England, could shed light on where the next glut of demand for coworking spaces might be focused.

Although London remains the most obvious location for coworking communities, it appears that the North of England is seeing significant growth in the geographical spread of freelancers. People Per Hour described it as a “phenomenon”, with massive growth in the amount of people choosing to set up on their own and work online in a variety of industries.

The county of Yorkshire has seen the biggest increase in the freelancer population, particularly the city of Bradford, with a 165% increase in the number of new freelancers over the past 12 months. The fastest growing industries are within the creative sector with copywriting, design and illustration forming the key professional services.

Behind Bradford, the cities of Sheffield, Huddersfield and Leeds also proved to be popular locations for workers setting up on their own. Ashford in Kent was the only location in the South to make it into the top ten freelancing hotspots.

So what does Yorkshire have to offer freelancers?

It seems this industrious county is hard at work, providing low-cost shared workspace in various forms to small businesses and freelancers in the region. Among some of the coworking options available, there are independent spaces such as the Bradford Network and the Leeds Network, which provides coworking space to new members on an invitation-only basis.

The business centre industry is also taking heed of demand. UK-wide flexible office provider Evans Easyspace supplies coworking space through its ‘Just a Desk’ shared office scheme and hot-desking options, while Titan Business Centres and Springboard Business Centre also provide similar shared workspace arrangements.

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It seems that freelancing is a popular option in today’s rocky economy as workers are keen to supplement their income, and persistent job insecurity also acts as a spur for many workers to set up on their own. Indeed, the UK recession saw a significant increase in new start-up businesses and freelancers following widespread organisational cost-cutting and redundancies.

So with freelancing increasing in popularity and mobile working expected to continue its onward march, business centres outside of London certainly have a key opportunity to address this demand. What is your business centre doing to draw in the freelancing and start-up communities?

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