The Freelancing Boom: How Coworking & Business Centres Can Capitalize

The freelancing market is undergoing explosive growth
The freelancing market is undergoing explosive growth

Freelancers are big business. Just last week, a day was dedicated to those whom the UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, refers to as “the engine of our economy”. National Freelancers’ Day is a celebration of the millions of people across the globe who are flying solo, and who represent a burgeoning change in the world of business.

PCG kicked off National Freelancers’ Day “to reflect on the power of the freelance model”, because “a flexible workforce keeps Britain nimble, smart and prosperous”. Unsurprisingly, the growing freelance community is already having a significant impact on the flexible workspace industry – and this is only set to intensify.

Freelancing stats

Let’s start with the stats. The following figures* offer a compelling top-level account of the enormous clout wielded by the freelancing community (thanks to freelancersmovement.org):

  • UK: An estimated 1.72 million people in the UK work on a freelance basis
  • US: A whopping 42 million (1 in 3 Americans) are estimated to be freelancers
  • Italy: The highest proportion of freelancers in the EU with around 1.68 million
  • Germany: 2.6 million in 2011 (German Institute for Economic Research)
  • European Union: Approximately 8.6 million in 2012
  • Australia: 2.1 million people, or 19% of the nation’s workforce

The freelancing market is massive – and it’s still growing. For instance, Germany’s freelancing community has grown by 40% since 2000, while the EU has ballooned by 82% between 2000 and 2011, according to the European Forum of Independent Professionals (EFIP).

Know your market

Workspace operators may indeed see an enormous opportunity in the blossoming freelance sector – but it’s important to know your market.

People enter the realms of self-employment for many different reasons. Some want the flexibility that a 9-5 doesn’t (yet) offer. Others want to run their own business. It might be the lure of earning more money, or escaping the glass ceiling, exiting middle-management or as a route out of unemployment. Redundancy is another reason – and the growth in freelancing over the past few years has largely been attributed to workers having been made redundant during the global recession.

Freelancing is enormously varied, and contains all manners of different roles from digital and creative services to mechanics, construction workers and gardeners. Some of these are potential clients – others are not.

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Some freelancers have aspirations of starting a company and hiring staff. Others are happiest flying solo.

We already know that business centres and serviced office providers find a huge client base in start-ups. But what of the independent workers who have no intention of expanding their business?

While this sub-sector may rarely opt for a serviced office – save those for whom image and first impressions are a priority – office-based soloists easily fit into the coworking and virtual office sector. For freelancers, time is of the utmost importance and with nobody to delegate to, distractions are expensive. A low-cost virtual call answering service fits the bill nicely. As, for the image-conscious, does a mailing address service.

And as for coworking, while the home office provides a cheap base from which to work, solitude is often the catalyst that sends independent workers fleeing for the welcoming buzz of a coworking hub. This great blog post from PR consultant Jemma Caldwell sums it up nicely (we’ve all been there!)

Continued growth in freelancing

Don’t expect freelancing to slow down anytime soon. This article from Forbes highlights how businesses should expect big changes in 2014 based on the “explosive growth” of the self-employed market.

When did freelancers become so powerful? As with all trends, it started steadily enough, bubbling under the surface. An explosion in the desire for more flexibility, a better work/life balance, mobile technology and of course the global recession all contributed to its growth.

Now, freelancers are finally getting the recognition – and the respect – they deserve. As British PM David Cameron said: “Our country owes a huge debt of gratitude to the thousands of men and women who have decided to make their living as freelancers and entrepreneurs. You are the engine of our economy and economic revival.”

First there was Freelancers’ Day. Next, the world?

* Take these as a top-level account, as the release year of some figures differ and also some contradictions have been made depending on the source of the research.

Thanks to Hubspot Marketing for the image