These are the primary issues freelancers and indie workers are likely to face in 2018
As 2017 draws to a close and we begin to unwind, we’re also looking forward to a brand new year and all it has to bring. Even as they set up their Christmas trees, freelancers and indie workers everywhere are busy preparing for the future of work, with certain needs and concerns prioritised above the rest. We asked our members what was most important to them - this is what we learned.
Late PaymentsThe never ending issue. A massive 51% of invoices are paid late, with more than a third at least two weeks late. As an individual running a business, this can be incredibly frustrating. Positive cash flow is essential for both maintaining and growing a successful business, but the bottom line is small businesses have a hard time getting paid. As an organisation, IC have taken steps to address this by utilising the collective voice of the unpaid indie worker. Invoice factoring and legal support are both available through Indycube Community membership, free until April 2018.
2 .Lack of Representation & Government Support
Indy workers aren’t entitled to the same rights as employed workers. The sick leave and parental leave that many people take for granted just isn’t a given for indy workers - nor is a regular income or pension. The lack of guaranteed income means that an unpaid or late invoice can be catastrophic for indy workers. Moreover, these individuals often have no one in their corner, supporting or fighting for them when something goes wrong. This makes life and work as an indy worker worryingly precarious, and can make the experience very lonely. We hope that our coworking spaces have helped with day to day loneliness, giving a bit of a sense of community along with the desk, coffee and wifi. However, indy workers need a whole lot more support and representation, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve. You might know that we launched our membership package earlier this year, offering invoice factoring, legal support and all sorts of lifestyle benefits and discounts for £10/month.
3. Welfare Reform
Another major concern to many indy workers is the continuing roll-out of Universal Credit. A key issue with UC is the ‘minimum income floor’ (MIF), which is what a claimant is expected to earn each month (after tax and national insurance deductions), and on which the UC payments are calculated. The MIF is very inflexible, not taking into account income fluctuating over the months (as most indy workers’ pay does). As the RSA have shown, two people can earn the same amount over the course of the year but receive different amounts of UC because of the frequency of their income. There is a 12 month starting up period in which workers are able to build up to this level of income, but one year is not enough for start-ups to reach this target. Most claimants will already have been trading for some time, and so do not get any grace period. The DWP’s response to this? - “Universal credit supports self-employed people for up to a year while they establish their business. If, after a year, the business isn’t meeting the minimum income floor, then they will have to either increase their self-employed earnings or take on additional work as part of their claimant commitment.”
4. Lack of Workspace
With rail fares set to increase in 2018, the commute to central locations is becoming more expensive for both the traditionally employed and the indy worker. Coworking spaces in local and rural locations could help resolve this problem, being used across the board by remote workers who would rather use an office closer to home. Unfortunately, a number of coworking sites closed this year, including those run by coworking giant Neardesk, who operated over 250 spaces across the UK. Writing for The Guardian earlier this year, Tim Dunlop argued that “Isolation is one of the key problems that arises for freelancers and providing this sort of human contact – a community of fellow nomads – has become the secret sauce of the co-working industry, a large part of what makes it attractive.”
5. Parental Pay Inequality
The primary concern we identified via Twitter was the lack of support for self-employed parents. Women’s Equality candidate and ‘Mumpreneur’ Sarah Rees told us childcare was the second largest expense in her household (second only to the mortgage.) Women in particular are finding it increasingly difficult to return to work, with no Governmental support while children are between the ages of 9 months (when maternity leave ends) and 3 years old (when 30 hours a week of free childcare is set to become available, on a trial basis.) As a self-employed worker, these issues are all the more pressing - what small business can afford to cease trading for three years? Below are some of the responses we received:
If this is an issue which concerns you, sign the "Give Parental Pay to the Self-Employed" petition.
We weren’t overly enamoured with the Autumn Budget this year, which failed to mention pensions for indy workers or the horrendous impact of Universal Credit’s Minimum Income Floor on the take home pay of the self-employed. We hope to see a brighter future for freelancers and indie workers as our ranks increase (there are currently an estimated 5 million self-employed workers in the UK), and encourage anyone who identifies as self-employed to join Indycube Community - we want to help.