As freelancers continue to represent an increasingly significant proportion of the workforce, people are increasingly seeing this way of working as a career choice, not just a short-term, convenient option. Almost four out of ten (39.5%) freelancers plan to remain so in the long term, with only 7.2% of those currently working in this manner wanting to work as an employee again in the future.

These results come from the latest survey conducted across five European countries, by the Payroll and HR services provider SD Worx and the Antwerp Management School.

Freelancers are spending time developing their skills

There are clear reasons why this is proving to be an effective career choice, rather than just a short-term fix. Freelancers are often highly engaged employees, due to the core qualities that come with the sense of autonomy they have, such as being able to manage workloads effectively and being in control of personal development. This results in freelancers feeling competent in their jobs, with 75.5% of UK respondents stating that they feel they are doing well in their job, while only 14.5% have doubts about whether they can do their jobs properly.

Secondly, freelancers have the flexibility to develop and enhance their professional skills as they see fit.  This independent self-governance is obviously appealing, freelancers in Germany (46.6%) and France (42.9%) are most likely to actively spend time developing and adding to their own skills, followed by The Netherlands (36.6%) and Belgium (38.3%), whilst UK freelancers (29.9%) are least likely.

How freelancers are equipping themselves to build a positive career

Despite three out of ten UK freelancers spending time developing their own skills, there are clear deficiencies to be addressed. Only 22.4% of them actually use professional or personal networks for support. Of the freelancers surveyed, UK freelancers are the least likely to use support networks, compared to 35.5% in Belgium and almost one in three (31.1%) in the Netherlands. Additionally, 64.9% of UK freelancers never look for support on commercial advice, qualities that are increasingly important for professionals across any industry vertical. Freelancers are, however, keen to look for support when it comes to new competencies, with 41.1% of British freelancers stating that they have done so.

“It’s easy to think that people freelance as a temporary solution, possibly to bridge a gap between different jobs or because they need extra flexibility due to family commitments,” said Fiona McKee, Head of Human Resources at SD Worx UK & Ireland. “Clearly, there are many more significant factors behind why people are seeing freelancing as a long-term career choice though. As a freelancer, people have the flexibility to be in control of their personal development and as a result, they tend to be highly engaged in the workplace. However, that flexibility isn’t necessarily restricted to freelancers only. We are seeing a trend towards a personalisation of the employer-employee relationship. The focus is increasingly on the individual. ”

For more information, please contact

Katie Evans/Laura Lovejoy,, 020 7680 5500

About the survey

SD Worx and AMS surveyed a representative sample of 1874 independent workers in the following five countries: Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. It is part of the research agenda of SD Worx and Antwerp Management School (AMS) for the SD Worx Chair on ‘Next Generation Work: Creating Sustainable Careers’. As a result of this chair, research has been conducted since 2011 on the changing career context and what this means for organisations and their staff. The chair uses annual surveys and quality studies to keep track of the challenges people experience in this context of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, the changing career and talent policies of organisations in response to these challenges, and how individuals approach their careers.

Potential respondents were contacted via an online panel and the samples were based on size and industry. The full survey is available here.

About SD Worx

As the leading European player in payroll and HR, SD Worx provides worldwide services in the areas of payroll, HR, legal support, training, automation, consultancy and outsourcing. It focuses on customer centricity, fully embraces digitisation and is committed to international growth. More than 65,000 small and large organisations worldwide have currently placed their trust in SD Worx and its experience of more than 70 years.

The 4,150 employees at SD Worx operate in ten countries: Belgium (HQ), Germany, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Austria, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. SD Worx calculates the salaries of some 4.4 million employees and achieved a turnover of €443 million in 2017. SD Worx is co-founder of the Payroll Services Alliance, a global strategic network of leading payroll companies that together provide 32 million payroll calculations.