If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: No Free Work! - UnderPinned

The Freelancer Club are taking their #nofreework petition a step further and asking the government to set laws that protect freelancers

In The Independent, Hazel Sheffield reports that the already huge issue of ‘free work’ amongst the freelancer community is worsening as the number of freelance workers in the UK grows. The #nofreework petition, started by The Freelancer Club in 2016, which received support from hundreds of freelancers pledging not to accept any offers of free work, is taking an even greater stand against rights for freelancers.

In 2019, The Freelancer Club are requesting legislation to give freelancers the rights they deserve. The statistics of self-employed people in the UK has gone from 3.3 million in 2001 to 4.8 million in 2017, yet basic needs for these people are not being met, aka pay for work being made a given.

Not only do self-employed workers earn less than employed people, an average of £240 a week compared to £400, but they also lose out on a huge amount of money by doing work for free in exchange for “exposure”.

But it’s not just those that are starting out who are suffering. Figures from a study undertaken by The Association for Independent Professionals in 2017 estimated that freelancers with an average of seven years’ worth of experience lose out on a staggering £5,394 a year by doing work for free.

Currently, there are no laws in place to protect freelancers from not getting paid for their work. This, paired with the fear of not getting commission without doing free work, is what’s perpetuating this issue and making into an everyday freelance struggle.

Without protection laws in place, freelancers don’t want to risk a company blacklisting them by speaking up for pay rights. 

Matt Dowling, who founded The Freelancer Club, says that, “so many freelancers are scared to say anything, they are scared to name any company for fear of the backlash.”

But the issue isn’t just that people lose out on a portion of pay when they work for free, it can cause people to lose their business altogether. With so many people willing to work for free, there becomes no need for to hire people and pay them for their work.

With 30,000 members, The Freelancer Club provides their followers with access to paid work, legal advice, guides and discounts.

Hair and makeup artist agency ‘A Novel Approach’ is just one of the businesses who support the #nofreework campaign. The agency only posts jobs from sustainable and ethical brands who will provide pay for the jobs done.

Their co-founder, Khandiz Joni Towill, said, “We support this because we are freelancers and understand the very real and direct impact it has on our own livelihoods,” and “working with brands that are in the area of ethics and sustainability, we feel that it is important that all parties need to be paid fairly for their work and expertise, if these brands can make claims of their fair wage principles.”

Dowling is asking the UK Government to get their laws in line with the US and instigate legislation alike to New York’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act. The law establishes and enhances protections for freelance workers, specifically the right to:

  •    A written contract
  •    Timely and full payment
  •    Protection from retaliation

Anna Codrea-Rado, who is a freelance journalist and the author of The Professional Freelancer newsletter, believes that in order for things to change, the pressure needs to be put on businesses employing freelancers, rather than the freelancers themselves:

“We shouldn’t be telling young journalists not to write for free, it simply shouldn’t be legal for a publication to commission a piece of writing without paying for it”

Pay crisis builds as arts workers struggle to make ends meet

In Arts Professional, Liz Hill notes that while most creative careers begin with a similar pay scale to non-creative careers (19k to 23k either way), pay progression is extremely slow. When most workers in the UK have achieved a salary of £50,000, a similar level role involving artistic direction is down to as little as £35,000.

This gap is especially noticeable outside of London, where the pay is often over 20% less than the pay in Greater London. It is even more noticeable for freelancers. One respondent to the survey from Arts Professional even noted that their day pay was often less than it was in the mid-90s.

This gap in pay for artistic freelancers outside of London needs to be addressed in the same vein as the expectation for free work needs to be addressed.

Independent Consultants are more satisfied than Employed Consultants

A recent survey shows that 86% of consultants voted being satisfied with becoming freelance, after changing out of a high-pressure office environment.

In 2016, a study by Eden McCallum found only a mere 5% of independent consultants were dissatisfied with their freelance career choice. The most important reason noted for this high satisfaction rate was that individuals found work more intellectually challenging, followed by having choice of clients/projects and being out-of-office.

Eden McCallum, along with London Business School, have undergone the same test, surveying 250 consultants, to compare to the data from 3 years ago. 86% said they were satisfied in their independent role, and feel they are happier than employed consultants. 78% found work more gratifying than before, 61% found work more interesting and 67% felt their relationship with clients had improved.

The research also found women faired better from becoming an independent, with a higher percentage of women than men surveyed experiencing higher gratification rates and finding work more interesting.

60% of IT contractors want to quit their jobs because of stress

Sixty per cent of IT professionals who work alone as a contractor/run a small business, say that the IT industry is becoming a highly stressful job sector. 35% feel they have become increasingly stressed in the past 12 months, with 16% claiming to have considered quitting the industry altogether, according to PolicyBee’s new research.

This new found stress was found to be down to: GDPR, clients demanding more for less, cybercrime and their clients’ expectation of being on hand 24/7.

The research found that on average, full-time IT contractors work 44 hours a week, which is way above the 37.1 hours average full-time working week.

PolicyBee’s head of customer service, Kerri-Ann Hockley, said, “Owing to the digital transformation of most organisations, IT professionals carry a heavy burden in ensuring the efficient and effective running of all systems.

“In contrast to in-house IT staff, these contractors and small business owners generally manage between two and five clients and so they have the added concern of balancing each of their clients’ individual needs, causing stress to multiply.”

On the other hand, over half of those that admitted to feeling stressed, also felt that their earnings partly help ease the burn. However, with an increasing gig-economy comes more availability of people to work for an hourly rate.

Hockley notes, “The fact is that IT workers are able to tolerate high levels of stress because, to some extent, they feel their earnings warrant it. However, the numbers of people considering leaving the industry may rise further if their future earnings potential is reduced by the gig economy.”

The self-assessment struggle is real. Why can’t HMRC make filing our taxes easier for us?

Some might argue that HMRC includes complicated terms without clear definitions to make filing our taxes more difficult, to the point where a lot of us get fined for lateness… Having to rifle through earnings and purchases we can claim as expenses is one thing, but filling out the online form is a whole other ball game. HMRC would save themselves, and us, time, if they just better-explained things on their website. Hearing, “I’m sorry, we are receiving a lot of calls right now, please hold” is ringing in our ears.

Andrew Chamberlain, Deputy Director of Policy and External Affairs at IPSE, claims that HMRC’s use of unexplained terminology is almost impossible to understand. “When doing their tax return the self-employed are confronted with terms such as ‘capital allowances’, which apply at different rates for different items. This kind of language is a turn-off for many people, who may well be brilliant, say, photographers, but are intimidated by intricate accountancy questions.”

Some of the things Marie-Claire Chappet, from The Times, struggled to get to grips with, when recently filing her tax for the first time, were: “the clumsy phraseology and concept of “paying on account” and PAYE notice of coding, to the difference between Class 4 and Class 2 national insurance and basis period and accounting period.”

She exasperates, “Why not provide a basic glossary? “Cash basis”, for example, is flagged up as a way of calculating income that seems to apply to me. When I call and speak to an adviser, it turns out it doesn’t. No wonder I was so terrified that I would slip up, hit the wrong button and make a mistake costing thousands.”

Government plans to use app-based software for the annual self-assessment of Making Tax Digital are underway, but whether this will make the process any easier is yet to be validated.

Could support be at hand for Freelancing women?

Government ministers are being pushed to extend the Apprenticeship Levy into a Skills and Training Levy, after a cross-party group of MPs wrote in ‘How to recruit women for the 21st century,’ finding that this would provide development opportunities for freelance women and mothers.

The Women and Work All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) say that this training would help close the gender pay gap because of the higher skill-level that will be achieved.

IPSE supports this, after sending evidence to the group showing that the creative industry has a bigger gender pay-gap than Financial Services and Engineering and discovering that freelance females earn less than men. Chloé Jepps of IPSE spoke out saying: “It is simply unacceptable that in 2019, the average female freelancer still earns 16 per cent less than their male counterpart,”

How to go about getting a mortgage when you’re self-employed

Which? reports that without providing an annual salary and non-fluctuating monthly payslip, lenders will “um” and “ah” on whether the self-employed are a gamble or not.

Secure Trust Bank and Fleet Mortgages, both trusted lenders offering deals to freelancers and contractors, have stopped lending for the time being – both for lack of funds.

But this shouldn’t put you off, says David Blake of Which? Mortgage Advisers: “The statistics show more people are now self-employed than ever before. Naturally, as this is a growing market, mortgage lenders have become much more flexible when it comes to lending to people with this type of income.

“These days, lenders will often take a common sense approach to lending. If you have a good level of work experience in a certain industry, they’re much more likely to accept self-employed income even if it has only been for a short period of time.”

Which? analysed data from Moneyfacts, and found that at least 78 lenders, including TSB, Santander and HSBC, consider self-employed applicants as long as they provide 1-3 years’ (majority 2-3 years’) worth of accounts.

To help you get that mortgage, here are a few things you can do to help your case:

  • Get an accountant or learn the laws around accountancy. You’ll need at least two years of accounts signed off by a certified or chartered accountant.
  • Prepare your last three SA302 forms.
  • Get a deposit worth 10-20% or more
  • Seek expert mortgage advice

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