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New research from Close Brothers Commercial Finance, leading providers of alternative funding for firms across Ireland, indicates that nearly half of businesses use freelancers.

The Close Brothers Business Barometer survey gauges the opinion of SME owners and managers across the UK and Ireland.

Of those that hire freelance workers, an average of 51% say it provides more flexibility for their business whilst a further 17% state that it encourages knowledge sharing across their company.

The global increase in the amount of people opting to go self-employed has been widely debated and amongst many commentators, Jeff Wald, contributor to Forbes, has stated the numbers are expected to rise. 

The Business Barometer also highlighted some of the possible explanations for this increase:

  • 19% believe people think much more entrepreneurially today
  • 29% state it’s purely down to circumstance i.e. redundancy, company restructures 
  • 30% think many prefer to be their own boss 

Ciaran McAreavey, MD for Close Brothers Commercial Finance said:

“Our survey supports the findings from the Central Statistics Office’s Quarterly National Household Survey, Q2 2015, which revealed that the number of self-employed persons increased by 11,800 or +3.7% over the year to 327,500 in the Republic of Ireland. 

The Northern Ireland Assembly, January 2015, revealed that the number of self-employed people in the UK is at its highest than at any point over the past 40 years, with 118,000 in Northern Ireland. This is encouraging because freelance workers are providing both SMEs and larger organisations with valuable knowledge and experience.” 

Of the survey respondents that don’t employ freelancers, almost a quarter say it isn’t suitable for their business and nearly half say they either haven’t thought about it, or simply haven’t had a requirement to. A further 20% prefer the consistency of full-time employees. 

Ciaran continued: “Despite the reasons for it, the growth in the freelance industry is benefitting both people and companies alike. For individuals, advantages include more flexibility, a sense of freedom and a better work-life balance. In addition, diverse roles also create new opportunities and challenges.

“For business owners, flexibility is also key. Furthermore, 20% of respondents in Ireland said one of their objectives is to invest in staff whilst 16% in Northern Ireland struggle with hiring appropriately skilled staff. With that in mind, now could be an opportune time for companies to re-evaluate their employment strategy, considering the contribution of freelancers to enhance overall success and business growth.”

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