Shropshire hairdresser Chloe Pullen went freelance just under three years ago, and describes it as the best career decision she could possibly have made.
Not only has the 25-year-old from Whitchurch doubled her salary, she is also now able to completely shape the work-life balance that suits her circumstances.
Chloe is part of a growing revolution. The Covid era has forced many people to look for more entrepreneurial career alternatives, and persuaded others to dust off their utopian business plans and take the opportunity to reboot their working lives and priorities.
It is estimated that the number of freelancers in Shropshire is now almost double the number from as little as seven years ago – and the figure is still climbing fast. Last year, there were just over 2.2 million registered freelancers in the UK.
Chloe says: “I would make the same amount in a day freelancing as I would make in a week employed. This is not to say it would happen for everyone. I had very good training which made keeping and growing clients easier for myself.
“Sometimes, you do start off with less money than when you were employed, but it didn’t take long until I was making more money in much less time.
“It has meant I can take complete control of my business and working hours. It has had its challenges and can be very scary at the start not knowing your income from month to month.
“I was very worried about business after lockdown, but I have found that if anything people are more appreciative of hairdressers after having to do their own hair and I’ve not lost any clients at all.”
Every sector is different, of course, and it’s fair to balance this by highlighting that freelancers in the arts sector – who make up a huge percentage of its overall numbers – have had it particularly tough during the pandemic.
Many have been saved by Rishi Sunak’s Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), but others have slipped through the net.
Personal finance writer Maurie Backman highlights four of the most commonly quoted benefits which are making the freelance model appealing to a growing number of us.
Firstly, the ability to work remotely – from the comfort of your own home, or wherever you happen to find yourself. The pandemic has shown what’s possible without having to be in the office all the time.
Secondly, flexibility – the chance to fit working hours around family responsibilities. For example, if you are a carer for a young child or elderly relative, it’s easier to juggle when you can set your own working parameters, and tweak them as often as you like.
Then there’s the ability to look after your own health. When you’re an employee, you’ll often be locked into a schedule that can make it difficult to fit in a visit to the GP.
In a survey carried out by Upwork, more than two thirds of freelancers cited the ability to address physical or mental health needs as one of the biggest benefits of all.
Last but not least though, Maurie points to the higher earnings potential of freelancers.
“A good 44% of freelancers say they earn more money in their current setups than they would working for a traditional employer.
“That said, in exchange for higher earnings, you’ll forego the benefits you may have enjoyed as a salaried worker, like subsidised health insurance, or paid holidays days.”
Jon Younger writes for Forbes magazine about what he describes as the current ‘freelance revolution’.
With millions choosing to freelance on a part or full-time basis in a very fast-growing range of professions, he believes we need a formal education curriculum that enables future independent professionals to kickstart their freelance career with greater awareness, knowledge, skill, and confidence.
He also reckons that the skill set and availability of the freelance army is already starting to transform the way companies hire, train, and manage their employees.
“To be clear, freelancing isn’t itself a career. It’s the method one takes to a professional career,” he says.
“Unlike ‘gigsters’ who are combining multiple non-professional tasks to earn a living, freelancers are generally educated, qualified and experienced professionals who choose to ply their profession as an independent solopreneur.
“And, we know from recent research that the numbers of individuals who are interested in freelancing part or full-time is growing significantly.
“Surprisingly, looking through both undergraduate and graduate entrepreneur curricula, there’s virtually no mention of the kinds of courses that a solopreneur – and any professional, freelance oriented or not – might find helpful.”
In the case of Chloe Pullen, a survey from hair and beauty industry supplier Capital Hair and Beauty offers some telling pointers to why her freelancing decision has proved such a wise one.
The company says a third of Brits are still struggling to book hair and beauty appointments that suit their schedules.
“Due to the high demand for salon appointments following Covid-related closures, many are considering turning to independent, mobile or freelance hairdressers and practitioners to guarantee themselves a slot,” the research says.
“When it comes to the treatments the nation would prefer to have at home, one in three would rather have a freelancer come to them for a haircut.”
Freelance hairdressers may want to revisit their price list too, as the survey also revealed that people would pay more for at-home and out of hours appointments.
“Flexibility around working hours is a big advantage for freelance hairdressers and beauticians, especially amongst those that don’t mind working later into the evening, as half of those surveyed also said they’d spend more to get an out of hours appointment.
“This surge in demand for at-home appointments and out of hours treatment may have some professionals considering whether they should go solo.
“With work-life balance becoming more of a focus for UK workers following the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, the wider benefits of a freelance career path such as flexible working hours the freedom of managing your own schedule, finances, and client base, not to mention the opportunity for complete creative control, can be particularly attractive.
Samantha Shamplina-Burkwood, marketing manager at Capital Hair and Beauty says: “Freelancing or being a mobile hairdresser can offer people the chance to take charge of their own business and have more flexibility over many aspects of working life such as their hours, creativity, client list and price lists, as well as benefitting consumers.
“When considering making the change and being a freelancer it’s important to look at the associated costs you’ll face, as you will be setting your own prices to reflect these.
“Considering things like equipment, products and then business expenses like insurance and travel means that you won’t get any surprises if you do decide to make that switch.”
Freelanceuk.com has published a list of the top 10 most in-demand freelance trades for 2022: