London 20th November 2009
Bank on freelancers say
top business experts
- they’re the way to UK prosperity
“Bigger is dumber…..” according to Sir Tom Farmer, founder of Kwik-Fit. Along with several other business leaders, Sir Tom has come out in support of tapping into freelancers’ talents as the country strives to get back on its feet over the next decade and beyond. Michael van Swaaij, former md of eBay Europe and chairman of Skype along with commentators from Thales, The Audit Commission, AD Aerospace and Carillion have all outlined the importance of the UK’s freelance skills and expertise.
The comments come in the run up to National Freelancers Day which is taking place on Monday 23rd November; the initiative has been devised by PCG, the professional association that represents the UK’s freelancers, consultants and contractors to celebrate the value and worth of freelancers to UK plc.
Said Sir Tom: “What we’re beginning to recognise is that the bigger you are the dumber you are – over the next 10 years business will go through tremendous changes as companies “trim the fat” and make themselves more efficient. We’ll have the core that we need to run our businesses and we’ll outsource the other services that we need. I think that it will make businesses a lot more efficient, and a lot more cost-effective than they are at the moment. And it will create a lot more employment for everybody.”
Sir Tom Farmer, who started a garage single-handedly before selling his Kwik-Fit group to the Ford Motor Company in 1999 for £1billion, tells how freelance workers played a part in his business success and how he sees more and more organisations using freelancers, capitalising on their expertise and fresh external perspective in order to thrive in the future. Sir Tom added: “It’s invigorating, and everybody benefits if you get it right.”
Michael van Swaaij believes: “The traditional model has always been one of employer/employee. Clearly that is changing. A lot of people opt to work for themselves as a freelancer and it would be enormously helpful, not just on the side of taxation and regulation, but also on the practical side, if there are ways to make this easier for people.”
He thinks that government and company policy makers should focus on enabling choices for business managers and individual workers: “There are certain things that you do want to do inside your company, over which you want to have absolute control and I think it’s a continuing balance that needs to be sought. But I think as companies have good experiences with outside help they will be able to calibrate that and find the right balance.”
Dr James Bellini is convinced that “we’re going through the biggest change since the industrial revolution”. He highlights the emergence of a networked society, which has the power to create fundamental changes to the way we work, both in terms of where and how.
“The future is size neutral. An individual will be as important as a big company in 10 or 20 years time because their importance will be the value they can bring to a particular task” believes Dr. Bellini.
Anne Mulliner, Head of Resources at engineering company Carillion added: “Freelancers bring a different perspective, fresh eyes and different skills and experience. I think that having niche skills that you can turn on and off when you need them is important. This is both advantageous to us, but certainly advantageous to small businesses that need less than a full time person and in this case a freelancer can be very important.
“From my experience interims have always been very professional and have worked out what they needed to do in order to support the business. It has always been a very positive experience.”
Carole Thorn, Human Resources Business Partner at Thales said: “As a company we use freelancers in a very robust way already to support our business initiatives. Freelancers not only help with the workload, but bring in outside expertise and experience. During the current economic downturn freelancers can sustain businesses in their operations when there is a problem with staffing until the economic situation improves.”
Freelancers Speak Out
1,597 freelancers across the UK have also added to the debate and taken part in a research study carried out by ComRes and commissioned by PCG on what freelancing means for them. With an estimated 1.4 million freelancers in the UK, the term “going freelance” is certainly exploding into new sectors with the traditional journalist, engineer and IT contractor being joined by an increasingly diverse range of professions such as the finance sector, social workers, human resources, change managers and even the legal professions. Despite this burgeoning demand for freelance roles, the freelance community has not had an easy 12 months of it with 64% of freelancers finding it harder to secure roles.
The freelancers surveyed believe that it is their specialist knowledge (97%) and years of experience (98%) along with enthusiasm (93%) and objectivity (94%) that is of real and valuable benefit to clients and these aspects will be key to assisting the UK in returning to growth. This enthusiasm is perhaps not surprising when considering that one third of all freelancers have no plans to retire because they love what they do and 67% confirm that “going freelance” has given them a better work/life balance.
John Brazier, managing director of PCG commented: “An increasing number of companies and company leaders are recognising the skills, strengths and expertise that freelancers can bring to their organisations. Freelancers have a powerful set of skills as well as flexibility – that’s a powerful mechanism that can help our economy to grow and thrive again as we come out of the recession.
“Yet big organisations are not as agile as freelancers and cannot flex at speed so we need to work with businesses and Government to help design a new framework that will be more flexible to allow this way of working to grow for the benefit of everyone – companies, freelancers and the economy overall.”
Note to editors:
More information about National Freelancers Day can be found at www.nationalfreelancersday.org.uk. Anyone interested in viewing PCG’s webcast to hear commentators, corporates, clients and freelancers discussing freelancing can tune in from the site.
ComRes interviewed 1597 Freelancers in the UK between 30th October and 13th November 2009 by online questionnaires. For a full copy of the survey results please email email@example.com.
The Professional Contractors Group (PCG), www.pcg.org.uk, was formed in May 1999 to provide independent contractors and consultants with a representative voice in opposition to the original IR35 proposals. Since then, PCG has evolved from being a single-issue campaign group to being a fully fledged, not-for-profit professional body representing knowledge workers who choose to be self-employed.
PCG has just over 18,500 members working in a wide variety of sectors including oil and gas, engineering, information technology, management consultancy, marketing, telecommunications and pharmaceuticals.
For further information:
Tel: 01273 475672
Mobile: 0777 937 2106
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