Pandemic devastation sees 2 in 5 freelancers lose 40% of income

More than 2 in 5 freelancers have lost over 40 per cent of their income since the Coronavirus pandemic began

Exclusive research by self-employment trade body, IPSE, has found that Covid could have a long-term “devastating” impact on the UK’s £300billion freelance sector.

It revealed that overall, more than two-thirds of freelancers have been negatively affected by the pandemic, with the average drop in turnover totalling 60 per cent.

Almost 1 in 10 (9%) saw a significant drop in turnover of over 90 per cent and 2 in 5 (42%) have lost more than 40 per cent of their income.

According to the study, the financial damage the pandemic has caused varied depending on gender, age and business structure. 

Limited company directors experience significantly greater damage

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of sole traders saw their turnover fall compared to 55 per cent of limited company directors.

However, the research highlighted that for limited company directors who did experience a fall in income, the damage was significantly greater. More than half (56%) saw their turnover decrease by over 40 per cent, compared to 46 per cent of sole traders.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of freelancers aged 35 and above saw their turnover fall in comparison to those under 35 – half saw a decrease.

Meanwhile, 43 per cent of self-employed men said their turnover dropped significantly compared to 36 per cent of women.

Gaps in government support also a factor

IPSE’s research also stated that the gaps in government Covid support were also a factor in the financial damage suffered by freelancers. 

It claimed that although the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) offered support to 3.4 million people, the 1.6 million excluded led most (52%) freelancers to say they did not feel supported by the government. This figure jumped to 67 per cent among limited company directors who are excluded from SEISS.

The financial impact of the pandemic, the study revealed, has led to a quarter of freelancers considering leaving self-employment, while eight per cent reported actively seeking an alternative way of working. 

A further 1 in 5 (17%) said they would leave self-employment if a permanent job opportunity came up, with nearly half (43%) of these saying they believed they could earn more as an employee.

Another 2 in 5 (40%) said they wanted the security of employment and a third (35%) would like access to benefits such as sick pay.

Freelancers feel ‘persecuted by government’

Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE, said: “This research shows the true, long-term financial impact of the pandemic on the self-employed sector, which contributed over £300billion a year to the economy before the pandemic.

“The damage of the pandemic was refracted through the government support on offer – or rather, the lack of support for a significant proportion of the sector. This is reflected now in the many freelancers who simply do not feel the government supports them or their way of working: particularly limited company directors.

“Limited company directors feel persecuted by the government right now not only because they were completely excluded from the SEISS grants, but also because of the changes to IR35 taxation.”


  • Gary Andrews says:

    “Limited company directors feel persecuted by the government” – I don’t think there’s any doubt about the level of persecution. It’s not a feeling.

    . Loan charge
    . IR35
    . No Covid support
    . Malicious prosecutions
    . Outsourcing goldrush
    . Offshoring tax exonerations

  • K says:

    I was and still am massively impacted. No support from the government. IR35 started at the worst possible time. I have no choice but to find permanent work after 12 years of freelancing.

  • Sleeping Agent says:

    I only have one remaining contractor left one the books and he’s semi-retired, occasionally taking on emergency maintenance jobs.
    All others have shut up shop and either retired or taken lower paid jobs. The work has been given to the government’s favourite outsourcers or simply left unstaffed, primed for collapse just like haulage.

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