Freelancers work for free

Half of uk’s freelancers have worked for free due to unpaid invoices, new research finds

Much of the UK’s burgeoning freelance sector is working for free, claims new research revealed today.

The study, compiled by freelancer platform YunoJuno, found that over half (55 per cent) of the UK’s self employed freelancers have worked for free as a result of late payments or unpaid invoices.

  • 55 per cent of freelancers have done work they have not been paid for
  • Over half don’t understand their rights over unpaid invoices
  • One fifth say they don’t feel confident enough to enforce late payment charges
  • Only one third say they have stopped working for a client who consistently pays late
  • 41 per cent of clients hiring freelancers consistently pay late

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) admit to continuing to work for businesses despite outstanding invoices being drastically overdue, with one in ten freelancers stating they do nothing when a client pays late.

Meanwhile, the research also found 41 per cent of clients who hire freelancers consistently pay late, by an average of two and a half weeks (18.5 days).

A lack of knowledge about how to counter late payments was also found.

Over half of all freelancers questioned (53 per cent) said they were not aware of their rights when clients do not pay, with one third (34 per cent) saying they don’t understand how late payment charges work, or know what to charge.

Twenty per cent admitted they don’t feel confident enough to enforce late payment charges, worried about the possible repercussions of being seen to chase clients.

Only seven per cent add late payment charges to contracts, yet a quarter (25 per cent) of these admitted never implementing them, but only mentioning them in a bid to nudge for payment.

The research comes after IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, reveals those working in the sector lose an annual average of 20 days chasing unpaid invoices*.

Commenting on the findings, Shib Mathew, CEO at YunoJuno, said, “The culture of late payments needs to stop. Chasing overdue invoices not only wastes time, but causes unnecessary stress and anxiety for freelancers.”

“This research shows that there is not only a lack of care by some clients to pay their workers on time, but there is an underlying fear among the freelancer community that they’ll lose the client, or lose respect, if they chase for their hard-earned money. It’s this latter part that is most worrying.”

Shib concludes, “The majority of our 18,000 members have come to us seeking help for this exact issue, which clearly demonstrates the scale of the problem. There would be an uproar if a business was late paying staff wages – and the same should be true of freelancers.”

In addition to helping UK freelancers find the latest tech and creative vacancies, YunoJuno handles invoice management with clients, helping its freelancers get paid within 14 days from submitting an invoice.

This article was provided by YunoJuno.


  • ColinC says:


  • Jason Darrell says:

    Freelancers often find themselves in a precarious position.

    Whilst they know they have to set their stall out with costs and payment terms from the outset of a relationship, they don’t want to jeopardise landing the client by seeming as if all they’re interested in is money.

    It’s also key to outline exactly what the client expects of you as a freelancer.

    Both parties need to set parameters and need to understand how close to the business the freelancer needs to get to deliver those expectations.

    It’s should be a 2-way street: the readier the client is with knowledge of the business, the better job the freelancer can do.

    A client shouldn’t expect the freelancer to know everything from the off, nor should they expect the freelancer to have research absolutely everything themselves. Yet they often do.

    But a lot of the time, it’s the client not understanding how freelancers work, too. They don’t know how far they should be pushing the freelancer, which can lead to a potentially brilliant relationship petering out.

    There are clients who look for every possible loophole to pay late or some to get out of paying altogether.

    And freelancers get little support from digital platforms. It’s the clients whose cash keeps the patforms going, so often stack odds in queries in the clients’ favour. Rarely does the freelancer win a contested payment case.

    As with permanent and agency contracts, their needs to be a template from government that protects both parties in a freelance engagement:
    > deposit held in escrew;
    > milestone payments;
    > payment terms;
    > complaint procedures;
    > funding of resources and tools beyond that which the freelancer should be expected to own in order to complete tasks;
    > annual leave periods for long term relationships;
    > expected hours and set times for comms;
    > control over the number of hours the freelancer is expected to give freely in general comms about the task;
    > what is and isn’t invoiceable.

    It needn’t be a complicated document. But what is clear is that freelancers need protection that currently doesn’t exist.

    Or if it does exist, they need an easy way to action those elements of protection that will make their client take the relationship and their failings seriously.

    • Little Dog says:

      Sorry Jasonl! The government is not interested in freelancers or contractors
      The application of IR35 rules demonstrates that quite clearly
      Thereby they are hardly interested in your beautiful suggestions

      • Jason Darrell says:

        Then I shall run for PM, Little Dog and thwart the dastardly intentions of those who trample upon the hopes and dreams of independent professionals across the nation.

        Or I might just go skulk in the corner because I know you’re right.

  • YoYo says:

    They are certainly not interested in taxing Google, Facebook, Apple, Starbucks or any of those in possession of huge profit off of business in the UK

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