Size, shape and value, a look ahead to freelance research in 2012

13 Jan

Helen Giddings, PCG's Research and Information Officer

I was flicking through the channels last week and caught the end of a documentary that was following the developments at Cern.  The discussion essentially closed by stating that 2012 could potentially be a landmark year as scientists are closing in on the identification of the “Higgs boson particle”…Whilst I am certainly no physicist, and I have to be honest much of what they said went over my head, I could relate to their enthusiasm that 2012 will be a year of discovery, as  I too certainly feel that 2012 could herald a momentous year for discovery at PCG.

Whilst physics and freelancing draw little parallel for me as a researcher, 2012 represents a year when discoveries will pave the way. Not only will this be scientists seeking to understand how particles impact on our world but also for business in the UK as economic trends emerge and key players that sustain our economy are further understood.

My reference to “key players” here is to freelancers and I am excited that this year at PCG we are combining both quantitative and qualitative research as never before to not only study the size of the freelance workforce but to also to understand the contribution of this population on business. 2011 saw us develop research projects that benchmarking researchers experience and looked to the dynamics of the wider freelance population, which will come to fruition in the 2012 research calendar.  In case you’re intrigued, here’s a brief taster of some of the projects to come:

Defining the freelance workforce

Thanks to the preliminary results of our research project at Kingston University we are already aware that there are 1.56 Million freelancers in the UK, and also that there has also been a significant increase in the number of mum’s becoming freelancers – a 25% jump in three years.

To me, these strong early figures raise some exciting questions we will be able to answer soon such as:  in what sectors are freelancers on the increase? What are the wider trends in these sectors? How do these figures compare to employed workforce? The list is endless.

If like me, you are fascinated to read more about the size and dynamics of the freelance workforce and how this helps to give an indication of the world of work in 2012, look out for the full Kingston report due to be released in the next few months.

Understanding the value and contribution of freelancers

I’ve got friends who freelance, I’ve met colleagues who freelance and I even work for an organisation who support freelancers; therefore, I like to think I’m aware of the contribution that freelancers make. Our work with Professor Andrew Burke is however set to delve deeper into freelancing than we have seen before.   “ The Value of Freelancers to the UK Economy,” carried out by Professor Burke of the Cranfield School of Management, is  due to be launched later this year. The new research could well turn all presumptions about the value of freelancing on their head. His study will use real case studies from organisations engaging freelancers to uncover the client reality and as I’ve been privy to a few of his initial insights, I can promise you, our understanding of freelancing in 2012 is set to soar.

If you would like more information on either of these projects or to hear about other membership research projects in 2012 please get in contact and email me at


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