Confidence levels among British freelancers have seen a sharp decline during the first quarter of 2017, according to a new industry report.
Data from the latest business confidence index from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) has indicated that only 28 per cent of freelancers are feeling confident about their business performance over the next 12 months – a decrease of nine percentage points compared to the first quarter of last year.
This represents the second-lowest confidence reading on record, with 42 per cent of respondents saying their optimism about their business prospects has decreased, while only 19 per cent of those polled believe the economy as a whole will perform well in the year ahead.
Freelancers identified unsupportive government policy and the looming uncertainty surrounding Brexit as the two key factors that are having the greatest negative effect on their business performance.
At present, the UK’s future economic prospects and trading status with the rest of Europe remains in flux, as the country waits for the general election process to be completed and talks with the European Union about a post-Brexit settlement to begin in earnest.
Many freelancers also remain distrustful of the degree to which the government is supportive of the sector, following the recent controversy surrounding its now-shelved plans to raise National Insurance contributions (NICs) for the self-employed.
Chris Bryce, chief executive officer of IPSE, said: “We recently saw the U-turn of the planned NICs increase and we would hope the new government, whatever the outcome of the upcoming general election, announce measures to support, rather than hinder, the self-employed.
“Maintaining the current rate of NICs, simplifying the overcomplicated new Making Tax Digital rules and giving greater powers to the small business commissioner would go a long way to alleviating their frail confidence levels.”